Photos: Andre Pattenden
Aisha Chaouche emanates a certain serenity both in person and throughout her music. Weaving hauntingly-beautiful and richly-textured layers of sonic subtleties, her songs deal with deeply personal past experiences, yet her debut release, Safe ultimately purveys a compelling sense of peacefulness that Chaouche has found through music.
“So when I was a bit younger my time growing up was a little difficult. My dad was very aggressive, and he was just not a good character,” Aisha expresses. “My mum divorced him eventually but we already had that time, where we all grew up through it being very difficult. So my childhood and teen-hood were quite difficult.” She further confides, “I was taken out of school so didn’t have that school network. I was living in the mountains in Wales, not really connecting to the real world and just really struggled with it. So in the end, by default, music became almost like a healing outlet, because I didn’t have any connection to literally what the fuck was going on. I didn’t understand it”.
Having found solace in music from an early age, she recalls, “I’ve just always done it. My mum had an old piano I used to play on and I was like, ‘ah I can write music’ and then I remember just thinking, when I was super young, ‘that’s just what I want to do.’ I didn’t want to do anything else.” Initially moving to Bristol to study music, Aisha tells me, “Personally I don’t think you can grade music. It’s so subjective. Unless you want to be a teacher or something or go down that route, then it’s great. And it’s super great to meet people who also do music. But for me I didn’t need the degree, so I just did one year and was like ‘I can keep doing it, I’ll write music and then release it and see how that goes’”.
“The whole album’s about coming to terms with those traumatic events…”
Taking this more autonomous, DIY approach to writing and arranging her music, she explains that the distinctly eerie and otherworldly quality to the compositions on Safe resulted from “a limitation of equipment, which ended up being a bit of a blessing in disguise, because it forced me to write music within those means.”
Going into more depth about music as catharsis, Aisha details how “music just became a healing process and the whole album’s about coming to terms with those traumatic events that had occurred – and then ultimately turning it into a strength through music. Also, connection to other people and sharing it, I feel, is a form of healing,” she contemplates. “Rather than keeping it in, that’s really tough. For me, other artists who’ve been quite open about their problems have been a huge help because I’ve been like, ‘okay other people have been through stuff like this too.’ Music can be a central hub for people with all sorts of experiences, coming together under this one beautiful umbrella. That might be what the next one’s about.”
Talking of how the subject matter came about quite organically, Aisha explains, “I didn’t plan on that happening. Each tune was about a memory. As difficult as it is to write lyrics about difficult stuff, you can arrange and compose the music so that it has a feeling of hopefulness, and that’s how it’s been so healing for me. It’s just nice; the more I sing the tunes, the more it kind of solidifies that I’m okay about it now, so that’s it.”
Throughout the tracks on Chaouche’s album, there’s a vulnerability in the intimate lyrics, but also, simultaneously, an overarching empowerment on show. “It’s empowering,” Aisha affirms, “because it’s about the feeling of being a victim, then creating an environment where you become in control, and the more you can do that, the more beautiful it becomes. It’s turning something that’s really dark and awful into something incredible. It’s tough but it’s worth it.”
“I remember just thinking, when I was super young, ‘that’s just what I want to do.’”
Having played just a few shows so far, she reflects: “I didn’t actually expect anything to come of the tunes, I just went ‘ah well I need some way of writing the stuff down so I’m just going to do it’ and it happened that people got involved. Now it’s turned into a bit more of a thing, which is really amazing, but I really wasn’t prepared for the live bit,” adding that “it’s difficult but I’m very excited about it.” Chaouche’s live presence is in fact spellbinding, and the perfect way to take in this powerful set of songs.
Chaouche’s debut album, Safe, is out on 15th June. She plays the Old Bookshop on the 14th, plus Green Man, 16-19th August.