Suffolk singer/songwriter Bessie Turner has had ‘a bit of a year’. Sold out shows, buzzy support slots (Ed Sheeran?!), must-see festival sets (Live At Leeds, Dot To Dot), and the little matter of contracting sepsis, which nearly killed her. “The last year has taken me in all kinds of directions I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on,” she says. Now, fresh from releasing her new single ‘Donkey’ she’s announced her biggest London headline show to date, at The Lexington on 18th May.
Hi Bessie, how’s it going? Are you good? What’ve you been up to today?
Hey! I’m great, thank you. Today so far I’ve eaten some beans on toast and played with my best mate Kit – he turns two next week, so we’ve been planning a pretty big sesh. I’m soon leaving for a show in Brighton which will be loads of fun.
How long have you been making music, what first got you into it?
Years and years, realistically been making up little tunes and songs since I was a child but I’ve been taking it mildly seriously for a few years now. My Mum always loved music and sang, my Grandad played in jazz bands and my Nan had a piano that me and my sister and cousin used to bash the life out of. I’ve always been pretty transfixed by it.
How did you transition from writing songs by yourself, to releasing music and playing shows?
It was totally one of those right place, right time kinda things. I was surrounded by friends at the time that were all in bands and had a mad “can do” attitude to life and shows; it was brilliant. There were some people that really believed in what I made and did, played a couple of tiny shows and then it hasn’t stopped from there really, it’s been brilliant.
What do you most enjoy writing about, and what’s your process like? You co-wrote with Justin Young recently, right?
I only really write about things personal and relative to me. It’s my outlet, and it’s mad that other people get something from it too. I wrote ‘Down 2’ with Justin and our friend Will the first (and only) time we got into a studio together, it came about really quickly and easily and was loads of fun.
Have you co-written with anyone else interesting?
My first session writing with someone else was with Bill Ryder-Jones, we got on like we’d known each other for years and he turned into an instant friend for life. I’ve been writing a lot with Steph Marziano who has equally turned into a wonderful, wonderful friend. She’s a fucking sick producer and probably the nicest lady I’ve ever met, writing with another female shouldn’t be a rare occurrence or a privilege, but it’s 2020, and unfortunately, it’s still a VERY male-dominated industry. We’ve been making some insane music I can’t wait to get it out in the ether.
It sounds like you’ve had an eventful time of late, with the sepsis ‘n all – are you ok now? Has it had much impact on your work?
It’s been pretty fucking mental. It’s been mad as hell. I had sepsis on two occasions and spent three weeks in hospital in 2019. It doesn’t sound like much or very long, but the recovery periods of not being able to do anything apart from sit in bed in your own head felt like a lifetime. It’s still all being investigated now, I’ve got something up with my kidneys, and I’m borrowing money to go privately as the wait on the NHS is insane, and it looks like it will just keep happening unless I found something out off my own back. NHS I LOVE YOU THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING I’M SORRY OUR GOVERNMENT IS FAILING YOU AND ALL YOUR WONDERFUL STAFF.
But yeah, it’s definitely made me braver and had an impact on my work.
Has going through that changed your outlook on life at all?
100000% I’m a bit more hardened to it all. I’m better at being honest and putting myself first and raising my point if I disagree with something or someone. Life is brilliant and too short to spend it fucking around.
What are you working on at the moment, do you have new music on the way?
Lots. There’s lots.
Will we catch you at many festivals, too? You must be a pro at those by now?
I’m doing The Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City, Dot To Dot, 110 Above and Stag and Dagger. I don’t know if I’m pro yet, they’re such special occasions though. Every single one is different, and I love that, you can never ever predict your audience or the shenanigans that will take place.
Bessie Turner plays The Lexington in London on 18th May.