"Messages of grief, loneliness, survival and healing through nature" - Sussex date

Cellist-singer and environmental activist Sarah Smout embarks on her debut solo tour on the back of her new single At Sea, with dates including Shoreham’s Ropetackle Arts Centre on Wednesday, November 29 at 8pm.
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Her first solo tour comes after a 15-year stint as a session cellist in the folk and roots scene. Armed with just her cello, voice and loop pedal, Sarah promises a transportive and mesmerising show that explores our connections to place. Titled Eyjar (Old Norse for islands), it is inspired by her month-long odyssey to Iceland by boat, via Orkney, Shetland and the Faroes, and interweaves poetry, looped soundscapes and deeply-felt lyrics in perfect harmony. As an environmental activist, Sarah puts the climate crisis at the heart of her work, presenting it in a way that celebrates nature whilst also posing urgent questions. She brings her experiences from remote islands, including local dialect words for nature, stories about species of birds from islanders she met, and even traditional tunes. Eyjar forms the backbone of the tour, alongside new material from other environmental commissions and collaborations. Sarah explained: “I made this journey to Iceland to listen and collect – to travel slowly. So often tours are about covering as much ground as possible without really experiencing any of the places. I think that when we slow down, we can uncover stories that are important and urgent, and even more profoundly, find our own place in nature. This connection to nature is something that helps me navigate an uncertain world and by travelling in these remote islands I got to experience something that was very special, and it made me even more determined to do what I can to protect nature and the future of all life upon this earth. I think music helps to both unify and challenge people, but also to inspire change.”

This tour replaces her spring tour planned for earlier in the year after her pregnancy loss left her unable to perform. The grief she experienced plays a part in her new single At Sea and remembers the rather choppy sailing journey between Shetland and the Faroes on her way to Iceland. Using cello loop effects, ocean recordings from the journey, and the playing of the pedal steel by BJ Cole, a vast musical sea-scape is conjured into being, alongside Sarah’s plaintive and elemental vocals.

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“The song then transforms into the pace and urgency of the chorus in order reach the safety of dry land. This is a song about being at the mercy of wind and tides and completely giving yourself over to nature; or, in another way, giving yourself over to the upheaval of grief, being at sea with it, and eventually reaching an acceptance. Either way, it carries with it important messages of grief, loneliness, survival and healing through nature.”

For the music video, she has worked with international animator Virpi Kettu at Craven Arts House to re-create the journey and the emotions within it.