"The most important thing that I figured out for myself is not to obsess about it..You have to allow creativity to come out in different outlets."
From her early days as a classically trained child guitar prodigy, Natasha Borzilova has consistently created music that says something, and in a fresh way. That hasn’t changed with her 2015 release Wilder Days, her fourth solo release.
This is a song based on a conversation I had with my grandmother years ago. Her entire life she was a daredevil; a regional steeple chase champion as a teen, she trained to be a nurse at the onset of WWII which among other things included a series of parachute dives, in her early twenties she became a school principal and later worked with troubled youth. Once she said to me, "When I think of myself, I imagine a young woman, because in my heart I'm still the same person. Then I look in the mirror and see an old face I don't recognize." Grandma passed away from complications due to Alzheimer's disease. Sometimes I like to imagine her in her true form, skydiving in Heaven.
When someone dies in a Russian household, there is a strange tradition to cover all the mirrors until the funeral. It is believed that if the soul of the departed happens to catch a glimpse of itself in the mirror it will be trapped in this world forever. I found out about this sad ritual as a teen. My father was a renowned environmental physicist, and after the Chernobyl disaster he volunteered to lead the team of scientists who were charged with figuring out the ways to deal with the radiation. As a result of his frequent trips there he passed away suddenly at the age of 50. That day I grew up in one second flat.
This song is a collage of conversations I've had over the past year with various talented yet struggling friends, and of my own "help I'm getting older" moment of panic that lasted about a year and largely influenced the making of my album pf the same title.
This is the title track to my first solo album. I wrote the song with my friend and label mate Donna Ulisse.
When I was going to record my album Balancing Act, I was researching Russian folk songs, looking for less obvious and popular and more authentic tunes, and my friend Yura Morozov sent me a recording that immediately took my breath away. The song called Rechka (The River) belonged to a catalog of Russian folk songs collected by Sergei Starostin, a well known contemporary folk singer specializing in "field research" --going to the remote villages, talking to old people and giving new life to old songs that were passed from mother to daughter for centuries.
The original recording was eight or nine minutes long and editing it made me think of the inevitable changes that would occur in the process of passing the song through generations of singers. The winter nights must have been so incredibly long and boring in rural Russia centuries ago, that singing probably was one of the few forms of entertainment, resulting in the song's elaborate details and repetitions--they had to kill time somehow! And here I am--trying to tailor this old song to our fast-paced world, where an attention span of four minutes is a lot to ask for. I thought that it made poetic sense for me to make these changes, because in another way I became another link in the chain of people giving it new qualities (or taking away some extra ones). For a moment it made me feel like I became part of Russian "folk" in sculpting the song.
Like a lot of Russian folk songs, Rechka dealt with death, which was such a popular subject due to an old belief that the sorrow that you sing about will not happen. The river is deep and wide and the only way to cross it is to walk on a small wooden plank. Three sisters try to cross the river breaking the plank, and the oldest sister drowns. The rest of the song is the dead sister's monologue; she's addressing her brother asking him not to walk on the banks of the river because it's what became of her chest, not to stomp the silky grass which is her hair, not to muddle the waters that used to be her blood, etc. The pagan beliefs that the objects in a place where a loved one has perished take on the properties of his/her physical body have created this hauntingly beautiful ballad that I was happy to include on my album Balancing Act.
1: What artist would you most love to work with?
Tori Amos, Tom Waits, Beck
2: What instrument brings you the most joy?
3: What was the worst advice?
The one I hopefully didn't listen to
4: What was your first concert?
The one I played or the one I went to? I can't remember which came first...
5: What/where is the best road food?
Ever since I became a vegetarian most road food is just a tease
6: What’s the best music advice you ever got?
Practice everything ten times slowly before attempting to play it fast. If you make a mistake, repeat it twenty times slowly before attempting it again.
7: Who is your most surprising inspiration?
My skating coaches (you wanted surprising, right?)