Time Travelling with Norrisette
This year I made a conscious effort to expand my musical network on Instagram and seek out artists I might share an affinity with as a way to create community and boost the visibility of other independent artists like myself. Norrisette is one of the artists I formed a connection with. I'd heard of Norrisette as she features on a hot, housey track called 'Touch' by my producer mate Hectic (who's done many great remixes for me). It was love at first sound! Her vocal on 'Touch' is disarming, seductive, enveloping, ethereal and very queer. There are many fascinating aspects about Norrisette's story. Please read on to find out how she approaches her creative work, navigates being an independent creative and how her journey is closely linked to the pandemic.
Who is Norrisette and what do they stand for?
Norrisette is my alter-ego, my drag, my shadow self, my face that I didn't show until the pandemic, my inner child, a pixie, a gremlin. Norrisette stands for honesty, humour, experimentation, openness, love, being a clown.
Where are you from?
I'm from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, but live in Manchester. Norrisette is from another planet and has so far travelled to Earth, the second dimension and is now travelling in time.
Tell us about some of your more interesting jobs...
Well I've done everything from call centre work to writing opera for money so a bit of a mixed bag. The thing with being a freelance musician is one day you might be talking to a celebrity and the next day you're shredding warm chicken in the back room of a cafe on a trial shift, and that's not a euphemism... My first job was aged 4 taking the heads off all the dandelion clocks in the garden for 50p from my dad so he got my CV started early. My most recent job was making a soundtrack for the incredible choreographer Carolyn Bolton who I've worked with 3 times now.
Who inspires Norrisette?
Björk made me realise you could be a total weirdo in public, Lady Gaga and FKA Twigs made me realise you could be a sexy weirdo in public, Annie Lennox made me realise you could be a sexy androgynous weirdo in public, Rina Sawayama made me realise you could be a sexy androgynous weirdo in public in 2021.
What first got you into making music?
My mum taught me to play the piano when I was five and I used to have tantrums where I crawled under the piano stool for long periods of time. It was useful playing the piano because my dad (again) got me started on pop music by letting me work through the complete Beatles songbook (he cut all the psychedelic naked pictures out of the front first) and also showed me how to use the record player so I could play Simon & Garfunkel on repeat. I used to fall asleep hearing my parents' ceilidh band practice filtering through the ceiling. So music was always there. But as a teenager the angst spilled out of my ears and I started writing terrible songs, then later did a music degree and forgot how to write tunes for a while. The pandemic brought that teenager back and she became Norrisette I guess.
Describe the music you typically create...
I make electronic music because I've made everything in my house in the pandemic so just recorded the way I could manage at home using Ableton. Originally I had a terrible mic so distorted everything to disguise that, which was a funny way of creating a new style. Now I can do most things that I want to, so am thinking more consciously about the sounds I want - sad, wholehearted, provocative, bewitching, catchy, honest...
What's one of your fave tracks of yours? My favourite is 'Angel' because it is the most minimalist in terms of melody and form - I was inspired by Laurie Anderson's 'O Superman' for that one. It's such a weird and unapologetic song.
How do you approach your songwriting or production process?
I start at the piano with a theme, then add vocals, and occasionally start with a poem instead. The production comes from a completely different place, I'm still learning so much as I go so each song wrestles with the limitations of my skill and technology. I make drum loops by piecing together tiny samples which could be anything from scrunched paper to a standard kick.
Tell us about your recent track and remix 'When'. What gave you the inspiration? How did it come about?
'When' was mostly written in one morning after a strange and sad dream, so often I make a song in the morning with a strong feeling that won't go until it's in music somehow. I wanted to make something inspired by the 80's and Kate Bush so I made a piano intro that didn't find its home until that dream happened. Then I took the intro out again for the electronic track and went for an organ sound, nostalgic. The remix happened because I'm still playing with that song, adding things, taking things away... the emotion is still there perhaps.
Tell us about your approach to the sound in relation to how you approach your gorgeous images...
Thank you. I think the visuals often come first because I have a very strong image in my mind and then the music comes out of the image or persona. I love to set up a photoshoot in the kitchen (!) and then add all kinds of textures in photoshop. It's not that different to the music - making something in the house then playing with it on the computer... My live sound is very different because I'm always working with context and limitation. Live performance seems more fun with just the piano or the synth or loops, so it's much more free than my produced tracks.
How has the pandemic affected your practice, creative process or your life in general?
I used to spend a lot of time at home anyway doing freelance work, so at first I thought things were ok, and then this grief started manifesting and took human form as Norrisette. I lost one of my closest friends in January and couldn't cope until I made some paintings and an EP about her. Then I immediately lost my voice for 8 weeks. But the gift the pandemic gave me is Norrisette. I was being who I thought people wanted me to be before, and now I am being myself.
Who do you admire in the music industry and why?
I admire Rina Sawayama for being herself and forging a career in her late twenties (like me, hopefully...). I admire Elton John for championing LGBT+ rights. I admire Nina Simone and wish I could have met her, she was so fierce and honest and raw. I admire my colleagues for keeping going in a pandemic, keeping the hope.
Who would you like to collab with living or dead?
Delia Derbyshire. My electronic music heroine. She chose resources perfectly.
Who would you like to open for?
Sylvette, a band whose music I adore, are friends of mine and asked me to open for them this month and I might die of happiness to finally perform again after this pandemic void.
What are some of the more challenging aspects about being an independent creative?
Income can be tricky, but I've learned to juggle. And knowing your own mind, keeping the vision even when people are pushing and pulling you in different directions, especially if they are paying you. But it's all worth it for me because I love being self-employed and independent.
How do you approach your social media? Do you have any strategy?
I try to think about what I would actually want to see online - there is so much stuff out there, constant clamouring for attention. I suppose I create a space where I feel happy and invite others into it. Promotion is a complex thing, you don't want to shout at people, but you also want to share something with them that you think is worthwhile. I love being able to connect with other musicians and fans online especially at the moment with so little in-person interaction. I love seeing and hearing new music from my friends.
What are you really into outside of music?
Low-key comedy, crisps, going for walks with my partner, Studio Ghibli films, nature.
A good piece of advice you've been given...
"Send the critic out of the room while you're creating, then bring them back in" - Thea Musgrave on the inner critic
What’s next for you?
Avoiding a nervous breakdown as 9000 things start happening after 18 months of silence.
What would you like to plug?
My latest single is a collab with Italian producer Eileen Noise and you can find it on Spotify here:
Please check out Norrisette on her socials and music services: