We’re inviting you to awaken today to the calm, harmonious world of Robyn Ferguson and her brand new EP, The Waking World. The pianist and multi-instrumentalist has been on an absolute songwriting tear over the past two years, with The Waking World being her fifth proper EP release in that time. The EP features five piano-driven compositions that show a whole new side to her as an artist, proving that she’s just as capable in front of her piano as she is playing her Ibanez guitar.
Few artists are capable of being equally accomplished on one instrument as another, but Ferguson bucks this trend, showing her more emotional side with five wondrous numbers. It’s the fifth edition of The Alizarin Chronicles, the name she has given to her multiverse of albums. It’s a courageous release, proving that she is not going to be an artist content to be boxed into one musical corner.
As a special contributor for V13, Devo Oosthuizen recently spoke with Ferguson about The Waking World, The Alizarin Chronicles, her past as a member of various instrumental bands, and representing South Africa as a South African artist.
Robyn you describe The Waking World as “a parallel release to your conversant guitar driven repertoire,” with the objective of offering a unique perspective on your creativity and talent. Please share insight with us on why you decided to follow this unique altered approach for your fifth EP.
Robyn Ferguson: “I find that it’s just way too easy to become boxed in or limited by oneself, and that idea just doesn’t fly for me so I’m constantly looking for and working on ways to push myself out of a space which may show only one side of my art, passions, and talents. For this EP, I wanted to strip back everything and find the root, the core of myself, and a way to overcome some of my inner turmoils, and from these moments in song I hope to birth even more inspiration for further works, guitar, or otherwise. Much like the songs from Harbinger, I just laid it all down, this time the creative craving tool in front of me was a piano. I’m an artist… One could say I may have been colouring with various musical pencils and markers up until now, but that’s never meant I don’t know about or how to paint. So I decided to paint…”
You refer to your series of solo EP releases from the past 24 months as your journey into The Alizarin Chronicles. Please shed some light for us on what this all means.
“The Alizarin Chronicles is the global title for the body of works which I have released up until now, from the first EP Alizarin through to now the fifth, The Waking World. The Alizarin Chronicles can be considered one of the storybooks and star maps to describe the chapters of the creative journey that is my life till now. The Alizarin Chronicles will be one of several musical worlds containing further albums and EPs. For the best listening experience I encourage you to start at the beginning and hold on for the rest of the ride because it’s really just getting started…”
You have evidently stayed very positive, creative and super busy in this challenging COVID time, which has been especially hard on the creative arts industry. What has been at the heart of your immense driving force through this tough time?
“Make no mistake, it’s been extremely difficult on us all, and I too have found myself pondering life on some dark days. My solace has come from plunging myself into my craft coupled with the amazing support of my loved ones. I’ve strived to take this time and spend it on self reflection and on working on some real deep issues I’ve been needing to face in my own heart and mind. This process has forced me to rebuild my thinking and I feel freedom in the release of energy when I put it behind music and so it becomes my driving force. Moral of the story, just keep going even if it’s the smallest bit, don’t stop.”
Since progressing to a solo career playing progressive instrumental music (from fronting Adorned In Ash and playing in Sistas of Metal), have you missed the group dynamic and incorporating vocals in your music?
“Group dynamic, yes and no. Bands are great fun and you have a creative team but as much as that is a positive it can also at times be quite limiting. I miss performing with a band, but these days I just miss being on any stage that’s not virtual. In terms of incorporating vocals into my music, well, many have asked about my vocals and my answer remains the same: I’m an artist, there are many colours and tools to create with, and I am constantly creating. My vocals aren’t lost just because I’ve not been publishing much about it, or because all I’ve released until now has been instrumental.
When I write music I write what is needed for the song, when a song needs vocals, you’ll hear vocals. And the same can be said for anything that I have, or am or will be creating and writing… I’ve always said it was going to be a rollercoaster, so stay tuned!”
You have been a staunch representative for South Africa the past year (playing many international online festivals alongside colossal artists like Venom as an example). How would you say the international audience has embraced you and your music, and what is their view of South African Artists overall?
“Wow, yes there have been some big platforms and opportunities recently. It’s been such an amazing experience and honour to represent South Africa in places and spaces where very few have heard our talents before. The international pool is massive and exciting and I feel I’ve been welcomed and my music has been incredibly well received. I think doors are being opened and people are finding and supporting real artists who are thinking about life from fresh perspectives. I’m thankful and amped!”
From the five tracks on The Waking World, what would you say is your favourite, and share some insight with us as to why?
“My favourite changes, but currently ‘Morpheus.’ I wrote this in the early hours when all I wanted to do was sleep, but insomnia was plaguing me and I’d been awake for a few days with my mind playing tricks on me. I was trying everything I could to fall asleep and eventually in the shadows I started drifting into sleep and dreams while recording the melody. This song was originally titled ‘In the Arms of Morpheus,’ referring to sleep and dreaming, but I cut it to ‘Morpheus’ so it’s easier to remember and so I would have cool answers to give you in interviews (laughs)!”
The visual creative that accompanies all your releases is very stout and striking and filled with rich symbolism. Who creates your visuals, and what insight can you share with us as to the meaning of all these remarkable cyphers accompanying your audio repertoire?
“I create all of my own artwork, and I tie it to the global titles and themes (The Alizarin Chronicles) while still keeping each EP visually independent. The artwork and accompanying visuals for each release are meant to add depth to the story of the songs. The artwork reinforces the story: ‘When the skies blacked and the planet crumbled, the ancients took to the stars. All the bloodlines chose their paths and so carved their fates throughout time. To survive the raining downpour, the colonies divided and known only by their flags, Raven, Oceanborn, Timebender, and Pack, each spread to worlds parallel apart. Falling forward at the edge of life brought a tear in the void bringing a new wave of fire.
Thousands formed to brace for the ascension while others fled into doom and self-destruction. Parts of the colonies survived, though tens of thousands had fallen and been divided, expunged from the records of history. Their ashes are said to be scattered in space to remain as traveling souls for eternity. Some now harbingers, the voices known only as the echoes of what is past, what is and what is to come, are still left to speak visions to the blind and songs to the deaf throughout the lands. The strongest of those flags surviving the fall saw the weak weeded out from beneath the hardened rock upon which fortresses had been built.
But, when the dust settled after the stars had fallen some semblance of hope was regrouped and so through the cracks came another leaf. Now no doubt, but doubt not, for the mind does do bends. As sure as they once destroyed your world, the day has come to new awake. This is The Waking World as the Chronicles have been written.’”
Where to next from here Robyn; is EP number six already in the making, and where can we see you in person (or online) next?
“Absolutely! EPs six and seven, they’re coming, I promise! I’ve not stopped writing. I’m pushing myself a bit and there’s loads of work happening behind the scenes for future releases. You can catch me online at the following festivals:
La Ley del Rock Online Festival in Argentina on July 17th
Caio Indica Fest in Brazil on July 31st
Larva Fest in Peru on August 15th”