By Kieran Webber
A Blaze Of Feather is the musical project started by West Cornish native Mickey Smith. A renowned Cornish creative and award winning cinematographer, not to mention talented musician.
The band emerged through a veil of mysticism being placed on festival line-ups across the country. Rumours were running wild that the project included the infamous Ben Howard. Although Ben is very much a part of this project it’s Mickey Smiths brainchild.
The debut self-titled LP gained critical success a long with many notable festival performances. Since then Mickey has been writing, playing and touring with Ben Howard. Mickey was also a key collaborator on Ben’s second album ‘I Forget Where We Were’ and latest release ‘Noonday Dream’.
Now, as we drift through 2020 A Blaze Of Feather returns with sophomore album ‘Labyrinth’, out August 14th. Much like the debut it consists of dreamy, atmospheric soundscapes but with experimental drum-loops and backbeats.
We were eager to dig deep into the mind of Mickey and find out more about ‘Labyrinth’. As well as life in Cornwall and the sometimes harsh realities of this often forgotten county.
Kieran: How was the lockdown for you and how did it affect your creativity?
Mickey: I only just managed to sort a flight home from America before the airports shut. So I was really more relieved than anything else at first,as we had a baby due a few weeks later. After our daughter was born I just focused on finishing the record mixes,films & artwork really. It was helpful mentally having that all to zone in on. Weaving moving parts was challenging as no one seemed in a great place to figure anything out. Especially with the music world on its knees. It was a challenge,but anything worthwhile always is. It’s just scary making a record with all this emotion & feeling tied up in it to be honest. Handing that much of yourself over to the world to do with whatever it will.
Kieran: How did you craft out a space as a creative in Cornwall and what drove you to do so?
Mickey: Physically? A few years back we built a shed/studio and I have worked out of that. Mentally though, I guess you really have to be ready to just put the graft in for whatever you love. Try to do whatever you can with the tools you have to work with. Think outside the box,shrug off the low times,use them as fuel. Eventually that journey ends up defining you one way or another. It’s no easy road but it’s rewarding on so many less obvious levels.
Kieran: Is being based in Cornwall difficult?
Mickey: It’s difficult in its own unique ways, like every place is. It’s different in that it’s so very isolated from the cities. Especially West Cornwall. It’s easier to get to another country from London than it is to get down here. So it’s cut off and difficult in that the scene gets little to no nationwide recognition or support. There is also zero infrastructure which means any opportunities are super scarce. Apathy as a result is a force we all have to reckon with a lot. But at the same time if you can see the wood for the trees it’s inspiring as hell here to. An incredible natural world environment,which can make everything a lot easier in other ways. I heard once that Kernow teaches you patience while breaking your heart.
“It’s easier to get to another country from London than it is to get down here”Mickey Smith
Kieran: Would you live anywhere else?
Mickey: I have been blessed to have lived lifetimes in all kinds of different places,but West Cornwall is my home. I truly love it.
Kieran: You talk a lot about Cornwall’s wild spirit and how it influences your music, what is it that makes Cornwall a home for renegades?
Mickey: In an abstract way,it could be something to do with how quickly the weather changes here. The energy rarely gets stale which keeps everyone on their toes. You see how animals react when the wind gets under their tails. I’m sure there’s far more to it than that,but looking around it’s no surprise we seem as quirky as we are down here.
Kieran: What is one misconception of Cornwall?
Mickey: That it must be easy living here because it’s so beautiful. It’s definitely tough for kids here to envision an open book future. Apathy really does breed in this environment like a disease. It’s dangerous to steal kids futures from them before they’ve even begun. Some Cornish towns are on par with the poorest zones in the country. You would never know that looking at the postcard views on a summer’s day though. I don’t know,you learn to take the rough with the smooth like anywhere else. We are lucky in a lot of ways to. Addressing that disconnect and imbalance in wealth distribution and opportunity here needs to happen somehow though for sure.
Listen to ‘Magpie’ here:
Kieran: You explain that “crafting ‘Labyrinth’ was kind of similar to EP1” so would it be fair to say that the second album will be going back to its roots?
Mickey: It was similar in the approach to my recording process. As in working mostly alone,the others throwing down parts if they felt like it. The music is always evolving as I explore sounds & learn more about crafting songs.
Kieran: I have found that through your art you tend to focus on the darkness that lurks, what is it about this that you find attractive?
Mickey: I don’t find it attractive as such,it’s simply part of my life story. Once you experience weight and grief and tragedy it saturates your view of the world and how you respond to it. We will all know those things well sooner or later. That doesn’t have to be a negative. I’m still here and I feel resilient as hell. You feel love and light all the more powerfully. I’m just being honest really. Every experience encountered manifests in any line of creative work I guess.
Kieran: Does your love for surfing and cinematography cross over into your music in any way?
Mickey: Always feels like a blend of one and the same thing. Self expression and a release of energy that might send me under without that pressure valve of outlets to channel it positively.
Kieran: When did music enter the mix or was it something you always did?
Mickey: I have been playing music live longer than I can remember almost anything else. I grew up playing in various circuit bands on what was the pub scene down here. Dive bars, working men’s clubs, legions, pubs, whatever, wherever. From an early age we were on it. That live scene is long gone for now, but there is always the hope of a resurrection someday. Kids are made of stern stuff. I’m sure they’ll find a way to keep doing what they love down here.
Kieran: I would argue that what you create is very real and earthly which is very refreshing in a world that often feels fake and plastic, what’s your take on the state of modern music and the industry?
Mickey: I don’t really have an accurate handle on the state of the music industry to be honest. I’m not sure anyone does right now. I know I’m inspired by & exposed to new music constantly and that feels amazing. I also know how bloody hard it is to craft a living out of these things. You have to become wily as hell and willing to go above and beyond in the fight for your art to survive.
Kieran: Lastly, what can we expect from the record and what would you like people to take away from it?
Mickey: Pure West Cornish energy, straight from the heart.