Rachel Sermanni, fellow musician Colin MacLeod (once known as The Boy Who Trapped The Sun) and tour manager Jimi appear outside The Habit, our rendezvous café; the Carrbridge writer duffel-coated and red-wrapped, hair up, head of the pack. Standing at the doorway and peering in from the mid-afternoon street bustle, she is as open-faced and live-eyed as her music, and the happiest part of my brain instinctively Polaroids the moment. We grin and good cheer hellos, and for the weightless giddy froth of a few minutes it is all sorting out coffees and teas and floating around warming to each other.

SERMANNI 2With a touch of the ingénue about her Sermanni compels affection, but some are sure to find themselves mistaken into believing the 22-year old is merely winsome – entirely young, dainty and bright. Though she is all of these things, she also radiates an unassuming self confidence and an air of quiet boldness – legacy, almost certainly, of a stable childhood and then growing up quickly through in excess of 700 solo gigs. Perhaps she is determined, decisive and tough if the occasion merits. Later on she tells me that she can also be prone to bouts of brooding – but there is something playful in her movement throughout our day which suggests she is as likely to be light and silly as serious and considered. Stories in ink of all hues and more to be written.

As we pack away after filming, a waitress comes upstairs and asks to take a photo of our session, and Rachel offers to put her on the guest-list for tonight’s gig. “Actually, whereabouts is the venue?” Jimi asks, suggesting he fetch the car. “It’s only ten minutes… Walk you over?” I offer and, a goodbye and thank-you to the café’s owner later, we’re out on the streets weaving through the history seekers, shoppers and students. Rachel tells me she loves the chance to visit Yorkshire and “see the beauty” – and at this exact moment we turn a corner into the path of a digger spewing a billowing cloud of dust as it churns at the road. “Oh!” she says, and eyebrows and wry smiles raise.

She’s curious about the Northern College Of Acupuncture (which is located in York), and tells me she’s become fascinated by Chinese medicine, in which the state of emotions and the physical health of certain organs are inextricably linked. Colin hints he may go hang out in a fishing shop if he can find one, and Jimi and I chat as we round the final corner, enthusing about the sense of space apparent in Rachel’s recent work – last Autumn’s THE BOATSHED SESSIONS and this January’s EVERYTHING CHANGES. I tell him I feel she’s been misconstrued in some quarters – that there is actually far more Marling than Melua in there. He nods curls enthusiastically: “Aye, that’s it”… TWO BIRDS, featured on both of the recent EPs, wings darkly away from the naïf-like whimsy of some of her earlier songs: “Tonight, I don’t see why not… / The pain will be forgot”… Sermanni is, clearly, now a young woman writing herself through a vivid life.

Floored cross-legged amid the patterns of an Indian rug on the miniscule stage, tweaking guitar while Jimi sets up microphones and other bits and technical pieces before her soundcheck, Rachel smiles our way before sauntering over with the suggestion that we go find somewhere SERMANNI 3quiet to talk.
There is crackle around the conversation and I ask only a couple of questions from a trajectory I’d intended. We set off and keep going with a torch but no map; often running, occasionally stumbling, and way over the time we’ve said we’ll stay out ’til… Rachel’s soundcheck looms – in fact, doors are due to open not too long from now – so we finish up with the vague notion of more talking should we roll into each other again some day. Unfailingly honest and rather irresistable company, it’s been gently exhilarating to witness her remarkable thinking at first-hand. I’m left with the most curious sense of elation – for her, for all good things days between now and then are sure to bring.

Later – a couple of pints into the black stuff and a squeeze through a set of automatic doors which failed to open (Jimi improvises a post-cigarette re-entry strategy involving an A-board) – the gig itself is astonishing. Such is the current way that, despite the high number of concerts, many will only experience Sermanni from behind the glass window of YouTube – but few clips there truly let in enough of the light. A sweet, funny and moving live rendition of beautiful early song MARSHMALLOW UNICORN, performed in generous duet with Spanish singer Ramon Mirabet last October, probably comes closest. As notice of how far Rachel Sermanni has travelled in the last few years it is extremely potent, showing her to have relaxed into the air around her material, and at ease with the highwire tenderness; astonishingly present.
Here, on a Monday in York, she summons great stillness and gathers all of her crowd around the moment, instinctively navigating them right through the middle of it. We two-step legs back to a car by the banks of the Ouse, as moonlight folds into the water.

A second Mouth Magazine Session track – EASY WAY OUT by Colin MacLeod, featuring Rachel Sermanni – is here.

To win a signed print of the artwork of EVERYTHING CHANGES please email our usual address. The CD version can be ordered here, with THE BOATSHED SESSIONS EP available here, and album UNDER MOUNTAINS here. UNDER MOUNTAINS is also available on vinyl, here, featuring an exclusive extra track. New album LIVE IN DAWSON CITY is available here for US and Canadian iTunes users, from Monday 7th April. It will be available in the UK and rest of the world later in 2014.

 {   with many thanks to  nws  and  the habit   }