Cate Le Bon’s music routinely summons praise for its individualism: words such as “idiosyncratic” and “unique” dot reviews for the Welsh songwriter’s five albums. It’s the result of the 36-year-old’s intuitive approach to music, but also, she thinks, of the freedoms afforded to a fringe musical figure.
“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never been popular in a way that’s felt limiting,” Le Bon says. “I’ve always just been able to do what I want to do. When I was in my 20s making music, I felt a bit more bombarded by thoughts of what I thought I should be doing. But, as you go on … you care less about what other people think of you. And the less you care, the more honest it becomes, and the more vulnerable you can be. That’s a great place to be when you’re making something.”
In between her fourth and fifth albums, 2016’s Crab Day and 2019’s Reward, Le Bon spent a year making something else entirely, studying furniture-making at the renowned Waters & Acland school. The idea of carving something from wood just as she’d carved things out musically sounds great, but Le Bon sees more differences between the artforms than similarities.
“In many ways, it’s opposite,” she offers. “There’s something lovely about sitting with a solid piece of wood, there’s something so grounding and tangible about it. You can visually see the progress when you’re, say, making a chair. Whereas sometimes, when you’re putting a song together, it can feel like you’ve spent a month doing absolutely nothing.”