An intimate four-song set of reflection, connection, and surrender, Rachel Sermanni’s ‘Swallow Me’ EP reckons in the (bitter)sweet and stirring depths of emotion.
Stream: “Travelled” – Rachel Sermanni
I hope that people feel witnessed from their more shadow’d parts – especially women, and especially, especially mothers.
An intimate four-song set of reflection, connection, and surrender, Rachel Sermanni’s new EP reckons in the (bitter)sweet and stirring depths of emotion.
Soft and tempestuous, and yet glowing with a radiant inner light, Swallow Me captures the very best of the Scottish singer/songwriter as she dives headfirst into the throes of life – reveling in the good, persevering through the painful, and engaging it all with a breathtakingly nuanced poetic perspective.
You can see I’ve been meaning an effort
You can see I been working hard lord
And you see I been putting my trust in
You can see I been laying down lord
Laying down, soft side up
Turning it round, burning it down
All to the sound of birdsong
It was never a mistake
I was always gonna make
The right road to take was there all along
– “Swallow Me,” Rachel Sermanni
Released June 2, 2021 via Jellygirl Records, Swallow Me arrives a full two years after Rachel Sermanni’s third album So It Turns reaffirmed the singer/songwriter as one of Scotland’s most exciting contemporary artists. A “pandemic record” insofar as its songs were recorded over the past year (but written throughout the past three years), Swallow Me is the kind of musical snapshot that brings a hush over an unsuspecting audience: Sermanni cuts to the core in four captivating songs, each of which creates its own world of feeling through wistful lyricism, beautiful, raw vocals, and tasteful instrumental accompaniments that move the ears and enchant the soul.
For Rachel Sermanni, this EP is a long time coming. “I had many, many demos,” she says, accentuating the point. “Together [Fin Greenall (FINK), my manager, and I] decided on these four being strong, but also having a thread of connection somehow. This process occurred at the start of lockdown around May 2020. Some of the songs had been written for at least three years already. It was nice to feel like they were going to get an airing. I recorded in my shed, my mother’s shed, in a friend’s flat and, eventually, in a new flat I moved into halfway through lockdown. All the basic tracks were sent to Fin in Berlin who then weaved in his many friends from across the world to create what is now this full blown beautiful EP!”
“In some ways the vision was a bit blind,” Sermanni adds. “Mainly there was an impulse of curiosity to see: What can be created in this strange situation? As I sent my basic tracks to Fin it became clear, very quickly, that the juice of creativity was still flowing even when we were miles apart, even when I was using a click (which is something I used to have a bit of aversion to), even when the whole circumstance of connection is, geographically, very disjointed and at distance. We were still creating something fluid and contained.”
Swallow Me acts as a fitting re-introduction to Rachel Sermanni, capturing, as she explains, who she’s become in the years since her last LP. “It’s a lovely re-entry into the world of artistry,” she says. “Though I released my third album after the birth of my perfect daughter, it had been recorded many years before her conception. Becoming a mama has, irretrievably changed me on, probably, all levels. So it was nice to approach a familiar process from a whole new standpoint, whole new place.”
I think there’s an air of simplicity and confidence to Swallow Me, which is something I feel on the inside.
The EP begins with the heart-on-sleeve vulnerability of “Swallow Me,” in which Sermanni opens up about the heavy weight(s) she’s been carrying within. “You can see I’ve been meaning an effort; you can see I been working hard lord,” she sings at the start, going on to gently unveil hopes and uncertainties about the future. She shines in a warm, inspired chorus: “It was never a mistake, I was always gonna make the right road to take was there all along.”
“We thought the song ‘Swallow Me’ was a good song to lead with,” Sermanni says, “and the title sort of has, to me, an air of surrender to it, which is a thread of theme throughout.”
Highlights and special moments abound throughout the ensuing three songs. “Brighton House” showcases a particularly delicate and strong vocal performance in which the artist lets go with a hard-learned grace. “Here I am, wish I could be without the drought and reverie,” she sings, her alluring and emotive voice magnified against expressive guitars and more. “I never knew you long enough to easily let you go…”
Sitting at the heart of the EP, aching with passion and pain, is the heavy-hearted outpouring of a stirred singer/songwriter: “Travelled” is the eruption of an inner turbulence we each know all too well. The cinematic track finds Sermanni dwelling in a moment of reckoning: Self-described as a “dark night of the soul situation… coming to terms with my choices,” the song uses movement and travel experiences to express a moment of stasis; of entrapment; of uncertainty about the present, and insecurity over the future. It’s a dark, dark folk song for those in their darkest hour of brooding and introspection.
I’ve travelled around, seen many a sight
Held many a gaze flown many a flight
The crows in their murders, the finch in the cage
The robin red breasted, the wren the sage
I’ve travelled around but I never thought I’d stay
Seen many a sight like a river over clay
Held many a gaze now i cannot look away
“I was staying with the family responsible for the incredible ‘Ear-Trumpet-Lab’ microphones, in Portland, OR when I wrote this,” Sermanni tells Atwood Magazine. “I recorded the demo using all the old time instruments that lay about their house. Fin and I messed with the form a little since that first recording and the evolution & production has brought it to an ever more brooding, deep-dark feel which totally suits the essence of where I was at the time. I recorded the main vocals in my mum’s shed in the Highlands when we were visiting during a lockdown reprieve. More and more, I feel like this song depicts a sort of universal shadow of what it is to be Woman.”
Closing out Swallow Me is Sermanni’s current favorite of this collection. “Somehow I do like the fun & flicker of ‘Love My Love’,” she admits, “[but] the light of each song has its own hue, which I think perfectly depicts the feelings I wanted to convey. I’m so happy with each of them!”
“I really enjoy the play of ‘my love’ that was woven like a needle throughout ‘Love My Love’. That was a fun game, made me smile when I wrote it and still makes me smile to sing and hear. especially this one: ‘Love my love me like my love an ephemeral light’ – that’s a fun one.”
If my love you go my love to New Orleans
I my love you know my love cannot follow you
Then my love the wind my love will howl and moan
And move my love our love my love like a rolling stone
If this my love be true,
let go, let go, let go
If my love I lie my love with you Tonight
Love my love Me like my love an ephemeral light
All my love that Love can do is fill you up
Drink my love the endless of an empty cup…
Swallow Me EP was written while Sermanni was pregnant, and much of its soul-baring content explores the changes going on in and around her during this time. From the intimate overhaul experienced in the six minutes of “Travelled,” to soothing caress of “Love My Love,” every track resonates with strength as Sermanni embarks on an intense, intimate journey of self-acceptance, catharsis, closure, and new beginnings.
“I hope that people feel witnessed from their more shadow’d parts,” Sermanni shares. “Especially women, and especially, especially mothers. I feel witnessed in releasing it. But also, I feel like I’ve entered new waters, so it’s nice to see that, as was written into the chorus of ‘Swallow Me’, the path was the right one. That so, so, so much goodness, beauty, and development has come from all that shadowy journey.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Rachel Sermanni’s Swallow Me EP with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her new release!
Stream: ‘Swallow Me’ – Rachel Sermanni
:: Inside Swallow Me ::
Verse 1: I’m soon to give birth, been through a whole 9 months of physical change that spans my whole body changing, moving in with & basically beginning a relationship with a man I didn’t really know on a truly intimate level up to that point. Trying to ready a house that was mostly a bit of a bachelor pad for the landing of a baby being. . . been ardently trying to let go of my old romantic attachments, doors I hadn’t quite fully closed, prospect of never touring/working as I once did, worries about how to survive financially. . . A LOT. And trying to trust that everything is going to be ok. ‘You can see I’ve been making an effort…’
Verse 2: inspired by a friend who was breaking up with a partner. Reflecting on the letting go of things, stepping into the unknown, knowing it’s right but not knowing exactly what is the ‘right’ next step.
Verse 3: the visual of the memory of the moment I found out I was pregnant; Edinburgh Waverley Train station.
This song marks an example of one of the old attachments I was trying to let go of with tenderness. A door I still hadn’t closed fully but knew I had to find some way to do so as everything about my life was changing. An ode to a love that never became fully fledged, so still had that gilding of gold & rose about it…
Verse 1: Reflecting on touring, of being free like a bird (many wing analogies throughout). Reflecting on the change a coming & the inner wrestle it’s causing me.
Verse 2: both the outside world & my inner world was demanding clarity & luminosity. I was feeling under pressure and wanted everything & everyone to leave me alone 🙂
Outro: I remember seeing a swan flying through rolling heather covered hills on a train that was taking me north. It was so beautiful but it looked like such an ordeal to carry it’s huge body & long neck with such grace. At the time that I saw it – which was possibly years before I wrote this song – the sight brought tears to my eyes. It’s a beautiful symbol.
The other image that comes up here is one I would often see from an aeroplane.. The sight of smoke rising from forest fires. Always a sad sight, always a wondering if everything was ok down there and not knowing the answer.
Love My Love
Very simple song. Very self explanatory. I was very obsessed (still am a bit) with the notion of True Love being something that you Let Go. It is the antithesis of all we are conditioned to believe in our society.
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📸 © Gaelle Beri
:: Stream Rachel Sermanni ::