A capricious snowstorm was looming over the Welsh capital the morning we met with Sian Evans, the legendary voice and songwriter of Kosheen. After the band officially disbanded in 2016, Sian embarked on a successful solo career, her haunting voice remaining a force that continues to materialise in dazzling performances all over the world. We found Sian in a cheerful mood and we were immediately captivated by her audacious and charismatic personality. Untroubled by the air’s iciness, we joined Sian and her playful dog, Lyra, for an invigorating walk around the city’s urban parks, conversing about her personal experiences and the intricate pathways, transgressions and crossroads that shaped her creative soul and led her to a thriving career in music.
As the snow started to come down on us, we stopped for coffee and cake at Terra Nova Café, sitting at a table by the lake, laughing, chatting away and feeling alive in the freezing weather. On our way back, we took refuge from the cold in Roath Park Conservatory, where Sian told us how motherhood influenced her musical journey, why performing with Kosheen was important to her development as an artist and how the album of her solo works is coming together as the embodiment of a fruitful gestational stage and ripening period. Energised by the warm, humid air in the greenhouse, we rejoined the steady thrum of urban life and parted ways overjoyed by our encounter and thinking that everything is right and wholesome in Sian’s world.
Sian, what were you like as a teenager? What did you want to be or become?
I was quite troubled as a teen. My home and school life were unsettled, I was bullied in school and my father was very heavy handed with me and my mam. I was kicked out before my GCSE exams and I went to live in squats in the city. It is here I met some amazing people who took me under their wings and showed me how Music could save my life.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
I have blocked out a lot of my childhood from the age of 10 but I remember a lot of happy times when I was very young. My mam's family was tight and BIG so family picnics and front room concerts were beautiful.
What about your fondest musical memories?
My Taid would teach the kids in the valleys to play piano and after many attempts to teach me he resorted to teach me to use my voice. I loved standing beside him and singing Welsh folk songs.
What is your favourite '90s song?
Massive Attack hit us in the '90s with Unfinished Sympathy. It changed everything. In fact, the whole of the Blue Lines was very rarely off the turntable in my house. The Orb's U.F.Orb was a fave too.
Tell us about your experience as a musician and mother. How has motherhood influenced you creatively and what are some of the things that you have learned about yourself after becoming a mother?
I guess I was free-falling for a while in the late '80s until I met my son’s father. We were so in love and the inevitable happened: my son was born. I knew I owed it to him to make good of my life and provide for him the best I could. So it brought into focus what I needed to do. I sang for our supper with whoever would have me and the hard work paid off. I guess he was my muse and everything I wrote spilled out the absolute love you can only have for your children. I saw the world through his eyes with ore and joy in equal amounts. I still write about him!
Give us a metaphor that best describes how you feel when you make music?
It feels like giving birth! The labour can be uncomfortable, frustrating and often painful, but the feeling when you hold your newborn in your arms is incredible.
Does your mind ever wander when you perform on stage?
All the time! There are so many things going on when you perform... From “will my heel get stuck in that gap in the stage” to “what’s the next line” and “what is he doing in the 3rd row with his phone!!!”. I have had zips go whilst delivering an impassioned performance! It’s a funny old game but the show must go on!!
What is the most significant thing that stayed with you after performing with Kosheen for so many years?
I learned so much from performing with Kosheen. We were all green as the grass when we began so it was a steep learning curve. I learned how to work the stage and connect with audiences all over the world. I can say thank you in about 20 languages and I can sleep on planes, trains and automobiles! I learned discipline and stamina.
What new ideas are obsessing you at the moment and where do you think they will lead you?
I am currently compiling an album of my solo works. I have collaborated with some amazing producers and I have a wonderful band of top class musicians. I appreciate that a lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time so I am obsessing about how to present it. It has to flow and I am currently in talks on how to achieve this.
Which musician would you like to collaborate with next?
I am working with Future Dub Orchestra from Bristol and Danny Wheeler from London. Both are very promising and exciting writers. I love Drum & Bass and Dj Dazee of Ruffneck Ting wants to remix a single I am preparing to release, that I have written with a wonderful Ukrainian producer called Artur Danielyan.
Who is a lesser known Welsh musician that people should know about?
My mate Ragsy.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind and get inspired?
I am a traveller at heart and the country we live in is awesome. Wales never ceases to sooth and inspire me, even on a day like today, sheeting with rain! I recently spent a week in a caravan in Rhoscolyn up north and it was freeeeeeezing but incredibly inspiring. I love the beach and have been living in the Vale of Glamorgan for the last 10 years. I could walk for miles along the coast and not see a soul. Wales has many secrets and to be honest I like to keep them that way!
What can we expect from Sian Evans in 2018?
We have a bunch of festivals lined up and lots of recording. I hope to release a single by autumn and line up a little tour after the summer.
What about your son? What is he into these days?
My son is 26, living in London, making music and having a ball, as it should be!
What have you always wanted to be asked and never were?
I started out in the '80s acting in theatre productions with the Sherman Theatre company and others I don’t remember. I would love to walk the boards again someday.
If your life would be a song, what would you name it?
The fall and rise of the optimist.
And now a Max Frisch question: What do you need in order to be happy?
A dog and a pair of walking boots.
Can you recommend us:
A book: 100 years of solitude, by García Márquez
A song: None of us are free, by Solomon Burke
A film: Stairway to heaven... There are so many films, but this one I have been meaning to revisit. I think it's a goodun!!
Thank you, Sian for the heartfelt insight into your personal and creative realm and for the invigorating walk!