By Nick Pelling

I have to admit that when I first read that India Blue described herself as a ‘faerie-folk musician’ I could not help but feel that this was, well, a little eccentric. Possibly a little bit silly. Would she fill in forms asking for ‘occupation’ with the word ‘faerie’? But then I listened to her live album, Live at Small World, on her website. I have to say it made me think again. Perhaps I was the silly one.

Her music is actually very engaging, often complex and even dark at times. Many of the songs on the live album are held together with meandering, suspenseful piano swirls. Although India does have a high-pitched faerie giggle, some of the songs seem almost pained. The piano-driven pieces, particularly Love Song to Myself, (from her new album) reminded me of Fiona Apple at times. I decided to find out more about this musician from the magical world.  

She was very candid about the role of this quasi-pagan culture in her life. In her own words, she admits that she felt like “an odd ball” at school in Rye. As a young teenager she began to find her real self in music. But it was at the Faerie Festival in Alfriston as a young teenager that she suddenly felt at home. She had found her people, and maybe even an ideology to live by. (By the way, apparently, Alfriston literally means Elf Settlement. Who knew?)

Musically she has been influenced by a number of people. Firstly by her folk playing Uncle Jon, who made music in the Nick Drake style, and later by the likes of Mikaela Davis and particularly by Joanna Newsom. I felt that was also a very definite strand of Kate Bush in the way her voice can suddenly pirouette upwards to the sparkly notes and otherworldly trills. And Laura Marling is another reference point. 

Although her piano playing is often quite mesmerising, she is also a brilliant harpist. She plays a range of other instruments, some of which like the antique mandolin, are very evocative of worlds beyond the mortal curtain. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone shout, “turn up the distortion on the harp,” but she does. And she means it. It is very definitely not the usual decorative tinklings that one normally associates with the instrument. This is harp as raw nerve endings.

India’s career is now reaching an intriguing point. She has just released her first studio album. She has worked with some impressive local musicians, such as Tom Clarkson, Bev Lee Harling, Colden Drystone, Tom Uragallo and others. The new album is entitled The Circus Came and Left and after one listen I am prepared to say it is brilliant. The piano veers between mournful and the exotic; the voice is somehow frail and supple at the same time; the lyrics go down all manner of dark rabbit holes. It may well become a folk classic. India is playing a gig at The Nest on 12 March  in Hastings Old Town as a kind of launch party.  

I don’t think I am yet a full convert to the faerie way, but I might be a fellow traveller. Having said that, anyone who introduces a tune with the line, “this is a song about mushrooms falling in love” is likely to meet with some genuinely Anglo-Saxon responses. But it is actually a tremendous song, full of human yearning. And when you look around the current world at how the non-faerie types are leading us, one cannot but think that there may be much to be said for the ways of the faerie alternative Queendom. 

The launch gig is 12 March from 8pm at The Nest. Tickets are available from Eventbrite. The new album can be found on all major streaming sites.   

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