Talitha Rise: The Rise of English Neo-Folk


There’s a new name for neo-folk and the name is “Talitha Rise”. We had the chance to talk with Jo Young (aka. Talitha Rise) about her unusual stage name and the source of her inspiration.

What does “Talitha Rise” mean?

I chose the name from a phrase in the bible where Jesus raises a girl from the dead by saying ‘Talitha Koum’ which means Talitha Rise! I’m not at all religious but I thought it was great and summed up a lot of what I had written about, rising up from the worst that can happen.  It sounded like a person’s name so I took it on from there.

You’re always performing solo, but is there another artist involved in the “Talitha Rise” project?

Definilite. I co-wrote and co-produced the current album and previous EP “BLUE” with Martyn Barker (Shriekback, Goldfrapp). I’m primarily a songwriter but Martyn composes some lovely pieces of music such as “The Lake” which started as this ethereal guitar composition which I wrote the words and melodies around. On the new album Kathryn Williams wrote some beautiful lyrics for a track Valley and Bloodfox features some fantastic sound arrangements and vocals from Nick Webb (front man of “Indie band Capital”). 

What could be the main message you are trying to convey through your music?

It’s hard to pin down one defining message. I guess if had a message it would be that you’re not alone in your thoughts and feelings. Music has saved my life many times so if I have the ability at all to make anyone at all feel seen, heard, understood and made welcome in this life then my work is done! 

When did you start writing and performing music?

I started singing at 3 years old. I sang before I talked and started performing very early on as a child soprano soloist in the church choir up till about the age of 12. I always wrote songs, bits of music and poems from a very early age too, vamping on my grandmother’s piano and accordion and finding sounds that worked together. I felt more at home in my imagination than anywhere else through all my childhood really. As a young fan of rock and progressive music, I finally got to learning the guitar at around 15 and that changed a lot of things.. but I think you can still hear that classic choir girl lurking in the background! 

Many of my peers made a conscious decision to become a professional musician, but songwriting was just a very ordinary part of my life since i can remember, like brushing your teeth or hair. I had to really accept it was a ‘thing’ I could do professionally. I performed my own songs in folk clubs and on stage alone and with bands since the age of 17. After some time working as a session singer and teaching guitar and songwriting freelance, I decided to go back to college in Ireland and study music ‘properly’ as an adult. That’s when I knew I had to make a real effort and go of it.. that was 8 years ago! so I guess you could say I’ve been taking I made my decision fully then. 

What inspires you?

Everything is inspiration. Places I visit or live, coffee shops watching people out the window, conversations with people I love and strangers, nature, animals, folk and folklore, poets and writers, films, books, astronomy, articles I read, world events, art, the fragility of existence. 

We don’t often allow ourselves to  think about the beautiful precarious, miraculous and strange position we’re in to even to be alive. I think songwriters are inclined to look at that more. For instance I recently saw an advert for life insurance saying “if you book your funeral now you get a cash back reward”. I found that darkly amusing and started working around a lyrical line on not being able to afford to die! I don’t know if it’s unusual but I have recently fallen in love with Opera over the last 4 years! I’ve been lucky enough to see a few performances at English National Opera and Glyndebourne and it has been hugely inspiring! 

Which musicians do you look up to and why?

There are so so many I look up to. In short anyone who takes a risk is always going to inspire me, Bowie, Kate Bush, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Bjork, The Grateful Dead, Radiohead, Beck, people who pushed boundaries at the time. Some of my musician friends are my inspiration too. I watch them breaking ground in themselves and I think it’s amazing. I’m also inspired by visual artists such as Frida Kahlo, Vali Myers, Van Gogh, Cezanne.  Art often involves challenging something and you’ve got to be brave enough to be yourself and find out who that is. When you do things differently there can be a lot of pressure to just get back in the box and do what ‘people’ will like or understand. I think that’s really underestimating the intelligence and hunger of the human race. So many artists out there have shown me that if you like what you do chances are you’ll find a tribe that does too. I loved Tim Buckley and spent a lot of time listening to him when I was younger, he was a huge inspiration to me. Currently I’m a big fan of Aldous Harding, she has that integrity and courage. 

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