Polly Paulusma - Scissors in my Pocket (One
When so many female singer-songwriter recordings tend towards expression
stifling overproduction or mawkish Eva Cassidy slush, Scissors in my Pocket
is a quiet revelation. Polly Paulusma's confessional writing draws the
listener into a series of highly personal intimate vignettes & internal
monologues. Lyrically, nearly all human life is here from the joyous to the
heart wrenching: death, catharsis, existential contemplation, religion/fate,
love, immortality & suicide. The wordplay is lively, playful, even whimsical
in places & sprinkled with literary allusions & metaphor. Polly deals with
complex issues without fuss or excess.
Often built on Polly's insistently strummed acoustic guitar there is a
refreshing, light touch to the arrangement & production. Playing throughout
is exceptional, restrained & never swamps the songs. Core band members Oli
Hayhurst & Rastko Rasic provide rich jazz-inflected electric/upright bass &
intelligent percussion respectively. String, horn & backing vocal
arrangements by Polly herself are tastefully employed for substantial
dynamic emphasis. Polly's vocal ranges from low, breathy & conspiratorial
through plaintive to soaring & celebratory with more than a hint of Mowtown
zeal. While distinctly original & English in diction, there are hints of
Carole King, Joni Mitchell & Janis Joplin.
All this said, the album is underpinned by the strength of the highly
melodic, McCartney-quality, songs and it is these which will provide its
lasting appeal. As with all great albums, additional layers of texture &
meaning are revealed with repeated listening. Scissors in My Pocket could
take up its rightful place on many shelves alongside Blue, Blood on the
Tracks, Pink Moon & The Kick Inside.
James Hibbins - February 2004
The Nature of Tea at Abbey Road: Interview with
Polly Paulusma. February 2004.
Tell me about the extremes between recording in
your home built studio "the
shed" & the mastering at Abbey Rd.
Polly Paulusma: They were both amazing experiences in different ways. At
home in my shed, I was on familiar turf and able to just make my music in
my own time, on my own terms, with no one watching me if I made a mistake.
I was able to explore ideas that perhaps I wouldn't have felt able to if I
was paying by the hour, ideas I could abandon after a few hours without
any sense of guilt, ideas which sometimes became pivotal parts of the
record (those banks of backing vocals are one such experiment that turned
out) - but there were others that didn't work so well. I was also able to
invite soloists over and record them in the garden, with cups of tea, and
the cat hanging around.
The whole experience was one of organic creation, and it was a real
There were times when the lack of technology or soundproofing were
frustrating; waiting for the planes to pass each day (I live under the
Heathrow flight path in south London), and every day having to stop at
5.30 while the daily Concorde thundered past (something I miss now),
having to find new ingenious ways of dangling my homemade pop shield from
the mic stand without laddering the tights from which it was made. But I'm
I could have made this record anywhere else.
Taking it to Abbey Road for mastering was a real contrast. Tea was
brought by a young work experience intern. Photos and gold discs lined the
corridors. The ghosts of all my heroes called out to me as I walked. I
grateful I was mastering 'Scissors...' there. The master took 2 days over
all, and involved sitting on a sofa listening over and over again to the
songs, making minute alterations to the sparkle or tone, adding space,
removing noise but still maintaining the homemade scuff. It's a
painstaking process, and Abbey Road is exactly the kind of place you want
to be to do something like that, working with really experienced people to
get the best out of the recording, making it sound 'real' without removing
any of the shedness that makes it what it is.
I don't think I'd want to record in Abbey Road and master in the shed!
There are some eclectic influences on your sound,
how do you feel about being pigeonholed as a
PP: I think people need help sometimes approaching new artists. I do sing
and write my own material. So does Madonna but I don't think we're doing
the same thing. I think of myself in the same room as contemporaries like
David Gray, Damien Rice, Travis, Coldplay - their songs feel familiar to
me, like old friends, but always twisting and turning, showing up
something new. I love Wilco and Sparklehorse, and those songs pouring out
of the alt.country
scene in the States. And then I can go back in time to Van Morrison, Nick
Drake, Joni, Carole, Bob Dylan, all the people who cared about the lyric
and its relationship to the melody. I don't mind being pigeonholed with
kinds of people. I think I'd like to be pigeonholed with people who care
In contrast to a lot of songwriters' work many of
the songs are very positive; was this a
PP: No; I just write observations about life, and perhaps because I'm
largely a positive person then the songs come out that way. I've always
considered myself very lucky indeed - perhaps that's why. But having said
that, I don't think 'Mea Culpa' or 'Perfect 4/4' or 'One Day' are
particularly positive. And you haven't heard the second record yet. It's
going to be much darker.
To what degree are the songs autobiographical?
PP: All the songs are either about something that's happened to me, or
something that's happened to someone close to me.
Did you plan the light touch to the album's
PP: I'm glad you think it's light, and no it wasn't planned. I can always
hear certain things off the bat, certain things just present themselves
the moment a song is written. But other things were just able to grow out
loose recording process. I just think it's very important to try lots of
things out, and to try not to by hypercritical of any one idea until
you've given it a shot. Sometimes you can imagine something is wrong with
your head, but when you try it out your ears tell you something different.
What developments do you have planned for the
future? Will you be taking the core band for
this album on tour?
PP: The core band (Oli Hayhurst on double bass, Rastko Rasic on
percussion) will play some dates, and others I'll be playing solo
acoustic. I think variety is the spice of life, and each setup is very
different; as a player I get so much out of each format, and I think the
audience gets a different experience out of each format too. So we'll be
mixing the pot a little I think. We've also got some shows coming up
featuring some of the soloists from the record, including the dulcimer
player, trumpets and strings. So there's lots of scope. I'm just really
looking forward to getting out and
playing again. I love this work - you're just getting a bit tired of
recording when it's time to get out on the road again; when you're looking
forward to being at home it's time to write (and I always do this in
kitchens for some weird reason); when there are lots of songs it's time to
record them. And so on; like crop rotation. It's the best job in the
James Hibbins - February 2004
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