‘Celestial forest dreamsphere’ | Interview with Fi Sullivan

Touching on climate change, Fi Sullivan is showcasing West Water, a blend of proficient, expressive vocal delivery, cinematic fat synth leads and a hint of experimentation. West Water is the opening track for her debut EP titled Shades of Forest. Read our discussion with the talented artist below!

Describe your sound in 3 words.

Celestial forest dreamsphere.

Tell us a few things about your project Shades Of Forest. What is the story behind it?

Shades of Forest is an EP for the forest I wander in my dreams, the existing trees I hope never vanish. I started recording and collecting sounds and images for Shades of Forest while I was researching human vocal continuity at the intersection of music and technology around the world as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow 2019-2020. During this time, I lived in many different forests – urban, rural, frozen, rock, tropical – throughout Germany, Austria, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, and Argentina. Shades of Forest is a collection of four songs interweaving pop-inspired dreamscapes of lush and ephemeral tones with celestial and chaotic harmonies reminiscent of wooded ecosystems. With this music, I wanted to transport my listeners into a moment of beauty where we could listen for distillations of Earth’s sound – listen for our conversations with the natural world. I composed this EP while listening for a breath beneath the earth – the energy of roots underground…‘watching the world from under a pine tree.’

You are inspired by the natural world. Does growing up in Colorado influenced your sound and if so, in which way?

Growing up in the city- looking west to the Rocky Mountains- I have always felt connected and energised by the beauty and intensity of the mountains…the epic formations with endless microclimates and biomes— the layers of worlds existing and thriving at high elevations—the wisdom and peace felt from within the depths of the trees and rivers, the trails and peaks …I am transported to these scenes when I compose and perform—I am singing with them, for them—I am always composing with and for the voices of the natural world.
All my compositions start with mind mapping and a sound, the imagination and visualisation of the sounds I physically and mentally gather — all living, layering and interacting with the natural environment and humans in new worlds, their own worlds. My songs start with a dream scene that appears in my mind, either before or while I’m playing guitar or jamming in Ableton on my computer. I usually find the chorus or main dance moment first, then the vocals and lyrics come intermittently in waves as I try to describe my soundscape and feelings. I usually enter a feverish flow of creative energy while songwriting and producing; it’s hard for me to pull away.

Which of the 4 songs of this ep reflects you the most and why?

Oo this is a good question…hmm I would have to say ‘West Water’ or ‘Shades of Forest.’ Probably ‘West Water’ because it is a song for journeying through a canyon river inspired dreamscape. This song also originally started as a slowly evolving 10-12 minute composition with a generative vocal patch I programmed in Max MSP that created a cave-like atmosphere for my voice while I sang. This song always transports me back to floating down the green river in awe of the surrounding sandstone towers, bird songs, and magic of the river ecosystem. The immense feeling of wonder and beauty from the Westwater canyon world then inspired the lyrics of the chorus. “My aura is my realm, come fly with me soar with me fall into this serenity. All hearts deserve all love, so breathe with me. The west water, is speaks to me. The west water, it speaks to me.” This chorus embodies my being and love for the magic of our earth.

While recording this project you lived in numerous places. If you could pick up a moment from this period of time, which one would it be?

My time living in Greenland. It was really so incredible and magical..I had made such close, life-long friends in a short amount of time with whom I had connected through a common love for music, the arts, kindness, humour, and curiosity. I was working and performing for the Nuuk Nordisk Kulturfestival and had the opportunity to to meet artists from all over the Arctic region–we worked, improvised, and created surrounding the theme of home and what this meant to the individual human soul. I would walk home under the northern lights every night, and I would wake up looking through my window at giant icebergs floating by in the morning. There were no trees in Nuuk– only grasses and little arctic flowers could grow in this intense frozen tundra. It was hard to leave this beautiful place and beautiful friends.

If you only had to carry one thing with you, which one would you choose? Your sketchbook or your microphone?

Oo tough, but microphone. Definitely microphone. It’s the best invention haha. During my Watson Fellowship, I kept a daily sonic journal—I would record myself singing or urban, natural, or anthropogenic sounds everyday, wherever I was in the world. Then, I would either add the raw sound or limit myself to 10 minutes of wild sonic filtering and manipulation to create an entirely different composition to add to the lexicon…I compose most of my songs in voice memos—it’s incredible. The way a collected sound transports you…magic.

Artists and people that have influenced you?

Laurie Anderson, Joni Mitchell, Sevdaliza, Caroline Polachek, Florence and the Machine, and my mom—she’s a visual artist, she makes me cool haha.

Your biggest fear?

At the moment, probably falling off of my bike again haha. I’m currently healing from a severed femoral artery due to a recent freak bike accident—biking is my favorite way to get around—I’m looking forward to being able to ride again.

Thank you!

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