Making connections - Q&A: Ebony Lamb
ebony lamb album cover credit frances carter

Image: Frances Carter

Making connections - Q&A: Ebony Lamb

As a portrait photographer, Ebony Lamb has an eye for the defining detail. As a songwriter, she shows that same clear insight. We talk timing, connections and the power of 3 ahead of her national tour.

This album’s been a slow burn for you – why was that? Good things really do take time. Finding the right collaborators took some superb universal timing, to have Bic Runga and Kody Nielson (UMO) as my producers. I met Bic while at the Christchurch Art Centre at a songwriters’ workshop she was part of. It was a really great meeting of minds, followed by touring with her and then working together. The pandemic has held back this release by at least two years and now is totally the right time – touring nationally, going overseas, having the opportunity to go for it without the deep worry of cancellations. It also took us time to create the sound that was Ebony Lamb as there wasn't really a template for that, we were trying out new things.

Would you say it has a theme? Connection, observations on my life, the world around me. Ultimately the theme is about being connected and also being awake to what's happening for each of us in daily life and over years, through love, time, choices that we make. I'm in a very deeply loving relationship that's long term and it's never lost on me how precious that is. 

Will listeners hear a change of direction from the days of Eb & Sparrow? More of a new and wider genre trajectory into a great direction that we were headed in on some tracks. It's fresh and stronger. It still feels very much like an Ebony Lamb record, and as the sole songwriter and lead vocalist in Eb & Sparrow it's got the essence of that in a whole new way. The live shows with my current band are really the best shows I've ever done. I'm working with Phoebe Johnson (Revulva, Heavy Chest) and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (French For Rabbits, Dateline) who are both amazing jazz-trained musicians, highly regarded, and there's a bit of magic working as a trio I've found, it's been wonderful. 

How was it working with Bic and Kody? And analogue equipment? Like working with your ultimate dream team. It was an incredibly enriching experience and really humbling to be working with such deft production and musicianship, they truly are geniuses. It was wonderful to use Bic and Kody's amps and guitar and to be tracking together in real-time in the great studio they have at home. We recorded my vocal final takes in Wellington with my long-term collaborator Gram Antler on really beautiful old microphones. Having Kody master everything to tape means there's an authenticity and realness to the final album, and as a collection of debut solo songs I feel very happy. The reverence shown to my songwriting and singing was really supported by them through their production choices, the best recording experience of my life.

Your day job has been as a portrait photographer – is that on hold now? I'm actually navigating that right now, and thankfully I can usually find a way to work with the portrait sitters amongst it all. It will definitely need to pause during the national tour, which spans 27 October to 11 November throughout Aotearoa. I absolutely adore portraiture, it's such a powerful and important part of imparting your creative work into the public space. I really love people, and human beings are pretty fascinating. The last time I was in Canterbury I photographed Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, which we did over about five hours. It was such a brilliant shoot around the Peninsula. I really am focused on singing and releasing as much music work as possible in the coming 10 years though, and being able to bring the two worlds together through the performance aspect with visual projections and creating music videos through my production company, Studio ELGA.

What will you be doing this summer? Going to any festivals (as punter or performer)? Spending time in the Marlborough Sounds with my family, writing the next Ebony Lamb album as well as working on a book about portraiture and planning the overseas album tour for 2024. So working but in a great way. I'll definitely be watching my friends perform throughout summer and there's more to be announced, so I'll stay mum on that front for now!

How do you relax? I love walking up above our home in the old bush of Days Bay, in Wellington. Living near the sea is a must in daily life for me. Also listening to really loud music in the car – there's something about moving towards a destination and singing at the top of your lungs. If I'm tired I love being at home watching great films from Arovision

I can’t leave the house without … A great bag, the right jacket and my Weleda Skinfood.

Christchurch: Fri 27 Oct, Lyttelton Coffee Company
Dunedin: Sat 28 Oct, Yours
Wellington: Fri 3 Nov, Meow
Featherston: Sat 4 Nov, Kiwi Hall
Napier: Sun 5 Nov, Paisley Stage
Auckland: Fri 10 Nov, Whammy
Paekākāriki: Sat 11 Nov, St Peter’s Village Hall


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