Getting To Know: Abi Wright
Hi Abi, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am 23 year old lass, born and raised in the Black Country - a heavily industrialised area on the outskirts of Birmingham. I am a recent graduate of Coventry University and am starting my PhD in regenerative medicine at the University of Birmingham in September of this year. I would describe myself as a bedroom studio musician, messing around whenever I get a spare chance. I am a self taught guitarist and rely on my ear to get me by. At the age of 12 I picked up a £15 nylon string acoustic, opened a YouTube tab and decided I’d give it a whirl. Since then I have explored aspects of music production and recording, and guitar modulation. I have been recording little dittys for around 5 years now, but have never released any of them, so I thought I would give it a go.
I like picking up other stringed instruments to see if I can figure out how to make stuff that sounds good, looking at it like a puzzle, figuring out what sounds it makes if I make this shape with my hands or what note it is when I press my finger on a string on a specific fret.
I tend to oscillate between genres. I am drawn to songs which have that make my insides shift. Like getting so caught in a song that I end up figuring out in my head what chord someone’s going to jump to next, and being happily wrong or right. That’s what I try to search for whilst I record my music, and I often use the Old Grey Whistle test in my own head to see if it had that effect on me.
How’s lockdown been for you, what have you been up to and how has it impacted your creativity?
I have actually really welcomed lockdown as a chance to really sink my teeth into getting creative. With the way in which society operates, it’s hard to get time to be so absorbed in your own hobbies and creative outlets. So I have really appreciated having the time and space to do that.
I have spent a lot of time recording new music, including the new tracks I’ve put out. I have really tried to develop my proficiency in music production, learning new tricks to make it a little easier rather than hindering my creativity. I have also tried to put down a track that fits into a classic ‘song’ framework, if you like, and ‘The Patent Shaft’ is a result of that. More often than not I will be playing my guitar and play something I think sounds cool and record it, so I have almost like a journal of maybe 30 seconds of recordings, which I like but find harder to share.
Have you discovered any music/books/ programmes recently that you think our readers might want to check out?
I have been really into video game and film soundtracks at the moment. I think it is really interesting how soundtracks, especially those composed specifically to compliment a story and help to generate ambience. They get to really generate a space and a feeling with more freedom than you may allow yourself if you are trying to make a song within the classic commercial pop song framework. Ending Theme #1 from the Red Dead Redemption 2 Soundtrack is one I have had on repeat a lot this past month.
There’s a really interesting video featuring Gustavo Santaolalla explaining how he approaches music composition for movies and video games that I have watched other artists I have been listening to include King Princess - someone I am normally listening to at least once a day. It’s great to see fellow queer artists doing their thing - we love to see it. I am really loving ‘Ohio’ at the minute and find it really fun to play along to.
Hayley Heyndrickx is another artist I really love. Her Tiny Desk Concert is divine and one of my favourites. Also, Little Simz’s cover of Gorillaz ‘Feel Good Inc.’ is fantastic, and I can’t comprehend how she can rap and play a bass-line simultaneously.
A massive well done on your release, it sounds like a serious amount of effort went it to it with such a distinct style of production and lyrics. What is the story behind the song?
Thanks a lot! During lockdown I got really into genealogy. It is oddly addictive. I am from a working class family, and the first to go to university. It is hard not to feel a sense of guilt. My mother didn’t get to finish her exams in high school because she already had a job earning her money which helped put food on the table. She’s had so many jobs because the breadline is constantly just waiting until you slip under it. As a single mom to my sister at the age of 18, she had no choice but to work to provide. She has worked in factories making work uniforms, and owned and run her own catering trailer. She has worked hard and it has given me the opportunity she never had.
Looking back at the jobs that my family had to do to survive, working as puddlers, furnace men, iron casters - paid very little to do hard working jobs, having to strike to demand decent pay - it makes me proud of where I come from.
I normally make instrumental music as I don’t consider myself a vocalist, however, after finding out about my family history I felt compelled to make something to honour them and I thought it was important that it was recorded with my voice.
Was it a cathartic process writing about your family history?
For me it definitely was. Finding out that a lot of my family were involved in iron works really struck me. As part of my research work in the lab I have worked with iron, but on a much smaller, nanoscopic scale. I have measured iron in nanograms and crushed up iron tablets in pestle and mortars. It felt comforting to have a connection with them, and gave me an even greater respect for what they did.
How important do you think it is for people to research and connect with their family tree?
I think, especially for working class people, having access now to programs which can help you uncover your family history is really important. Class is correlated to how you are remembered in history, even down to the elaborateness of gravestones for example.
Having portraits taken in the 1800s was so important to working class families because for some it is the only way they would have had any trace of their memory on record. A lot of my family were not able to read or write, again meaning their history is more likely to be forgotten. My great-grandmother migrated from Ireland, again making it more difficult to trace her family. To be able to learn about them now was really important to me, especially while I can ask my family what they know before it is forgotten. A lot of my family’s history was passed down in a folk-lore kind of fashion, which I love. But it is also really humbling to see physical records of them.
The style of the song is amazing, where there any artists who influenced you when writing the song in particular?
I normally make predominantly instrumental music using my guitar and GarageBand. They are often multi-layered guitar tracks that intertwine with each other. I normally lay down a backbone riff, and then record as I improvise over it. Then I add frills that I think sound nice and that’s usually how I go about making a song.
However, with ‘The Patent Shaft’, I started with the lyrics. My main motivation for making it was to create something to honour my family and the working class. As for the instrumental work, I relied upon my kind of standard of playing. John Frusciante is a big inspiration of mine, playing inversions of chords so that I can throw in pretty frills and licks.
I also used a diddley bow in the intro, which I made a couple months ago. I was struggling to get it sounding right but was inspired by a video of Jack White knocking up a guitar in a minute and cranking up the distortion to make it sound super fuzzy
Do you have any news in regards to releases, livestreams etc that we should know about?
My music normally never leaves the four walls I make it in and it has been fun but intimidating to put it out into the world. I am in the process of getting some music up on Spotify. I have just started a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC32WYw9v-WH7AFXt-ibNIyw) and I have some new stuff lined up that I am excited about, as I’ve been busy recording. In the meantime you can find me on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.