Bliss are back. First there was the stunning performance at Nambucca in north London earlier this year, with former members Rachel Morrison and Tom E Morrison on top form – along with their new Brazilian band. Fired up with enthusiasm after such a great response, the couple have been hard at work making things happen. And it’s reaped rewards: on 15th November, Warner released a 30th Anniversary Remastered edition of Loveprayer, Bliss’s debut album and they’ve just played another gig at Bohemia, north London, on 22nd November.
I met up with Rachel and Tom to find out how things are progressing, although it’s fair to say Rachel’s beaming smile and upbeat mood are immediate giveaways that they’re about to impart some exciting news. It’s Rachel who takes the lead in the interview while Tom occasionally throws in a comment or embellishes the story.
Rachel, what was it that triggered this rebirth of your music career? And how are you balancing everything at the moment?
Rachel: “It started with an Open Mic at Bohemia in March which I loved, and I thought, I want to do this! I’ve learnt that life is short and some things are important. I’m in a position now to fit my ‘day job’ around my music. What feels so good is that I’m in control of my life and am not beholden to anyone.”
Bliss were rocking it at Nambucca this summer (see review here). How long had it been since you had stepped out on stage?
“Before the March gig, we hadn’t performed live with a band in six years. The energy still feels very raw and special because of that experience. I love making each time I play into a new experience. I’m always trying to eke more out of it, pull out new things from each performance. Like in Good Thing I made up this whole kind of rap, a kind of dialogue, during the song.”
While you were playing, did you have any idea how well it was going down?
“That gig felt special in lots of ways, and yes, we could feel the vibes. You know when people ‘get’ you? Well, that’s how it was. And Rupert Hine was there, he’s produced Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner and Howard Jones amongst many others – he produced the second Bliss album called A Change in the Weather. So there he was, right down at the front, and he was whooping! Adds Tom: “Before the gig, he hadn’t seen Rachel for 15 years and he said to me that he hoped there’s something still there from what she had when we recorded the album.” Afterwards, he came up and he said it was an absolutely mind-blowing performance.”
So that’s the official stamp of approval that you’ve still ‘got it!’ What have you been up to since that show?
“We’ve been working on new songs, trying to rediscover old material that we hadn’t released. There are things we half did and then life tends to gets in the way. It’s been wonderful rediscovering songs from over the past 10 years.”
Warner are re-releasing your first album Loveprayer. How did that come about?
“I was talking to Paul [Ralphes] who was my co-writer in Bliss – he lives in Brazil. I said to him: why don’t you look at a re-release? He tried but nothing really came of it. So I just came out with it and asked him, ‘Can you give me the head of Warner’s email address please!’ So I emailed the president of Warner and he replied, Rachel, so great to hear from you! He’s put me in touch with their A&R guys and marketing people… This summer has been great, I’ve been having lots of nice, relaxed chats with industry figures.
Things seem different because of your age, really, it’s like, what have we got to lose? Our attitude is, you just have to get on with it and if it works out, great. But if it doesn’t, well, I’ve got a full life anyway, it’s not the end of the world. It’s the best way to be, so we’re just going with it.
The original 1989 Loveprayer is an iconic album in Brazil, Italy and Germany. The Loveprayer (30th Anniversary edition) remastered will be released 15th November and it includes two so far unreleased tracks. Warner Brazil are also talking about re-releasing another album so that’s in the pipeline. The company are big fans and are also planning to release an acoustic version of I Hear you Call in early December – I was talking to them on Friday and they have a marketing strategy we need to look at. They are really excited about it. It’s a lot to get your head around.
All I want to do really is sing and perform. And I’ve almost surprised myself that I can still do this, so naturally and so easily. It’s just a force.”
Do you find your voice has changed since those early days?
“I think it’s got better, richer. Listening to early stuff it was very fruity! Haha! Maybe that was the fashion at the time, like Alison Moyet. I don’t get what’s going on now with vocals, the way all the vowels are changed and it all sounds so affected.
How do you feel about the music industry now? Do you notice it changing?
“Something that concerns me… there are very few women of my age singing – and we have a lot to say. You can see on TV and film that older women are becoming more valued and are starting to be allowed to be their age but still in music it’s not always the case. Men are allowed to age and do what ever they like. They can be out there on stage in a vest, with a pot belly. For women it’s lagging behind somewhat but I think it’s starting to change. I saw Barbra Streisand in the summer at Hyde Park and she’s still a phenomenon, such clarity, her voice soars. And she must be in her 70s.”
“There are very few women of my age singing – and we have a lot to say”
What are your tour plans so far?
Tom: “It’s still all in the planning stage – we’re talking to promoters now. Brazil and Germany are on the agenda. You have to tour as you don’t make money from record sales any more. We’ve been away for 20 years so things aren’t easy.”
How do you guys work? Do you work together all the time or independently?
“We work together and we write together. We are lucky enough to have our own studio. We realise it’s a luxury and we’re very lucky to have it. We just walk in there and we feel blessed to have that space. The sound is great, we’ve got the right speakers, the right mic. So it’s just a matter of finding the time. Tom adds: “I’ve been away a lot, touring with Bonnie Tyler – we played 50 gigs this year, but now we’ve got some space and time to concentrate on our music. I also feel so blessed to have the space of our studio.”
As the interview comes to an end, I realise why Rachel arrived radiating such positive energy: after a summer where it seemed everything pointed towards this musical rebirth, she and Tom look ready to take on the next chapter of Bliss and all that it may bring.
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