Polly Wright is a musician whose work bleeds into Composition, Performance, Film, and Written Word.
She has created music for theatre, installation, poetry, fashion and dance and performed headline sold out shows at The National Portrait Gallery and Hoxton Music Hall. The album ‘Sing as the Crow Flies’, a collaboration with Laura Cannell, received Folk album of the month in the Guardian.
Polly brings her brand new piece of work Witch to NAC on Thursday 19 January. We caught up with her a quick Q and A…
Hi Polly, can you give us some background to your musical style and influences?
I am heavily influenced by things like the piano ballads of Tom Waits and Nick Cave and the dark visual imagery of their songs, German Romantic Lieder and traditional folk song. I am also heavily influenced by poetry and writers such as Sarah Hall, Daisy Johnson and Clare Pollard and the photography of Francesca Woodman.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming performance Witch / what is the concept behind it, who have you collaborated with?
It is a 1 hour concept piece using song, spoken word and atmospheric projection exploring aspects of the figure of the Witch, historically, that I feel still have great relevance and weight today. For example, I have written about modern day Hollywood putting women on trial and also the figure of the witch being a role model for the conviction of courage to be different, to go against the grain and the strength of one’s own belief to live with genuine experience.
Witch is a collaboration with Jason Wick who is my long term musical collaborator, on commissioned work for poetry, theatre and film. We have been making music together under the name of The Feathered Thorns for the past year, with the aim of covering new ground for us both in terms of genre, style and inspirations. Our musical backgrounds are very different so the combination of what we bring to the table together is really interesting. We are currently working on our debut album.
What is your connection to NAC and how has it supported your work?
I was kindly given an associate artist position at NAC in 2022, which has proved absolutely invaluable in being provided with the time and space to develop a completely new piece of work. It has been really brilliant to create WITCH knowing that it will be performed at NAC.
What do you most enjoy about producing and performing a new piece of work?
I love research and so producing new work really plays into my interest in the enjoyment of process and development rather than just the end result of a piece. I also find that this research often takes me into unexpected areas of interest. I also enjoy the vulnerability of producing new work, as it feels really energising and progressive to keep creating.
Where do you rehearse and how is it going?
We rehearse Witch at Jason’s recording and rehearsal studio which is an amazing space with a cranky upright ex-pianola piano. Rehearsals for WITCH are going well, the challenges are now making sure the whole thing flows consistently and coherently to hold the audience from start to end in an immersive space.
This year I want to take Witch to other venues and also explore some residency options to create new work. We are also working on our debut Feathered Thorns album.
Work aside, what do you like to do on a day off?
My favourite days off involve going to Norwich, with no specific agenda, to eat food from the market, and wandering round the city, buying second hand books, or heading to Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft to visit museums and the towns’ wonderful creative spaces and walk on the beach. My dream evening would be drinking at Arboretum followed by a lot of late night dancing to a great band.
What’s the best thing about living in Norfolk?
Haha I actually live in Bungay which is Suffolk (but right on the border in the waveney valley). The best thing about the area is the great and interesting people, all the hidden unexpected gems, the marshland landscapes and all the great cultural things on offer.
10 Quick Q’s:
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
A small Broadland village, South East Asia, followed by a long stint in London and now Bungay.
Who is your biggest influence and why?
That’s a really difficult question but I think I should probably say Tracey Emin and Marina Abramovic, its something to do with the vulnerability and rawness of their work.
What makes your work stand out from other creatives?
I think what makes work stand out is something which draws on a wide range of influence and inspiration to create something of a really singular vision which cannot be put into a box in terms of genre and style
What is your biggest weakness as a creative artist?
Being able to finish and let go of things, definitely.
What makes you happy?
What makes you sad?
What film, TV show, book or podcast have you recently enjoyed?
PJ Harvey’s Orlam.
If you could only own one musical album, what would it be?
OK Computer, it never stops haunting me.
What would your super power be?
What you’d be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Running a secondhand bookshop.
See Polly Wright perform Witch at Norwich Arts Centre on Thursday 19 January with The Feathered Thorns, her duo project with long term collaborator Jason Wick.