Discussing Motherhood, Home, and Finding Peace with Tender Central
Tender Central | Devon
Electronic-folk singer Tender Central AKA India Bourne is gearing up for the release of her debut album The Garden.
She’s at home, tucked away somewhere in rural Devon near where she grew up, returning to the coast after years spent in South London. Her voice is soft but composed, with a way of speaking that feels like a profound curiosity is underlying every thought.
“Everybody says your debut album is like your life’s work” she confesses, “it’s your life up to that point”. A classically trained cellist with a love of choral music, her new record walks a fine line somewhere between folk and electronica. To her, the record marks a journey of navigating tumultuous times which, she guesses, isn’t uncommon. “I think hormonally we quite often can all have turbulent twenties,” she explains, “you’re figuring out who you are, what you’re doing… it’s this figuring out where your life is going”.
For India, a large part of her life has been spent on the road. A childhood friend of singer-songwriter Ben Howard, she began jamming with him - her on cello, him on guitar - when she was 19, becoming an integral part of his recording and touring party, and forming alternative-indie sextet A Blaze of Feather. “In everything there’s shadow and light,” she muses, “the light of it was the performing, and being with
my bandmates and just living that life, travelling a lot, seeing amazing things, meeting cool people, but then the shadow side of it was I just [didn’t feel] very stable. Actually, in lots of ways… I felt ungrounded”.
Whilst she clearly appreciates her time on the road, it’s the concept of ‘home’ that emerges at the heart of her debut. “That quest for finding ‘home’,” she suggests, “it’s sort of a metaphorical one as well as a physical one”. Home seems less a place and more a mindset, “the metaphorical feeling of home is actually kind of peace and contentment and not moving. It was being grounded, all of that, that was my home, and I think that’s what I was searching for in music”.
Early in our conversation she mentions a module on music & mental health she took at uni, “a long time ago” she admits with a laugh. What interested her, she recalls, “[is how] music can be a very powerful tool to communicate something that could be very hard to say”, and, what seems to hang over her words and what’s wormed its way into the record, is a quiet appreciation for both sides of life. The touring, the energy, the crowds of eager audiences, the beautiful things she’s seen across the world, yet also the Devon coast, and having a permanent place to just be. She talks of the gaps between touring, and finding a wondrous joy in gardening, despite admitting she’s terrible at it. “I love bulbs! I just chucked anything in the ground to see what [would] happen, it was just that physical action of digging that was honestly…” she pauses, “I can’t tell you how good that was for my brain”.
As we speak, she mentions she’s currently six and a half months pregnant. “It’s got a part of my story in a funny sort of sense with this album,” she laughs, “it’s like I'm birthing two things at the same time”. For India, she feels there’s always been quite a lot of musical activity wrapped up in her pregnancies, continuing “I found out I was pregnant [with my two year old] when I was recording Ben [Howard]’s 3rd album in France. I was like ‘wow, ok, so this shuffles things up’ and actually I toured and recorded throughout his pregnancy”. She finished the recording of The Garden whilst 8 months pregnant, and affectionately recalls feeling “this lovely presence kicking away at the cello when I was playing… it went strangely and beautifully hand in hand”. Now she laughs as talks about trying to mix the record over zoom whilst pregnant again and combatting “horrific” morning sickness.
Like most of us, she’s spent the majority of the year in lockdown, watching spring drift into the idyllic summer months and then slowly fade away. ”I’m just so lucky I live really rurally,” she smiles, “we’ve got a river nearby and I’ve got a two year old, and we just walked down to the river every day in that nice weather and went for a swim or threw sticks for the dog… I know a lot of people have said this but I think it hit so many in such a profound way, slowing down and kind of reassessing where your life is”. Although she admits the lockdown did come with its own challenges, she’s found herself reconsidering her own goals and priorities, something she describes as “outdated beliefs I had about what I wanted to do or achieve… that was really quite freeing”.
She’s hopeful about the new year, excited to be a mother of two but also keen to keep making music. “In a year’s time I’d really like to be still creating and collaborating, I just love collaborating!” she gushes, “I think it makes your work so rich and interesting… and especially [working] with people that sometimes challenge you, or think differently to you”.
As the pandemic continues to raise uncertainty of what the future of live gigs and touring will look like, India is also contending with her feelings as a mother. “It is a juggle being a mum and the thought of touring,” she confides, “it’s a really challenging one and I haven’t really been away from my son that much. I think that’s probably why you don’t see that many mums on the road really. I’ve barely seen any and I’ve toured a lot… unless they’ve been really big acts with nannies or parents that could come”. It feels like this has been on her mind a lot, as she admits, “I think for both men and women touring with families, anyone, even not in the music industry, that have to be away from their families for long periods of time, I think that’s a real challenge”.
The desire to be on tour, playing and creating music remains a huge part of her but also, with the imminent arrival of her debut, it feels like she’s finally finding her own sense of calm.
“Music will always be there for me in whatever way, you know, whether I can tour it or whether I can’t”. As she recalls holding her son on her knee and watching Ben and the band play on TV without her for the first time, her voice holds a sense of longing, but also peace, as she continues “this is my time to be a mum, and this is my son, and I wouldn’t change this in any way”.
As we wrap up our chat I’m left with the no doubt that whatever the coming years hold, from music-making to motherhood, she’s going to succeed in both.
Tender Central’s debut album The Garden is out 22nd Jan via Hello Friendly Recordings