Born in Berlin but raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, de Bastion says she was “fortunate” to grow up around instruments – “We had my grandad’s piano at home and my dad’s guitars, so playing music was just a very normal part of growing up for me. My favourite thing in the world was sitting in the kitchen with my dad playing Beatles’ songs together. He was singer-songwriter who did the reverse to me: he was born in the UK but moved to Berlin in the 70s in that West Berlin Bowie heyday period.”
De Bastion was able to share some of the songs on her new album with her father before he died in 2019. “He was my dad but he was very much my best friend and music mentor,” she says. “I’d never written a song without him being the first person to hear it. I think he really enjoyed that sharing as much as I did, that very intimate musical connection.
“For me that was one of the most daunting things about the loss. He had been my sounding board not just for music but in life. It’s been a steep growing up curve. I have to make up my own mind whether this song needs a middle-eight or not.”
The album was made with Bernard Butler, former Suede guitarist turned producer. “Everything about this album project was special,” de Bastion says. “It’s uncanny how things just fell into place and worked out. I recorded this at Bernard’s house sporadically and Bernard was so sympathetic to the situation and it was the most beautiful thing to have something to focus on and have something really fun and creative to look forward to and to share with my dad as well throughout that year.”
De Bastion and Butler’s paths had never crossed before a friend of hers suggested they worked together – and the idea stuck. “I’m a huge fan of his production,” de Bastion says. “I was never a Suede fan but I really liked his 60s sensibility, he’s got that brilliant combination of electric guitar and strings.” So she messaged him and got “a really nice email back saying, ‘Send the demos, the rougher the better’.” From that point on, “it happened really quickly”, she says.
Butler pushed de Bastion to replicate her singing style from live performances. She says: “Pre-pandemic I was on a mission to play roughly 80 shows a year on that DIY level across Europe and America. That comes very natural to me when I’ve got that audience in front of me but sometimes the pressure of being behind the microphone in the studio when you don’t have that energy coming back at you, I’ve struggled with that in the past and added to that, it was a very strange state to be in whilst recording this. There’s heightened state of emotion and you have all these feelings inside you and to a certain degree that can be inhibiting because it can be scary to let them all out, but Bernard said, ‘You should just let go and sing it really loudly and just scream’. I thought if I do that I might just cry in the studio, but then I thought, ‘So what if that happens’. He made me feel really comfortable, and once you’re OK letting out emotions then it works.”
You and Me, We Are The Same is out on Friday September 3. roxannedebastion.com