Fiona Dickinson
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Fiona Dickinson

Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States | INDIE

Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Album Review – Fiona Dickinson’s"

By now you’ve noticed that I have a soft spot for folksy musicians. By now you’ve probably noticed that I have a soft spot for every musician we cover – that’s why we write about them. Relative to other groups you frequently see on Mostly Midwest, Fiona Dickinson is a recent discovery to me. I saw her for the first time at Boiling Pot Festival in Kalamazoo this past summer. Having never really heard of her before I considered taking the time during her set to go grab a bite to eat or relax, but thanks to the hype I heard buzzing about her I decided to stick around and see what she was all about. I did not regret missing lunch that day.

Down at Boiling Pot I spotted a girl wearing a black and white striped shirt, sunglasses, carrying around a collapsible fan, and sitting or standing right in front for nearly every performance. I even handed her a flier to Mostly Midwest, completely oblivious to who she was. When I saw her get on stage it still didn’t click for a few moments, and then like seeing some celebrity in a crowd I leaned over to August and said “That’s Fiona Dickinson!” An easy way to tell if I really enjoy a musicians performance is to look at how many photos or videos I take of them. I was entranced by Fiona’s dark sound and couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it through a lens. When I found out she had an album in the works it immediately became my highest anticipated album of 2011.

Through some quick research of the word “Duende” I found that it “can be loosely translated as having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity.” (Thanks Wikipedia!) I also found other references to it being what gives you the chills – the performance itself. It makes you smile, makes you sad. The emotional response due to a performance. Fiona couldn’t have picked a more appropriate title for her debut full length.

The album was recorded partially at Strutt Records and the rest at an old, decrepit cabin in Bellaire, MI. It couldn’t have been done any other way. “Duende” is steeped with emotion, memories, honesty, and reverb. Some musicians delve into dark corners of their lives to craft eery arrangements. Fiona’s album is not only dark, but down right scary at times. My favorite track, Recalling Dreams, is based around a relatively simple, dissonant minor chord. “You know that I talk and I moan in my sleep / you know that I shake and I scream in my sleep.” A simple introduction with bending vocal harmonies, unsettling guitar, and the sound of creaking wood in the background sets the mood for one of the scariest, and most satisfying, songs I have ever heard. When the song hits its heaviest we’re introduced to cello, organ, and a percussive beat akin to a group of damned men laboring in the afterlife.

The rest of the album feels a little bit happier than Recalling Dreams, while still teetering along the scarier side of classical folk music. Fiona’s strongest feature is her honest, heart-wrenching voice. Although I’ve greatly lauded female voices in recent articles, Fiona has something I’ve yet to find in anyone else – and it’s not that she’s from the U.K. Raw, yet refined, Fiona’s voice carries integrity and emotions above and beyond the bar set for todays standards.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this album. “Duende” is set to be released January 14th at The Strutt in Kalamazoo – no admission fee! For now you can stream the entirety of the album on bandcamp - Mostly Midwest


"The soundtrack to our summer"

Fiona Dickinson
I’ve missed her at all the indoor shows but caught her at Boiling Pot. She’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter. - West Michigan NOISE!


"Album Finally Finished"

This album has seemingly been forever in the making. When we asked Kalamazoo’s dark folk artist Fiona Dickinson what part of her forthcoming album she is most excited about, she simply said “Having it done!”.

Dickinson has long since attempted to record her first full-length with Andy Catlin of Strutt Records. At the end of October, that goal was finally met.

“We ended up renting a cabin for four days on this creepy and very secluded 1970s campground up north,” Dickinson said. “It was quiet, gloomy and bitterly cold. The lack of human presence was almost unsettling. I suppose it was fitting for the mood of the album. Once we returned to Kalamazoo, we added the final touches and had some of our friends help us fill out the sound.”

But fans still have to wait a little bit to hear her work, as the album, titled “Duende” won’t drop until Jan. 14 on Strutt Records.

Dickinson has plenty of experience as a guest musician on other albums, but recording her solo work proved to be a totally different animal.

“In many ways, the process of recording one’s own solo project is more demanding,” she said. “It’s up to you to call all the shots and that can be incredibly nerve-racking at times.”

Dickinson admitted she feels like 2011 has the potential to be her most eventful year yet.

“After the release, the plan is send it out to radio stations across the U.S. and the U.K., share it with musical reviews and even see if we can get it into the hands of some filmmakers,” she said. “However, the top priority is playing shows and touring as much as possible. I’m in the process of booking a Midwest tour for early February and I may be heading south in March.” - West Michigan NOISE!


"Number 3 On The Top 50 Bands To Watch"

#3 FIONA DICKINSON

Speaking with the dark folk singer/songwriter a couple short months ago, it was clear she was incredibly optimistic about what 2011 has in store. And she should be. This year will see the Kalamazoo artist release her first full-length, entitled “Duende” on Strutt Records. Along with the official release party on Jan. 14, she’ll follow up with getting that music out to stations across the U.S. and U.K.

Dickinson is placing top priority on getting out and playing shows, promising a Midwest tour in the works along with possibly a trip down south. Dickinson has far different goals than the typical artist, bringing up the idea of getting her music in the hands of filmmakers in hopes her tunes might make a soundtrack. - West Michigan NOISE!


"Ticket interview"

KALAMAZOO — British singer/songwriter Fiona Dickinson will be bringing some soul to Kalamazoo at her album release show Friday at The Strutt.

The album, “Duende,” produced under Strutt Records, will be Dickinson’s first album released.

“The name ‘Duende’ is actually a Spanish word, and roughly translates to ‘soul.’ Any form of art, whether it be painting, or photography, or music, strikes a chord with people emotionally, and it can be said that it has soul. At the end of the day, I feel like my music is ‘soul’ music,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson, 22, has been a Michigan resident for the last 10 years. Her childhood homes can be traced back to places such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Scotland and England.

Dickinson said her diverse living backdrops inspired her unique blend of sound.

“The music is dark and emotional. That probably comes from my background, growing up around classical music, and listening to a lot of female performers with unusual voices. I get embraced by the folk scene, but there is definitely classical music and weird, experimental vocal music undertones in the mix,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson said her work on the album started about a year ago, but didn’t really take off until she and co-producer Andy Catlin rented a cabin in northern Michigan.

“We ran into a lot of problems this year getting the album recorded. We just kept getting really distracted with work and other things,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson said she felt the cabin trip helped her get the music written for the album.
“I think it was really the best way to do it, to sort of lock yourself away with nothing to do but write your music,” Dickinson said.

After four days of writing music in the cabin, Dickinson and Catlin returned to Kalamazoo and flushed out the music, adding other instruments like strings into the songs.
Dickinson began playing music when she was 7 — she started out on cello. Along the way, Dickinson picked up guitar, and eventually decided to try her hand at singing after moving to Kalamazoo a couple years ago.

“I play a lot of different instruments on the album, including upright bass, cello, guitar, flute and bells. I am not fantastic at each instrument, but I am lucky enough to have developed an ear for music, so it’s a little easier for me to pick up a new instrument and try to learn,” Dickinson said.

For Dickinson, her music is a portrait of her life in the moment.

“Most of the songs, in one way or the other, are autobiographical. I think it is important to document where you are in life. I really regret not having a lot of photographs of when I was a teenager,” Dickinson said. “I felt really weird about having my picture taken then, and now I look back and wish I had more. Now I have my music to record where I am. These songs evolve every time I play them.”

The songs on the album where all written by Dickinson.

“Some of the songs on the album blend right into the next. I really wanted this album to be something you could listen to in the hall, or when you are alone. It’s definitely a headphone kind of album,” Dickinson said.

The CD will be available for $10 at Dickinson’s album release show. The album can be streamed for free at fionadickinson.bandcamp.com until Friday. The album will also be available at various locations in Kalamazoo. Also playing at the show will be local groups Elk Welcome and Minutes.

“The bands playing with me are not necessarily the same genre at all. I wanted people to really let loose and go crazy, and then be able to kind of zone out and just listen,”

Dickinson said. “I really wanted a show with my friends, and that’s what I have. There is a music community here in Kalamazoo that is very supportive. Playing music in this town means you have a family here. It’s playing music because you like playing music.” - The Ticket


"Recoil Interview"

Fiona Dickinson
interview by Eric Mitts

Few albums embrace the cold, harsh winters of West Michigan quite like Duende, the debut from Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Fiona Dickinson.

"It is certainly a great way to kick off a new year," Dickinson told Recoil about releasing her very first album on Jan. 14 at The Strutt. "The album was originally going to be called Winter's Coming [so] don't expect to hear it pumping out the stereo as the kids drive to the beach in their topless jeep next summer. It is a winter appropriate album [and] it is one to be experienced on a quiet night."

The album opens with "My Lovely Friend," one of the first tracks Dickinson ever wrote as a solo musician, and a track she crafted on New Year's Day 2009. She had moved to Kalamazoo in the summer of 2008, where she wrote songs and played guitar for another singer. Before that, she had never finished a song or performed for others, and the thought of becoming a solo musician hadn't even crossed her mind.

Later that year, however, Dickinson was jamming at a Halloween party with a group of strangers, who have now become friends, and they encouraged her to explore performing solo. So she started writing songs that would fit her voice and style, and performed for the first time in February 2009. Since then, she's played in some experimental/noise projects and a folk-punk band, but is currently focusing all her time on her new solo album.

Dickinson recorded and co-produced Duende with Andy Catlin of Strutt Records last fall. They'd met in the summer of 2009 and instantly wanted to work together. By February 2010, Dickinson said she had enough songs for a full-length, and wanted to begin recording with Catlin, but the songs weren't quite ready yet.

"The arrangements beyond the guitar and vocal just didn't cut it," Dickinson said. "It was tough having that motivation, but not having the patience to develop the songs."

Around May she wrote a bunch of new material with really solid arrangements, and went back into the studio to record. Just at that moment, she came down with mono and couldn't sing for the next two months. Once she recovered, she and Catlin tried to record again, but the heavy workloads, along with other stresses in their personal lives kept them from focusing.

"We were getting too distracted in Kalamazoo," Dickinson said. "The best suggestion Andy ever made was getting out of town and finding a secluded cabin somewhere. A couple friends of ours had recorded up at Chain O' Lakes Campground in Bellaire, Mich. We took the recommendation and locked ourselves away for four days with as many instruments as we could fit in our car.

"Chain O' Lakes Campground is an unusual place to say the least. The owners, Deb and Flip, were very kind, but also a bit mysterious. There was no one there apart from them. We went up at the start of October. The leaves had already fallen off most of the trees and it was damn cold. It made things a little surreal and creepy. There was also something super eerie about the 1970s design of the place. We kept the doors locked and just threw down for hours straight. We had amazing results. Seclusion was the way to do it. Everything was working."

In addition to Dickinson's guitars and vocals, Catlin contributed electric guitar licks on four of the songs, as well as some reed organ, keyboard and clarinet parts. Vocalist/violinist Samantha Cooper, who Dickinson has been performing with since January 2009, also recorded parts for the album. Dickinson also assembled a small choir of some of her favorite Kalamazoo musicians: Graham Parsons, Adam Danis and Gitis Baggs of The Go Rounds, Mike Savina and Drew Tyner of Elk Welcome, and Bennett Young and Patrick Carroll for "My Lovely Friend."

"I often perform solo or with Sam who plays violin and does harmonies," Dickinson said about the differences between Duende and her live show. "I use a lot of strange tunings and a lot of reverb which creates a sound that is greater than just one guitar and vocal. There are many layers on this album that I don't know how to create live. Still, the sound isn't that terribly different. They are clearly the same songs. They just have a little more body to them."

Dickinson said she was never much of a singer growing up, and looking back she thinks it was a case of just not knowing how to use her voice. It wasn't until she was 19 that she really tried to figure it out, although she still has not taken any formal vocal training. She did study cello, on and off, from the age of seven until she was 18, and just before she turned 16 she picked up the guitar.

"It's the instrument I've put the most effort into and I've dedicated a great deal of my time into understanding it," she added.

Dickinson is British originally – her mother from Glasgow, Scotland, and her father from Wimbledon, England. She moved around a lot growing up due to her father's aviation career, living in different parts of the U.K. and the Middle East before coming to Kalamazoo. She admits that spending time in those different cultures could subconsciously influence her music, but not any more than her experiences with other local musicians in Kalamazoo or listening to her favorite records.

"I've always liked women with unusual voices [who] sing with a lot of raw power such as Beth Gibbons of Portishead, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Alison Goldfrapp," Dickinson said about her influences. "They don't care to cover up the organic grittiness of a howling soul. Singing to be pretty isn't the goal. It's about feeling it for what it honestly is. I've been listening to Bjork solidly since I was six. She's a great example of someone [who] can achieve a great mixture of the organic nature of stringed instrumentation and an unrefined voice with the lush electronic noise that you can create on a laptop or with pedals."

A massive fan of ambient sound and reverb, Dickinson said other musicians like Radiohead, Philip Glass and Patrick Wolf, as well as locals like Michael Beauchamp, The Go Rounds, Paucity and Minutes have all influenced not just the sound, but how she makes music.

"Kalamazoo is an excellent location to develop your craft because most people are ready to support you in any way they can," she said. "You don't find too much competitive spirit. Most of us aren't pretentious. It is nice for a musician just getting on their feet. The playing field is level. There also seems to be a crosspollination of scenes and genres here. I'll see a kid melt my face off at some crusty punk basement show one night and I can see them the next day sitting quietly and delicately picking at a banjo. I love it. Musicians are always collaborating and sitting in on each others' projects. I can't compare this town to any other only because I don't know any other scenes well enough. Still, something tells me that Kalamazoo is doing something rather unique."

Dickinson plans to play weekend shows around Michigan in January and February before heading to Montana in March for a few shows with Elk Welcome. A Midwest tour should officially follow in April, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

For now, she will start 2011 with a performance on 89.1 WIDR-FM on Jan. 10 and her free CD release show for Duende at The Strutt Jan. 14.

For more on Fiona Dickinson, click over to myspace.com/fionadickinsonmusic.
January 2011 - Recoil Magazine


"Recoil Review"

Fiona Dickinson’s debut album has delicate moments that melt like snow on skin, and others that echo in the deepest recesses of the subconscious. The singer-songwriter has a darker approach than most acoustic coffee shop fare, and she fills this set with 10 absolutely haunting torch songs. Collaborator Andy Catlin’s exquisite production, filled with ethereal effects and percussive accents, showcases the British-born Dickinson’s distinct voice, although her own guitar work, and the violin touches and vocal harmonies of her frequent accompanist Samantha Cooper, like on “Sticks,” prove just as powerful. By its end, Duende leaves listeners buried beneath an avalanche of musical daring, but with surprising warmth in their hearts. Listen now at fionadickinson.bandcamp.com, or go to myspace.com/fionadickinsonmusic for more. — Ryan Cunningham - Recoil Magazine


"Fiona Dickinson – Sticks & Stone Me"

If you read the website with any regularity you know that I’ve given praise to Fiona Dickinson before. Well, it’s not going to end until I get my hands on her album and review every damn song on it. Fiona put two songs up on her bandcamp earlier this week. If you’ve already listened to them, do it again. If not, proceed reading.

From what I know – Fiona spent 5 days in a cold 1970’s cabin with Andy Catlin of The Go Rounds recording her debut album. I can’t imagine a better atmosphere for Fiona’s songs to be played in (except maybe a spooky castle). Both tracks are rather minimalist; Fiona’s vocals and guitar are accompanied by Samantha Cooper’s vocals and violin on Sticks, and by Andy Catlin’s electric guitar and organ on Stone Me. Despite the minimalism, both songs create an atmosphere that will both warm you and send chills down your spine.

If you’re looking for a feel-good song then this probably isn’t the place to start (or maybe it is!) But if you’re looking for some quality, ambient folk music to go with your day then you’ve found the right girl. Fiona Dickinson’s album is dropping January 14th, 2011. I’ve marked my calendar and I advise you do the same. - Mostly Midwest


"Quotes"


"In a world saturated by boys with guitars, Fiona Dickinson achieves with ease what a majority of songwriters never even begin to grasp. Honest, maturely crafted, deeply stirring songs that hang in the balance between the darkness and the light. An absolute immense voice and creative force."
- Graham Parsons, Touring Musician and frontman for The Go Rounds.

"Reminiscent of the best parts of Cat Power, the gripping emotion of Nina Simone, and the soul-stirring honesty of Joni Mitchell, Fiona Dickinson's music fits beautifully into this continuum. Her singular voice and thoughtful lyrics play stand alone among the greats."
- Ike Turner, Touring Musician and History of Rock & Roll/English Professor

"Fiona Dickinson can hush a noisy bar with her beautifully melodic songs. An amazing voice combined with delicately dynamic guitar playing results in a perfect portrait of what a singer-songwriter should be."
- Mark Larmee, Sound Engineer for Marklar Recordings & Broadside Productions. - Various


"Psyched Out at the Strutt"

Fiona Dickinson made everyone stop in their tracks, beers half lifted to their lips, necks craned to see where this sound could possibly be coming from. Accompanied by an all-star band of locals, Fiona’s spacey folk grew into a cloud of strange and unsettling emotion that was at once familiar and mysterious. All we knew was that it was beautiful, and we wanted to be close to it." - DIT Kalamazoo


"Fiona Dickinson opens for Scout Niblett"

After going downstate to Boiling Pot Festival and attending this years Farm Block Festival I knew which album I was most anticipating this year – Fiona Dickinson’s. Although it’s not completed yet, you can catch her tonight opening for Scout Niblett at the Strutt. I can’t say much about Scout’s music, as I’m not very familiar, but what I can say is that if Fiona is opening for her – she must be damn good.

Undoubtedly my favorite musical discovery thus far for 2010, Fiona Dickinson performs dark, original folk songs with a voice that will make you tremble. Originally from the U.K., Fiona has moved to Kalamazoo, MI where she performs regularly and hosts a radio show on WIDR. From the sounds of it, her debut album will be released later this fall/this winter sometime. If you still have any doubts, she’s working on it with Andy Catlin of the Go Rounds. - Mostly Midwest


"Fiona Dickinson, an artist who is quickly becoming a Mostly Midwest favorite"

Fiona’s music is a dark beast that always creates a hushed crowd, and tonight was no exception. - Mostly Midwest


Discography

Duende - Fiona Dickinson
Strutt Records 2010

350 - Various Artists
Strutt Records 2009

Photos

Bio

Fiona Dickinson is a British singer/songwriter currently residing in Michigan. Taking a cue from Bjork-esque vocalists, as well as adding elements of shoegaze, old time folk, and lush string arrangements, Fiona creates a beguiling dark sound. While the instrumentation of reverberated guitars, violins, and cellos is invariably complex and often provide unexpected hooks that draw a listener in, Fiona's most affecting instrument is her voice. Rich and mature, she drives it fluidly between sweetly breathed coos and full-throated wails. Her live shows are intimate and deep, begging the undivided attention of the listener. You can feel her voice pushing back the demons as she digs deep into a growl, and then angelically welcome in the healing process with the voice of tranquility.

In the past, Fiona has collaborated with several musicians in the studio, onstage, and on the road as a touring vocalist and guitarist. Collaborations vary from folk to punk to noise rock. Artists include Graham Parsons & the Go Rounds, MINUTES, Robin Parrent, Rotten Wood Moon, and Gitis Ezekiel Baggs.

In September 2009, Fiona was invited by Andy Catlin of Strutt records to record her track Buy It In Bottles for the 350 album. The project was organized by Seth Bernard and The Strutt. The compilation features 16 artists, including Seth Bernard, Graham Parsons, Red Tail Ring, Greensky Bluegrass and Glowfriends.

After the release, Fiona received a positive response and was signed to Strutt Records. Fiona recorded her debut album, DUENDE, with co-production by Andy Catlin. The album was released on Strutt Records in January 2011.

Since coming onto the scene in 2009, Fiona has supported such acts as Scout Niblett, Larkin Grimm, Frontier Ruckus, Breathe Owl Breathe, Chris Bathgate, Prussia, Paucity and Jeremy Quentin.