A comprehensive collection featuring a variety of sound production methods displayed on the cello by Thomas Mesa, DIVISION OF MEMORY from Navona Records delivers a wide range of works, each with their own compositional personality and a repertoire dedicated to the multifaceted soundscape of the cello. Lydia Jane Pugh’s Carolina’s Jig marries the rich solo cello sound most often associated with Bach’s Cello Suite with the sound with traditional fiddle-style playing, creating a diverse soundscape, but also a sense of fun.
Today, Lydia is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn how Lydia successfully avoided working a desk job, and why she believes arctic climates would spark her inspiration…
Who was your first favorite artist growing up?
Growing up I had a very eclectic taste in music, which came from my mother being a classical pianist and music teacher, and my father being a DJ in the 1970s and 1980s. His vinyl collection is quite spectacular! My dad made me a couple of mixed tapes for a family holiday when I was four; one had The Divine Album by Madness and Lloyd Webber’s Cello Variations, and the other had The Holst Planet Suite and Jeff Lynne’s solo album Armchair Theatre. I’d say Jeff Lynne was probably a huge influence on me when it came to vocal arranging and songwriting, and the Cello Variations definitely always stuck in my mind as the first time I heard the cello in this exciting and contemporary way. To this day, my musical taste is so diverse, with some of my favorite artists including Incubus, Eva Cassidy, Debussy, Einaudi, and Tool, and I love exploring how genres can mesh together.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I think I always knew I wanted a career in music, and my family were always very supportive of my passion for music. The moment I made the decision that music would be my career was the day I got my acceptance letter to LIPA (the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts). I said to myself, “This is the start of being a professional musician. I will never have a 9-5 desk job!” And to this day, I haven’t! I make my living as a singer, composer, vocal coach, musical director, and any other creative type jobs that come my way. Being a self-employed artist is certainly challenging, but it’s so rewarding in the long-run.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I have a few bucket list places I would love to visit, and a few retreats/residencies I’d love to apply for, the top three being Alaska, Canada, and somewhere in the Arctic Circle. I’m fascinated by the polar night and midnight sun and would love to experience these and see what creative ideas they might unearth for me. I also love mountains, and we don’t really get to see any where I’m from so those would be some amazing experiences.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
I actually already play quite a few instruments! I sing, play piano, cello, guitar, percussion, ukulele, and it’s been a while but I used to be pretty good at the recorder! I have found that being a multi-instrumentalist tends to be a trait of the composer or songwriter; having a basic understanding of how instruments work because you can play them a little bit certainly makes writing for them easier, I feel! If I could pick up anything else instantly, it would probably be either the drums, or the saxophone, probably the latter more so. Singing Jazz is one of my favourite things, so being able to throw in a few sax solos here and there would be great!
What does this album mean to you personally?
This album for me is a huge career step. I have found getting my music — and therefore my name as a composer — out there has been challenging, so being selected for the album and getting to be involved in a professional recording, working with Thomas Mesa, a wonderful artist, and having my music released worldwide is an amazing moment for me. It feels like there’s momentum behind it, and I’m very excited to see what new opportunities will come from this album.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
This work is a bit of a party-piece, it’s meant to sound fun and exciting, and make people want to move to it. The way the cello is played as well, with the percussive techniques and unusual bowing is also meant to be fascinating and exciting for the audience to see visually, which makes it a really great performance work as well! One of my favorite moments from the promo for this piece was the video of Thomas recording it, because he looks like he is genuinely having the time of his life performing it, and the wry smile at the end just had this cheeky, “yep, I just played some silly stuff,” about it, which I adore.