Mara Simpson – Serena (Downfield Records)

Mara Simpson – Serena (Downfield Records)

Ahead of her new album Mara Simpson shares alt-folk single Serena, an exploration of parenthood, out digitally now on Downfield Records. 

Mara SimpsonArtist: Mara Simpson
Track: Serena
Label: Downfield Records
Released: 24 August 2021
Find it: Spotify

Parenthood, in all its many forms, is so often seen as a one-way street, down which the traffic of experience and learning is driven from parent to child. Parents can raise, can protect, can comfort, can love. They can do it all even when they think they can’t, or they don’t consciously reach for those feelings and actions individually. They are as formed through the act of parenting, as they shape the child.

It was the challenge, the fear, the instinct of parenting which Mara Simpson fed into new single Serena. Named after the Brighton apartment building where her daughter was born it was the difficulty of needing to make healthcare decisions as a parent, as they spent 2019 in and out of hospital with her one-year-old.

Around this Simpson was trying to record an album. With songs ready she stepped into the studio but found it a toxic environment driven by a producer’s moods. Stepping back she let herself grieve for the album which would never be before approaching Ellie Mason (Voka Gentle), her dream producer, and beginning work again. The partnership was fruitful and album In This Place will be released later this month.

Serena stands ahead of it, all echoes and repeating lines – an early hours worry which melodically comforts even while lyrically there is torment. There is a sense of time passing too fast and too slow in the juxtaposition of insistent strings and heavy piano. Layers of instrumentation grow over a slow-tumble of rhythm, a heartbeat skittering. Vocals soar soulfully, soft bodied harmony repeats lines, an act of supplication in the unanswered question.

‘I look at you and where we’re coming from / The mother that you’ve grown’

As well as realising the vision of her own album, Simpson has been awarded funding from Arts Council England to deliver songwriting workshops for youth groups with her bandmate and album producer Ellie Mason. She said, “I’ve always sought to connect with communities as part of my music-making; for my last album I collaborated with local community choirs in each place I toured, it was an incredible and humbling experience.

“This time around, I felt compelled to run songwriting workshops for youth groups. Teenagers have been among those hit the hardest by lockdowns and this felt like something that I could offer which might help this age group to process experiences they’ve been through and connect with, and get involved in, live music.”

With single Serena Simpson has blended classical composition with alt-folk sounds for a track of gentle layers, soothing melodically as it builds through percussion, strings, piano, and glowing with the golden moments found in the recording of it. Without needing to shout it, this is a song which realises it is only in accepting vulnerability that strength is found, and it comes to that place in such a beautiful way.

Serena by Mara Simpson is out digitally now on Downfield Records. Album In This Place follows on 24 September 2021 and is available for order now.


Find Mara Simpson: Website | FacebookSpotify | Bandcamp

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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