FOUR years on from the disbanding of Monkey Swallows The Universe and nearly 10 since musically setting sail, Nat Johnson is a very happy woman.
It’s not to say she hasn’t cracked a smile in her previous folkpop guise or as head of The Figureheads – she just knows they’ve recorded the album she always threatened to.
“I’ve never made a record I’m more happy with than this,” she says ahead of I’m Across, I’m Ashore emerging Monday.
“I always try to do better and ignore what’s gone before.
“Often with songs or albums or anything you do, musical or not, you want to go back and do it slightly differently, take something off, put something on, but I knew it was complete when I finished writing the last song and we felt it was right when we heard the final mix.”
While Nat delivers plenty trademark gentleness and sobriety, songs such as Margot, The Steeplejack and the delicious Making Movies have a spring in their step, a sense of renewal.
“There’s a few reasons for that I think... it’s really about something for one.
“I got a lot of things off my chest, feelings which developed and evolved over the course of the writing and it was really satisfying. The opening song, Astronomy, which in concept album terms is really the closer, sums up the emotions of the album; it is about renewal and being excited about what the future might hold.
“Also, we all felt more strongly than ever that we were making something good and we really enjoyed recording. You can hear that too.”
Furthermore, the album sees Nat embracing life’s limitations. Debut album Roman Radio may not have made her a star, but it raised the bar and earned her band live radio sessions.
“I have been frustrated at times that my life can’t just be about music, that I can’t devote all my brain-power and more of my time to it; life gets in the way.
“But throughout the writing of the album my feelings changed until I was left feeling contented, very lucky and able to appreciate where music fits into my life and how other things are just as, if not more, important to me now. Writing these songs gave me peace of mind.”
Recorded at 2Fly Studios, part funded by a Pledgemusic.com project, where fans pledged for exclusive items including original album artwork painted by Nat, I’m Across, I’m Ashore is released by Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation.
“As a band we’re on the same page musically and know instinctively what each song needs – and we had the legendary Alan Smyth at the wheel.
“We had more time in the studio so we could play around with different techniques and try out various things until we had it just right, things like getting exactly the right drum sound for different songs – we’ve never had time to do that before.”
Nat Johnson & The Figureheads launch the record at the Memorial Hall on Wednesday.