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RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW READING ARTIST LEE SWITZER-WOOLF 

Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

Introduce yourself and your musical history.

My name is Lee Switzer-Woolf and I am a singer-songwriter. My style has been described as indie-folk or folktronica, pairing simple, lyrical, storytelling songs with electronic elements. I released my debut solo album last year, and I am now back with new music. 

I’ve been making music for over 20 years, predominantly in the punk scene, where you can still find me with my band Launch Control. Folk music is not new to me though, I’ve been playing as part of The Seasons in Shorthand for about ten years now, although we’re currently on a bit of a hiatus.

Name me your 3 favorite Albums?

This would definitely change on any given day, but currently while working on this album I would say: Radiohead – OK Computer, Bright Eyes – Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, and Wilco – Summerteeth

The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?

I don’t see myself as being part of the music industry. I’m not in a position where I’m making money from it. I love writing songs, and the fact that some people have been able to connect with them is amazing.

I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?

Firstly, if we really want answers to this we need to be asking women and listening / acting upon what they tell us. I don’t think it’s a debate though, while it can vary from venue, type of gig and genre, I think we all know that gigs can be intimidating and unwelcoming for anyone outside of the CIS white male bracket. We as a gig-going community need to be much more aware of this, and conscious of our behaviors and actions.

Tell us two truths and a lie about you.
I once discovered a devil-worshipping temple in the village I grew up in, complete with a sacrificial mound and headless bird. I once played a gig while Frankie Muniz from Malcolm in the Middle watched at the side of the stage. I once ended up in the hospital because I sat in a bath of beans for charity and it turns out I have a tomato allergy. 

What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?

I have mixed feelings about it. As I said above, I’m not a part of the music industry, and I think there are a lot of strange perceptions about what the industry is. For me, as a relatively unknown artist, there are a lot of advantages to having access to streaming platforms, and they offer the potential to reach large audiences. Obviously, if you’re an artist relying on music to make a living, then there are issues around the amount that they pay, and it’s far from ideal. 

For smaller artists though the far greater problem, which Spotify also falls into, is the platformification of music and the payola culture that comes along with it. This is the road block for artists: everything costs money. We pay to record our music, we pay to distribute it, we pay to promote it, we pay platforms to submit for review, we pay platforms to submit to playlists, I know artists and acts that spend huge amounts of money to buy onto tours, artwork, videos, photography, artists need to be paying up for all of this to have a chance of being seen, yet get little to nothing back in return. 

Below a certain level gigs do not pay, streams pay next to nothing, and physical copies of music and other merch can be really expensive things to pay for without a guaranteed mechanism for sale. This is why the majority of successful bands and artists at the moment are middle class. It’s not impossible to make music without money behind you, but it’s stifling. If I didn’t home record I would never have made this or my previous album. 

The other big problem music has is Ticket Master, and the pricing of live music in general above the small local level. Gig prices are just insane now. Untenable. This mainly affects large touring bands/artists, but there are knock-ons at local level too. There has been a notable rise in cover bands in my local area, which I believe directly links to the affordability of seeing the real thing. I have no great beef with cover bands, but they have moved into the local gig space, and I find that depressing and I think it’s a shame for underground music scenes to be losing creativity in that way. It’s also another way of pricing out lower income communities from music, taking away their opportunity to experience the acts that they love, when I’m sure many of us can point to a gig and say “that’s when I realised I wanted to perform”.  

Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?

Nah, I think they’ve done enough damage in recent years. Bring back Pluto though. That’s messed up.

What was the worst experience on stage? 

I once played an acoustic show where the entire ‘audience’ was facing the opposite direction watching a football match on the television. That was pretty depressing. Especially when they booed. 

What makes you stand out as a band/artist?

I like to think that my attention to detail in my lyrics makes me stand out as an artist. I really need them too because I’m far from the best singer in the world. I’ve always had a great love and connection to song lyrics, and so much of the joy of songwriting for me comes from trying to stretch myself lyrically. 

I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.

I have a new 13-track album called Annihilation Signals, which is the follow-up to my debut solo album Scientific Automatic Palmistry in 2022. It will be available on all evil corporate streaming platforms, as well as Bandcamp (a much more artist-friendly alternative), and I have physical copies as well in the form of CD’s. Once again I’m being supported by amazing Oxford based small label All Will Be Well Records. 

Talk me through the thought process of the new tunes.

I wanted to make a much more cohesive album this time out, both in terms of sound and themes. I also wanted it to be bigger / fuller than my previous album, which was an acoustic-heavy, intimate alt-folk album. The theme behind this album was catastrophising; looking up and expecting the sky to fall. We all feel this on some level now, between war, the climate crisis, and the unstable political landscapes we’re stuck in, we’re all finding ourselves waiting for the comet to fall. I wanted the sound of the album to reflect that, so you’ll find fuller tracks with more sprawling sonic elements – but hopefully maintaining a healthy dose of my close and personal introspective sound.

What was the recording process like?

Much like my last album, this was completely home recorded. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to recording, but I love the freedom of the process. I gave myself only a short period of time for each song, partly because I didn’t want to overwork them, but also because recording at home means there’s also a 6 year old aspiring rock star around who wants to get involved, and a cat that likes to sit on the keyboard at inappropriate times. This all adds to the natural flavour though I hope. 

Once it was recorded I handed it over to Aden Pearce, who also mixed and mastered Scientific Automatic Palmistry, and he did such an amazing job of bringing the best out of these tracks. He has an amazing musical ear and an ability to declutter and purify my muddy recordings that I’m very jealous of but also very grateful for. 


What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
I think the hardest part was getting myself on a trail I was happy with in the beginning. I knew that I wanted a unified theme and sound, but arriving at that point wasn’t as easy as I’d maybe hoped, especially as the first album came together very naturally. I think the big barrier I had to overcome there though was really about not comparing this one to the previous album. Even quite late in the process I found myself thinking ‘I don’t have a song that’s like that one everyone liked before’ and that was holding me back. Once I let that go I felt much more confident in what I was doing.

Would you change anything now its finished?

I don’t think anyone creative would answer no to that question. You’re always going to listen to your stuff and think about what you could have done differently or better. But with my solo albums I’ve been really trying to capture a natural demo-like freshness and energy, so I’ve not got hung up on getting the perfect performance and gone with takes that feel good. So, in that respect, I’m very happy with the end result. 

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