Star Mum exclusive! Musician Skye Edwards talks about her Rebel Girls’ song, career & motherhood in London

Decca Records has recently released the album Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls, celebrating extraordinary women in music and created in partnership with Rebel Girls, the global multi-platform edutainment brand focused on inspiring and instilling confidence in a generation of girls around the world. Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls features covers of both contemporary and historic singles that transcend genre and geography, penned by iconic female artists from Alicia Keys to Carole King. Performed by a multigenerational line-up of female vocalists, the album draws inspiration from the girl-driven narrative of the New York Times – bestselling book series and podcast, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to empower and uplift girls around the world through music. The album includes the legendary Joan Jett, the queen of rock ‘n’ roll and the godmother of punk, who has recorded a brand-new version of her track ‘Fresh Start’ exclusively for Decca and Rebel Girls.

I have caught up with one of the talents who have contributed to this record with a beautiful cover of The Only Way is Up: Skye Edwards, sometimes simply Skye, a British singer-songwriter (born in East London) who began her career in 1994 when she and the Godfrey brothers formed Morcheeba.

They released five albums with Skye as lead vocalist. In 2003, the band split, after which Skye released two solo albums: Mind How You Go in 2006, and Keeping Secrets in 2009. In 2010, Edwards returned to Morcheeba, again as lead vocalist. In 2012, she released her third solo album, Back to Now. Her fourth solo album In A Low Light was released in 2015.

Skye has four children and is a true London Mum.

What inspires your music-writing?

I’m inspired by so many things, love and life, my immediate surroundings, friends and family. I have four children, my eldest two are 25 and 22. On the new Morcheeba album (out spring 2021), I’ve written songs for them inspired by their relationships and breakups. I’ve also written a song inspired by my free-dive experience whilst on holiday in Thailand last year. Lyrics can be deeply personal or more fantastical, like a movie in my mind.

How do you write a song? How do you compose your music? Every musician has a specific unique way…

More often than not a song will start with a basic backing track from Ross. I have a small studio set up at home and my husband Steve acts as the studio engineer. He’ll load in the track that Ross has emailed and I’ll sing a melody over it, sometimes humming along or I’ll use words from poems I’ve written. Then I’ll email my melody idea back to Ross. Once we’re both happy with that, I’ll start with the lyrics. Maybe I’ll have a clear idea ‘this one is going to be about my daughter and I’ or I’ll listen over and over to the melody and slot in words that come together like a jigsaw and the meaning of the song is left open to interpretation. 

 

For me, personally, Morcheeba’s songs are forever linked to my first years in London – I arrived in 1998. How has Skye changed musically from the Morcheeba days? 

The major change is the lyric writing. Paul Godfrey used to write the words for the Morcheeba songs and I was the melody maker. I liked that his words could be quite dark, but with my mellow voice singing ‘I’d love to cut your throat, you’d never sing a note’ people would still say ‘what beautiful sweet song’. It was a magical juxtaposition. Paul left Morcheeba in 2014 so I took over on the words. I feel confident in my lyric ability having written four solo albums. The best song writing lesson I got was from Patrick Leonard who produced some of Madonna’s biggest hits and my first solo album ‘Mind How You Go’. Pat told me ‘it doesn’t have to rhyme’ and showed me how to put stories into songs. 

 

Your contribution for the Rebel Girls album by Decca is really good. Your arrangement of The Only Way is Up is mesmerising. Tell me a little anecdote about your participation in this project.

I hadn’t heard of Rebel Girls before, so when I was asked to be part of it I Googled them. I love the positive inspirational message of the Good Night Stories and was very excited to be part of the Good Night Songs. When it came to choosing which track to cover, I thought about the music I was into when I was younger. The Only Way Is Up by Yazz was the very first song I bought on vinyl. It was my son’s primary school music teacher that suggested recording it acoustically. He’s starting a blog for his pupils called Mr Scullin’s Music Room and was interviewing me about Morcheeba and how it all started. We got talking about Rebel Girls and that’s how it came about. Mr Scullin ended up playing guitar on the track. (He’s name is Andrew but the school kid in me always feels weird calling a teacher by their first name).

 

Out of all the Rebel Girls featured in the popular books, who’s the woman who inspired you the most throughout your life and career and why? 

I wish I had a book like the Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed The World. Something like this would have been so inspiring for me as a black foster kid with white parents. The only thing I was taught in school was that black people were slaves. Things are slowly changing in schools. The women I take inspiration from today are my girlfriends, one is an incredibly smart, beautiful black woman, she’s a doctor and mother of three. She continues to study and think outside the box, always so positive, looking for new ways to offer healing and preventative medicine. 

 

What song from your own portfolio is particularly special and why?

A song called For The Day from my 4th solo album is very personal to me. I wrote it for a friend who went through a divorce and didn’t speak with her teenage son for 18 months when he decided to live with his dad. It was a sad and difficult time for them both. Eventually they were able to put their differences aside to rebuild their relationship. When I played her the song and video, she cried. A couple of years later I went through a similar heart-breaking experience with a family member, the song became even more meaningful and dear to me. 

 

You are a busy London mum. What is your happiest place in the Capital to be with your four children? 

I live outside of London in Surrey, I’ve been here for 12 years but before moving here we lived in Kingston Upon-Thames and could hop on our bicycles to Richmond Park. I have some fond memories with my kids riding around that park along the paths and up ‘Killer Hill’ as we used to call it. We also enjoyed strolling through the Isabella Plantation within the park. It had a small stream running through and was stunning when all the flowers on the trees started to bloom. I’m very happy where I live now but I do miss being so close to Richmond Park. 

 

What’s your favourite part of London and why?

I grew up in East London and when we were kids my parents would take us up to Central London on a Sunday for a day out. We’d hop on the number 15 bus on High Street South just up the road where we lived in East Ham. Me and my two sisters would run up the stairs as fast as we could to sit at the front of the bus. It took us all the way to Trafalgar Square. We’d jump off there and buy a small tub of bird seed to feed the pigeons and we’d try to climb up to sit on the big lions. Guaranteed one off us would get our sleeves soaking wet in the fountains. We’d stay until it got dark and walk along Regents Street looking in all the fancy shop windows. I still get a buzz when I go into town, especially around Christmas when all the lights are up and the windows are decorated. Liberty’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, Selfridges, there’s no place like it. 

 

What’s your parenting style? 

I wasn’t sure how to answer this so I looked up ‘parenting styles’ to see if there was some sort of category that I fitted into. I’ve learnt that there are quite a few, it’s pretty funny! So, there’s the Dolphin Mum, Tiger Mum, Elephant Mum, Silky Mum, or you can get into heavy duty vehicle terminology like the Snowplough Mum, Helicopter or Bulldozer Mum. How did all this bizarre labelling happen? My ‘style’ of parenting can sometimes depend on what mood the kids are in, if I’ve had a great night’s sleep, if they’ve had a bad day at school, if I’m hung over! Routine is king though, I do like to stick to regular bedtimes during the week, get healthy stealthy meals into them daily (stealthy = hidden vegetables). Sweets and treats at the weekend. Each child has come on tour with us, and I tried to keep this routine going as best I could whilst on the road. My eldest two kids think I’m way softer on the younger two (aged 12 and 5) than I was on them. I’ll blame Jamie Oliver for that. When he did the programme about kids’ meals and school dinners back in 2004, everything changed in our house. Out with the crisps in with the carrots! 

 

Any lessons learnt about yourself throughout the pandemic?

I’ve been learning to play cello through lock down with the help of Skype lessons and watching YouTube clips. I’ve always wanted to play this gorgeous instrument but never had the time. My husband bought me a cello for my Birthday last May and thanks to covid, all our Morcheeba gigs were cancelled. So, I’ve had a lot of time to commit to three lessons a week. I’ve learned that for a complete novice, I have relatively good muscle memory when it comes to placing my fingers on the strings. I’m certainly not going to be the next Jacqueline du Pré but I’m enjoying the learning process and the sound that I make. If you listen very closely, you’ll hear me playing cello in one of our songs on the new Morcheeba album. I’m very proud of that achievement in just a few months. 

Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls Track listing:

  1. Becoming – Imelda May
    2. Beautiful – Macy Grey
    3. Girl on Fire – Lubiana
    4. The Only Way is Up – SKYE
    5. Thank U – Aurora
    6. Stronger – Anastacia
    7. Fresh Start – Joan Jett
    8. Brass in Pocket – Ani DiFranco
    9. Don’t Let me be Misunderstood – Tank and the Bangas
    10. Hymn to Her – KT Tunstall
    11. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Amy Wadge
    12. Issues – Marie White
    13. For Today I am a Boy – Beth Orton
    14. You’ve Got a Friend – Jess Gillam
    15. Joga – Anoushka Shankar

Bonus Tracks   
17. Beautiful – Somin of KARD
18. Va Tu Sei Libero (You Don’t Own Me) – Elodie
19. The Park – Pomme

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