Ophelia was born on the road.
On Highway 30, along Florida’s stunning Emerald Coast just north of the Gulf of Mexico, to be precise.
But this record wasn’t inspired by just one highway, or one location.
The writing of Ophelia took place across several states and the UK, while singer-songwriters Rebecca Van Cleave and Samuel Taylor embarked on a transatlantic tour of their respective solo projects.
Once back at home in the UK, the pair set about making a record with David Glover from Tesla Studios in Sheffield. The threesome soon laid down the foundations of a full album, calling in producer and drummer Greg Haver (of Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals fame) and prized musicians such as Grammy-Nominated Nashville fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin. Tracks were also recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles bringing in heavyweight players like Neilson Hubbard and Bill Lefler. The album was mixed by Clint Murphy and mastered by Sterling Sound’s Ryan Smith (who also worked on albums by Adele, Beyonce, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and James Taylor).
But the biggest star in the making of Ophelia is the road itself. The album’s 13 tracks chart a journey of love, life, loss, past and present that’s been penned on the highway.
Taylor says about the album, “Rebecca and I grew up listening to a lot of music from the 60’s and 70’s. Bands like Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Creedence, Tom Petty, Lennon, Bowie... We both felt like these bands and musicians moulded us as artists and we wanted to honour that by keeping the instrumentation on the tracks raw and organic.” The album even includes a track written by Van Cleave’s father, Chris Van Cleave, who was a founding member of the 1970s Paramount Records band Meadow. Rebecca rediscovered the song after she and her father played it in her family living room one night during a snowstorm in Virginia. She decided it needed to find new life again on the record.
Van Cleave - an actress best known for her role as Lena Heady’s body double in HBO’s Game of Thrones and as the lead in the multi award winning horror short The Prey - only released her debut EP in September 2015, but has quickly progressed down the road of music with her recordings receiving airplay from BBC Introducing.
Speaking of Ophelia, she says of the album, “Making it was a really beautiful process. We knew we wanted to take this record down a different path than our solo projects- to make it more rocky, edgy, and we spent a lot of time with the tracks really exploring where they could go. Then Greg came in and added his drum wizardry, and Eamon with his fiddle, and it really took the songs to this other level. It hits you in the heart. I’m really proud of what we’ve created together.”
Taylor has been a part UK music scene for 15 years, first with his bands Dead Like Harry and Taylor & Marie, and as a guitarist for acts such as the Ivor Novello nominated Nerina Pallot; then more recently, with his solo releases including the Tales From A Troubadour EP series, for which he travelled around the world recording a series of EP’s in different towns and cities.
There’s also a chemistry that runs throughout the album, which is fuelled by the personal relationship between Taylor and Van Cleave. It’s a collaboration that follows a long line of husband- wife / boyfriend-girlfriend duos such as Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, John and June Carter Cash, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. Oh, and of course, Buckingham and Nicks.
This chemistry - though never acknowledged - oozes into Ophelia’s tracks, adding fizzle to what’s already a sumptuous album spanning musical styles and - of course - a few thousand miles’ worth of stories.
- Rachel Clegg, Artist