Cellar Darling’s Anna Murphy on Hurdy-Gurdy’s, touring and black metal

After the split with Eluveitie, the trio consisting of Anna Murphy (vocals, hurdy-gurdy), Merlin Sutter (drums) and Ivo Henzi (guitars & bass) formed Cellar Darling and created music together what some people like to call New Wave of Folk Rock. In the summer of 2017, the debut album This is the Sound was released and stormed the charts immediately. The combination of heavy progressive rock, folk, the Hurdy-Gurdy, and Anna’s characteristic voice gets support from all over the world with a daily growing fanbase. Anna had some time to answer a few questions.

Hi Anna, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, more than six months have passed since the release of This Is the Sound, how has the overall response been so far from music critics and fans on the album?

The response has been pretty positive I would say. We had an overwhelming amount of supporters right from the start (when the album wasn’t yet released) and for me the most important opinion was theirs – we clearly didn’t disappoint, but managed to create a very loyal and passionate fanbase who developed a deep connection to the music and the lyrical concept of ours. That’s pretty much the biggest compliment you can get as an artist, that the fans not only simply enjoy the music, but want to dig deeper and feel what we felt when creating. Of course, there’s also a bunch that doesn’t understand what we’re doing and that is completely fine too. It wouldn’t be art if it was for everyone.

2018 seems already like a busy year for you with all the upcoming tours, I heard something about Brazil and Japan?

Yes, more and more gigs and opportunities are pouring in and it seems a very exciting year is ahead of us. Let’s hope we still have time to write our second album 

Which places are still on your bucket list to play live once?

Well, basically all of them I guess? We’ve already seen vast parts of the world due to touring with a fairly successful band before forming Cellar Darling, so we know that the crowds are great everywhere and that there’s so much to see and learn from the different cultures. Tours in Latin America, North America/Canada, Australia, and Asia were always highlights for us (which doesn’t mean touring Europe is less cool, but it’s just less exotic because it’s closer to home ;)) and we’re so happy to get these opportunities now too with our new band. There are still places we’ve never visited to play shows before though, like for instance Iceland or New Zealand to name a few, so that’s why I like to tend to just answer the question with “everywhere”.

Cellar Darling - Anna Murphy

Do you or the band have a ritual before you enter the stage?

I try to avoid serious rituals because it makes you believe that a good show is a dependant on them. And I’ve learned that a good show can happen in the most absurd circumstances whereas bad shows can happen when everything should be perfect. It all depends on your mindset, that’s the most important thing, but also the most difficult to “channel”. We usually have a shot of whiskey before going on stage, I often avoid it when I’m not feeling well and Ivo sometimes also doesn’t join in, but Merlin does it almost always I think  But yeah, when we’re all feeling well and energetic I would say that’s our band ritual to give us an extra kick. Apart from that, we have none.

Which song from Cellar Darling is your favorite when playing live?

I really like Black Moon. It’s energetic, but also mystical and I think it represents our band really well. Plus it’s not too hard to play live, so you can really get into it and move around 

How do you like to spend your free time on a tour?

If we have time and the location allows it we like to go out and do some sightseeing. We used to do sports as well, but we’ve become slightly lazy the past year, so we’ll try to get into that again in 2018 (hopefully…). Apart from that everybody has his own thing. Merlin does a lot of studying and working, Ivo googles guitars and likes computer games, I paint, read and work on music stuff.

I have done some research on Hurdy-gurdy’s, what type of Hurdy-gurdy do you use or do you own more Hurdy-gurdy’s? I found out there are regional differences in the instrument but basically, there are two types, French and Hungarian?

At the moment I’m using two instruments by Sebastian Hilsmann. An acoustic one that I record the albums with and use as a backup, the “Largo”. And an electronic one that I use for live shows only, the “Accento”. There are so many different types of hurdy-gurdies, all different in size and shapes. The instruments I play are both very modern and don’t sound like the traditional medieval ones. When I started playing I rented one at a high school for old music, that one came pretty close to a real medieval one, in sound and shape. But it would have been very difficult to pull that off in a metal/rock band, so I started looking for my own model. My first hurdy-gurdy was built by Helmut Gotschy, I still have it and love the instrument, it’s a “Novello Classico”. The instruments I play are all made based on the French style gurdies.

Historically, strings for a Hurdy-gurdy were made of gut and people still use that today but also cello, violin and nylon strings are used and each set of strings provide a different sound, what kind of strings do you use?

Yes, I used to have gut strings on my first hurdy-gurdy too. For my current ones, I use viola & cello strings.

How does the songwriting go? Is the Hurdy-gurdy part of the writing process or is it later added?

The hurdy-gurdy is part of the songwriting process always. Sometimes a song starts with a hurdy-gurdy melody or tune even. But usually, I add it when the main structure of a song is already there. There are different types of songs, the ones that are written either by Ivo or myself or songs that are written as a band in the rehearsal room based on our ideas. Maybe that’s also why our songs tend to sound very different which I think makes it interesting.

Which black metal album can be found on your iPod?

I listen to quite a lot of Black Metal actually! Not as much as I used to as a teenager, but it still holds a special place in my heart  The list is pretty endless, but at the moment I’m listening to a lot of PortalSarke & Vektor. Note that all of them aren’t pure black metal bands, but use it within a fusion of some sort. Vektor is more of a thrash metal band than anything else, but their black metal influence is what makes them awesome for me.

Last one, what is Hedonia about as it’s in your native language?

Yes, Hedonia is in Swiss German. It’s a pretty weird song, I wrote it after going on some abstract, metaphysical journey with my brain  It’s about the end of a fictional world in which everything is harmonic and beautiful (Hedonia). As described by a slightly confused dreamer, the world is withering and dying but without him realizing. The sun has long vanished, but he still feels the warmth on his skin.

Here you go with a translation of Hedonia
Red are the stars of a dying firmament
Crows hurry across the sky, fleeing from death
Everything loses it’s color and lays down to rest
And also I am giving up, falling asleep in the murky moss
The moon looks so sad
Once so luminous and now dead
Where once was my home only ashes await me
All the trees have been devoured by the earth as smoke ascends towards the sky
Sleepless dreamer, do you see the light?
Can you also feel the sun on your face?
Shadows are crawling through the valley
Where once was life, all is silent
Clouds are gritting their teeth
Havoc reigns the skies
Sun, stop dreaming!
The moon looks so sad
Withering skies once so colorful
Dreamer, the end is nigh
Gloomy, day and night
Everything loses it’s color and lays down to rest
Everything turns gray and bleak, intent and willing to die
Red, one last star
Red, soon all will be black
Hedonia, watch out the end is nigh
Luminous stars are fading away

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