Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Miracle Encounters: Emma Tricca’s Baker’s Dozen

On the release of her Bella Union debut, Emma Tricca takes Jude Rogers through her thirteen favourite albums, from the fringes of the folk revival to the "Italian prog massive"

Photo by Camilla Aisa

In the depths of the Delta variant lockdown, Emma Tricca was a musician whose career, like many others, was experiencing a strange winter. By that point, the Italian-born singer had been releasing her folk rock and psych-seasoned originals and covers for fifteen years, from her 2009 debut, Minor White, on Bird Records (Jane Weaver’s brilliant offshoot of the Finders Keepers label), to her then most recent release, 2018’s St. Peter.

In that time, she’d combined her startling guitar playing with a woozy, curious songwriting style, her beautiful, unusual vocals holding these elements together. Sometimes sounding cosmically deep, sometimes like a high, gossamery rush, her voices conjures up the ghosts of Karen Dalton and Stina Nordenstam, but also the folk roots of Italian opera, with which she grew up with in her childhood, living in and east of Rome.

One evening in January 2021, an email arrived. “There was his name – Simon Raymonde,” she says today, on Zoom from New York. “I thought it was a con, someone having a laugh.” The head of Bella Union Records and former Cocteau Twin was in an apologetic mood. “He went, ‘I’m really sorry, I’ve never heard of you before’, which I loved – you just knew straightaway how genuine the bloke was, you know? Then he asked if I’d like to collaborate with his band Lost Horizons.” She did, and they played together in the October of that year, at the Scala in London.

Raymonde obviously liked what he heard. Tricca’s first album on Bella Union, Aspirin Sun, came out earlier this month. It’s a warm, cosmic bath of a record, creating a world that’s part acid-tinged Laurel Canyon, part Krautrock-inspired mellow playground. It includes gorgeous songs like ‘Christadora House’, inspired by the death of her father a few years ago and ‘Autumn’s Fiery Tongue’, which pulses like a trip through startling landscapes. Its title is inspired by a weather phenomenon, Tricca explains. “It’s from those times in winter or autumn when it’s really foggy, and you see the sun clearly through the fog, round and bright white like an aspirin. I love the fact that you can still see it beyond this heavy blurriness into the sun, and it’s the only time when you can actually look straight at it as a person. There’s this directness in that – of life hiding behind the fog, while still being clear and defined.”

Like St. Peter, Aspirin Sun is produced by Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and The Dream Syndicate’s Jason Victor, with whom she works in the US (“our collaboration to me is like one of those novels where every part, every character, has its importance… I feel we’re a proper entity together”). She’d already made some of the LP in the summer of 2019, before finishing most of it in a spontaneous journey to the south of France in January 2020. “Just before all hell broke loose with Covid. With that – and with Simon e-mailing – this still feels like a miracle record,” she says.

We debate whether Simon was sitting at home trawling Bandcamp and streaming services like everyone else, trying to find something to lift their spirits. She laughs. “Well, the algorithms were definitely with me that night.”

Other miracle encounters have spurred Emma along in her songwriting career, including with Odetta, folk legend John Renbourn (which she’ll discuss later) and with NME’s Pat Long, who booked her for his 2000s Sunday afternoon folk club, In The Pines. He’d seen her play one Emmylou Harris song at a Gram Parsons night. “I had no clue who those kids were. [Times chief rock critic] Will Hodgkinson was DJing at In The Pines too, not that I knew who he was. And I had to swap my work shifts to get there. I played my set in my waitressing gear.”

But behind this latest miracle connection with Simon Raymonde is also a woman who has taken years to feel confident, she admits. “It’s funny, because through the years, people have always said, send your stuff to Bella Union, and I never did, because I was too shy to do it. I thought they’d never listen. And now they have.” It’s been a long process she says. “Of finding myself, and being happy with that. Being OK with being a weirdo!”

Emma Tricca’s new album Aspirin Sun is out now via Bella Union. To begin reading her Baker’s Dozen, click the image below

First Record

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