With her new EP, Amelia Warner celebrates the beauty of home

The London member and musician behind the Mary Shelley film score discusses the evolution of her music career and shares her playlist of tracks to stay inspired at home

By Jess Kelham-Hohler    Above image by Clément Lauchard    Friday 29 May, 2020   Long read

While the past few months may have given us all a renewed appreciation for home, musician Amelia Warner has long been studying its hidden depths. After moving to her new house in Gloucestershire with her husband and children just over a year ago, Warner turned it into her recording studio. There, she incorporated the very sounds of it into her upcoming EP, Haven. Ahead of its release, Warner spoke to us about pivoting from acting to composing film scores for the likes of Mary Shelley, her singing career as Slow Moving Millie and how motherhood changed her perspective. 

Click here to listen to Warner’s exclusive playlist of tunes to keep your imagination going while at home.

Tell us how you moved from acting to music
When it comes to music, I was basically self-taught and I’ve played the piano since I was very small. Once I got a laptop, some software and could start recording tracks myself, I’d always do that in my trailer on set, recording little bits and pieces. For the first time I could play around with strings and understand how to make arrangements. It was all a journey of discovery. I’d written some piano music for a film by a friend of mine, and I got such joy from the whole process and collaboration. I realised this is what I wanted to do.

How did you get into recording music as Slow Moving Millie?
I’d done some work on commercials, and through one of those I met someone who was working on the John Lewis Christmas ad. He asked if I’d do an arrangement for it and it was the cover of The Smiths’ Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want. I did the singing for the demo and the people at John Lewis ended up loving it, so they asked if I could do the final thing. That’s how Slow Moving Millie happened. Off the back of that, I did an album of covers. It just made sense given the ad, and I loved the arrangement challenge of songs. But it wasn’t really where my heart was. 

Describe your journey from instrumental work to film composition?
During the time after the release of that cover album, I’d also got married and had my first baby. For me, when I had children it was quite confronting in a really good way. It made me think about what’s important. What is it that I want to say and what do I want my daughter to see me doing? I had this moment of reckoning. I knew I wanted to create something. I think having her gave me the confidence to go back to Island Records – to say I didn’t want to do a second album that we’d talked about, but that I had about 25 pieces of piano music. That was the kind of music I wanted to do. 
An album cover with an abstract painting on it and Amelia Warner Haven written on it.

The cover of Amelia Warner's Haven

An album cover with an image of an old room on it and Amelia Warner Visitors written on it.

The cover of Amelia Warner's Visitors

So much of your music – especially for films like Mary Shelley – is about creating a mood. How do you think your surroundings impact your music?
I think there has to be a connection. The EP that’s coming out, Haven, is about home and a safe space. I wrote the music after we moved house at the beginning of last year and had our third baby. There’s a mood of warmth and safety that I felt here, which I think is very present in the EP. We even recorded the birds outside and the fire crackling – the sounds of the house itself. And we recorded the EP at home, so it’s very much a part of this space. I wanted to somehow capture the room itself. Although the world wasn’t in lockdown then, I’d just had a baby. So, in some ways, I was experiencing a lockdown life. Being able to record here was really special, especially in proving that I could create something even while I was stuck indoors.

In lockdown, are you staying creatively inspired or taking time off?
I definitely oscillate between feeling super productive and feeling like I have no inspiration or drive. There’s also the part of me that just wants to focus on spending time with my kids, because I don’t know if we’ll ever get a time again when we’re all together like this. In some respects, our life hasn’t changed much, because we live in the middle of nowhere and never really go out. But we were actually meant to be in New York for a year, because my husband was going to work out there. In February when we saw that things were changing, we decided to come home. All of that was a bit of a shock and took some recalibrating. But now that we’re home, it’s actually providing a valuable time for us all. I feel very lucky to be where we are.

If you had to pick three essential tools for what you do, what would they be?
One would be a piano or keyboard. I have an upright in my studio and a baby grand in our house, which is pretty old and wrecked. We bought it from somebody at our girls’ school who had to get rid of it. It’s got a beautiful sound, but it’s a character. Second, the voice notes app on my phone. I’m always recording the bare bones of something just to get it down. Then, the third essential tool would be Logic, the program I use on my computer where I can add more layers, colours and textures. It’s always exciting to see where things can go.

Haven is out on 12 June
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