Kelly Lee Owens

Following the release of her ‘LP.8’ album, Welsh producer Kelly Lee Owens reveals how witchcraft, Enya and er… gravy have shaped her work

Photo: Kim Hiorthøy

NEVER MYTH A TRICK

“I feel like myths and stories that come from your home, your culture and your people are the biggest part of your identity. Also, they give a sense of community – gathering around to pass on things and finding ways of connecting people to magic. Obviously I’m interested in storytelling in a sonic sense, but of course mythology comes from the oral tradition as well as the aural. For me, it’s a reminder to go into your imaginative state.

“Some of the stories are quite lighthearted but others have pretty dark and deep messages. When I was making ‘Inner Song’, I read ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estés – it’s full of mythologies that caution us. And we’ve lost that, I think. If I’d been told some of the tales she has in her book, I would have had the tools to understand the world around me better. 

“People talk about the melancholic Welsh – well, I’m really glad I’m not afraid of emotion. I’m not afraid of the depths of my being.”

RESPECT YOUR ELDERS

“I used to be embarrassed about where I came from. When I first moved to London, I was surrounded by rich, cool people who had giant houses and backgrounds that I knew nothing of. I almost pretended to be someone I wasn’t, and I’m kind of ashamed about that now. But as the years have gone on, I’m like, ‘God, my family are incredible!’. We’ve been through the lowest lows and highest highs, but we stick together.

“In the Western world, we are so disconnected from our elders – and I don’t just mean grandparents. I’ve got friends in their 60s and older. One of the first things I did when I visited Australia was to go out for dinner with the artist John Olsen, who’s 94 years old, and his partner, who is in her 70s. Hanging out with older people is my favourite thing to do. The value you get from them, the life experience, the wisdom… it all comes back to stories.”

IT’S ALL GRAVY

“Yes, I literally mean gravy. My partner’s mother came down for Mother’s Day, when I was in Australia, and I cooked a roast dinner – two types of mashed potato, my own Yorkshire puddings – but the thing I was most worried about was the gravy. If you get the gravy wrong, it’s game over, I’d be cast out of the family. 

“My mum is going to hate me for saying this, but she’s not a very good cook. I’ve still got fond memories of Christmas dinner, which my nan would make, and my mum would do the gravy. It brought the meal and the family together, and I was always so proud of her because she did such a great job.

“So my partner’s mum helped me make the gravy. It reminded me of home and of my mother. For me, gravy just means family and memories.”

LEAF IT OUT

“I’ve found plants are a deep reflection of where I am in life. I used to kill a lot of plants – not by choice! I didn’t know… do they need water? Do they need sunlight? This was in my early 20s, which was also when I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I didn’t have the time, I didn’t have structure. 

“Now, I sometimes water my plants before I water myself in the morning. One of the most cathartic things for me is to be around them. I’m starting to bring them in to studios, and I can’t really work without them. Plants are our friends, and the journey of taking care of something is a worthy one.”

EVERY WITCH WAY

“When I was younger, I used to define myself as a white witch because it meant wisdom. My great-grandmother, Gwen Owens, was born in the late 1800s and was known as a witch. She met with other women and would be involved in witchcraft or wyse-craft… whatever you like to call it. She’d read tea leaves for people and was extremely psychic. It was well known in the community that if you wanted some understanding of your potential future you would go to Gwen. I’ve found these things coming through me too.

“I dream things that come true quite often, and I have images coming into my head that then happen. I read tarot, but only for friends. I just see tarot cards as a tool, like in music – the synth is the tool but you’re putting all your love and creativity into that.”

ANCIENT SOUNDS

“In some cultures, music has been used in tandem with plant medicine. The voice, or music, is the guide through the depths of the journey you are taking. I don’t know much about plant medicine in Wales, but other cultures have been doing this for thousands of years. When I listened back to ‘LP.8’ recently, I thought the opening track ‘Release’, sounded like a Native American drum! It wasn’t what I was going for, but that’s like the earliest form of techno. That heartbeat, that repetition – it’s always been there.”

GO WITH THE ORINOCO FLOW

“Enya could sing in English or Gaelic. She was going to bring you into her world whether you liked it or not. We both come from places where our culture and language have been oppressed, and I saw this woman singing in Gaelic. I love the whole mysterious energy around her – she lives in a castle on the outskirts of Dublin, no one ever sees her, she never tours. She doesn’t have to.

“Enya makes albums that are played in every spa in the world, but she’s also revered by music nerds. She sounds like the future and yet there’s this ancient thread to the past. All those things inspired me, and the fact that she’s a woman. It may be boring to talk about the woman thing in music, but I think it’s still necessary. She’s got a fish named after her! I’d bloody love that.”

‘LP.8’ is out on Smalltown Supersound

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