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ICONS: Skye Edwards and the Return of Morcheeba

ICONS: Skye Edwards and the Return of Morcheeba

Trip-hop queen Skye Edwards talks new solo stuff, the meaning of "legendary" and...the new Morcheeba album (yes, you heard right).

By Halley Bondy
December 4, 2012

In the post-grunge era of 1998, when the likes of ‘N Sync and Usher were charting, there arose a strange new album called Big Calm. For the thousands who bought it in the UK and beyond, its songs filled the soupy, relaxed, hip-hop inspired electronic void that was missing whenever they took downer drugs, or got it on.

At the helm of the now-legendary group — called Morcheeba (a weed reference) — has always stood the terminally gorgeous, breathy-voiced lead singer Skye Edwards, who, in the eyes of the world, is Morcheeba — even though she was actually replaced between 2003 and 2010.

But relationships have been mended, and Morcheeba is… drumroll…coming out with a new album with Skye on the mic, likely next summer. There are no preview tracks yet for the album, which is in the brainstorming phase and doesn’t have a title yet — but the team has high hopes.

“We’re all really excited about it. I can’t go into too much detail, but Paul [Godfrey, Morcheeba's beatmaker] describes it as Morcheeba with a pulse,” says Edwards. “It feels time certainly for Morcheeba to have some hits again.”

The London-born and bred chanteuse has also been busy releasing her third solo LP, Back To Now, which she is remarkably un-diva-like about.

“I wouldn’t have a solo career if it weren’t for the fact that I was in Morcheeba,” she says.  “I can’t say ‘hey, I have an album out, my name is Skye.’ But when people hear Morcheeba they say ‘oh Morcheeba oh my God!’ It’s really important to mention that, and I don’t get annoyed by it.”

You can buy Back to Now, out on PIAS with more electronics than we’re used to from Skye’s solo work, due in part to the new involvement of producer Steve Fitzmaurice (Paloma Faith, Depeche Mode). But through the years of shifting from trip-hop to soul to hip-hop to pop and back again, the thruline of Skye’s music, and Morcheeba’s, remains familiar: floating, relaxed, soundscapey, yet heavy, like the air is a little more viscous than it was before.

Stream her new single, “Featherlight” for an idea.

Skye’s personality is just as understated. Aside from being one of the nicest people you’ll ever speak to, she is a humble social media presence — loyally retweeting her fans, imparting friendly information, and not wasting a word on drivel.

“I guess I’m just really lazy! I like getting information and putting it out there. But there are certain things that I don’t put on Twitter or Facebook. I don’t put pictures of my kids on there. I didn’t tweet about my father passing away a few months ago, that’s still personal,” she says. “I don’t feel like I have to tell people what I had for breakfast. It’s not going to sell me records.”

Her restraint in public and admirably ageless beauty (she turned 40 in May) immediately set her apart from the pop guard, not to mention that she has been a mom for the majority of her music career — with two sons aged 17 and 4, a 14-year-old daughter to keep her humble. She seemed to light up, in fact, when I asked what it was like to raise a teenage girl, and if it’s as harrowing as they say.

“I love having a daughter. I think I’m doing a great job so far, she’s a pretty good girl,” she says. “But it’s hard when you hear your 14-year-old singing ‘I love it when you eat it I love it, I love it I love it when you eat it,’ from that Rihanna song…the most controversial thing I can remember was Madonna, with the Sex Book. But I’m sure my daughter will be saying those kinds of things when she gets older!”

After meeting bandmates Paul and Ross Godfrey at a party about a decade ago,  then joining Morcheeba to practically break the “trip-hop genre” into the mainstream — her image as humble mother transformed to the mythologized face of Morcheeba…and as the one who temporarily got away.

The new album won’t mark her return to the band; that honor goes to 2010′s Blood Like Lemonade, which came seven years after Skye had been excised from the group due to infighting among the bandmates. The trio has been pretty mum on the details, citing musical and personal differences — but the beef went so deep that, when the brothers approached Skye to work with Morcheeba again a few years back, she didn’t want to.

“We didn’t like each other,” she says, “It came to the point where I saw Ross once and actually ran in the other direction. I didn’t understand why they would want to do it, and said no immediately.”

We have her husband and solo album producer, Steve Gordon, to thank for the reunion, she says. Steve encouraged her to reconnect with the group, arguing that it would be good for the fans. They fought and fought, but Skye eventually caved.

“We arranged to go out for a meal, myself, Paul and Ross. It was the first time I’d seen Paul in seven years. And, we had a laugh. It was actually quite fun….we eventually recorded some songs, and it worked out well. We went on tour and that was just brilliant, you know, just building the bridge again. It was nice to say, ‘you don’t hate me?!’ and them saying ‘no I love you!’ They apologized for treating me like shit. And we’ve gotten on with it.”

These days, things are going swimmingly with the demo, and the group of renewed BFFs are looking to make some hits and world tours, while Skye carries on her solo career. In many ways, the group is lucky to release a new album with a name already behind them, without having to navigate the information age industry as much as the noobs do. Yet, they do face the challenge of adapting to the wild west industry, not to mention the harsh media coverage of “aging” musicians.

“I was speaking to another friend of mine who’s a singer, who has turned 40 as well. Both of us don’t really put our age out there, because in the UK because it’s about the young and up-and-coming bands and musicians,” she says. “But I guess, as we get older we get cooler, and we’re legends, rather than just old.”

Would the group’s legend hold water if they came into the public eye today? Skye and I talked about this question at length, concluding that the industry has probably changed too much. The web would have over-saturated the name Morcheeba, along with the term “trip-hop,” before they even had time to come up with a social media strategy (which, of course, they didn’t need in the 90s). The trio may still be able to make hits, but they certainly represent a bygone pace.

“We probably wouldn’t have created Big Calm [Morcheeba's second, most commercially successful album] if it came out right now, because back then, the record company we were with gave us time to grow. Now it’s far more fast-paced — if you don’t have a hit from your first record, you pretty much get dropped.

“The one thing that still remains is touring, and doing live shows. That’s something that you can’t download.”

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