Interview with Lotte Mullan

Name:  Lotte Mullan

What do you do? How would you describe your working life?

I'm a singer-songwriter. I have a company called Bespoke Songs where I write and record personalised songs for people to give their loved one as gifts. I work from home writing and record at my studio in Old Street, London. I also make albums and do lots of gigs as a solo artist. My working life involved lots of reading, playing guitar, singing and trying to tell people's stories through music in the best way I can- this involves a lot of staring into space.

Did you show any early signs as a child that indicated that you would end up where you are today?  

There were definitely early signs of precociousness!  I was quite demanding when I was 5 years old, my poor Mum would get home from work absolutely shattered and I’d be sitting on the front step waiting for her so I could tell her my latest story and sing her a song.  Luckily she saw a way of channelling this excess energy and found a local lady who was giving away a very battered piano. Needless to say I was smitten – I could accompany my stories with noise! My love of music and story telling developed from there (and allowed my Mum to have a few cups of tea in relative peace).

Describe your morning routine:

Ah I’ve only recently discovered the beauty of a morning routine! Being a self-employed musician is quite a feast or famine existence that is subject to a lot of change and the will of others. When touring, a routine is non existent but now I’m mainly at home writing I attempt to implement a semblance of one.

I try and do yoga/ some form of exercise first thing in the morning to clear my head. If I don’t do it as soon as I wake up I’ll find all sorts of excuses to not do it. The next essential is a cup of tea and some time with my note pad, lots of ideas seem to come first thing in the morning so I try and get them down – this is often quite scrambled ‘free writing’ that would make no sense to anyone reading it except me. From there the day depends on who I am writing for so I check my emails and see what’s in store. No day is ever the same.

Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from and when do they arrive?

When writing bespoke songs it is people’s personal stories that inspire me in particular. I receive beautiful letters from people telling me about their loved ones and then I weave them into songs.

Human relationships are endlessly fascinating and no two stories are ever the same, it’s a real privilege when people share their private moments and thoughts with me. I am always making notes from books, poems and films too as the way someone says something or sets a scene can be very useful for songwriting; you’re trying to paint a picture with words and melody so looking at little details and how other people make art of something is always useful.

When motivation wavers, how do you get back on track?

Listening to one of my favourite songwriters (Tom Waits or Dolly Parton will usually do the trick). A change of scene always helps (being stuck in one place is the enemy of creativity)…and bizarrely when washing up!…something about the water and motion seems to clear my mind and allow new thoughts to arrive.

What is the best thing about your job/lifestyle?

I’m able to have a good balance between creative solace alongside meeting lots of new and interesting people… and I don’t have a boss!

If you could do something else for the day- what would you do?

I'd like to step into the shoes of a criminal lawyer for the day, the drama of the courtroom has always held an appeal for me, although I'm not sure I could deal with the wigs.

How do you overcome any challenges in your working life?

I try to remember the advice of a singing teacher I once had from Leeds. I was getting in a panic about an exam and she said, 'We're not saving lives here, you know love, it's just singing". Perspective is everything. 

How do you celebrate your successes?

Taking people I love out for dinner or tea and cake, it always involves food. 

Do you have any tools/resources or rituals that you couldn’t live without?

I think my morning ritual is crucial. Exercise, fresh air and heavy doses of silence seem to hole the key to sanity. If I can spend a day not speaking to anyone it feels like a real achievement. The life of a songwriter can be quite hermetic. I pick my moments to be sociable. 

Which books from your bookcase would you recommend?

Anything by Margaret Atwood. She is a master at opening up undiscovered worlds. Also Charles Bukowski for sheer force of personality (any of his poetry, or his novel Ham on Rye)  and ‘The Artist's Way’ by Julia Cameron is great for anyone feeling a little lost. It’s not for artists exclusively and makes a strong case for everyone being a creative individual.

What are your daily essentials to make you feel ready? 

Yoga, tea and wandering around my garden to see which roses are still alive. Despite needing to be alone a lot, I do find having a good connection with another human being at least once a day keeps happiness level steady, even if it's just one conversation. Good friends are essential.

What advice would you give your teenage self? 

It doesn't matter anywhere near as much as you think it does. Anything, that is. 

Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

Cottage in the countryside I think... but not a vastly different like to the one I live now...perhaps a little garden studio so I can walk across the lawn to work!

Huge thanks to Lotte, for more information, please visit her website 'Bespoke Songs' and her music

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