Words: Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night with Mike Kennedy
Take an escape to nature with ‘Nature’s Light’, the new album from Blackmore’s Night.
Blackmore’s Night is the musical pairing of founding Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and his wife Candice Night, a talented lyricist and musician.
As well as sharing a life together, they also have in common a love for Renaissance music, which they channel into Blackmore’s Night.
Here, Michael Kennedy from Welsh Connections and SWND Records, takes a deep dive with Ritchie and Candice into their new album ‘Nature’s Light’, along with life in quarantine, raising a family and how to survive in the music industry.
Michael Kennedy : Tell me about ‘Nature’s Light’
Ritchie Blackmore: Nature’s Light is really about how we feel about our music. It’s very basic and very woodsy and not a lot of technical stuff involved, although there can be. And we try to make it as organic as possible. And that’s part of the buildup of ‘Nature’s Light’. Would you say or not?
Candice Night: We’ve always been inspired by nature, so it would be a natural evolution of our projects to entitle the CD or the album ‘Nature’s Light’. But in these dark times of what’s going on with COVID and everybody on lockdown and not being able to travel or to tour, and our whole industry coming to a standstill, which has been really difficult, not only for us, for our crew members, for the fans.
So, I feel like we go to nature more than ever before, probably for more inspiration, for more escapism from what’s happening in our world today. And because it’s been the inspiration, it kind of is the light within itself. It’s the moonlight, it’s the beautiful light from the sun, right. Every visual that we were seeing was so illuminated and so inspirational, that nature in itself wound up being the magic or nature’s light. Which wound up being the concept of the album.
Ritchie: That’s very true.
Candice: Not that we have concept albums per se. I don’t think every single song falls in line with the concept album, because we usually look at every song individually as a journey. But as far as the album artwork is concerned, or the title, I think that’s where we’re always inspired by nature. So, it illuminates the dark of these times and of our lives in general.
MK : So is ‘Nature’s Light’ an album that looks toward the past or the future ?
Ritchie: We really have no direction. We just like that organic type of music. So, we just wander aimlessly around, playing our music. A bit like wandering minstrels. And we have no direction home, as Bob Dylan would say. And I think, although we go back… My music is 1500s Renaissance period, and to me, I always draw from that. Candice, she’s more into the modern music of today. She will listen to the radio whereas I won’t, right?
Candice: No. Never.
Ritchie: And so, she adds that little modern tinge just to kind of give it an edge. All the music that I listen to is basically Renaissance music. And that’s what motivates me completely. I’ve been through the rock stages. I love to turn it on, get the Strat. I used to play a Gibson and I got too old for that. So, I took up the Strat.
And I do like to turn up the amplifier, which is not a Marshall anymore, but it used to be before it became trendy. And I do have fun playing rock and rocking out as they say. But my heart at the moment, and it has been for the last 20 years, is firmly into the grasp of the Renaissance period. That purity, the organic instruments.
Candice: I think when it comes to our albums, I don’t know if we ever really have a direction or even a concept in mind. We honestly get so caught up in the creative process of making the music. And each individual song is so important for us to just lose ourselves within the grand scale of the creativity and the creative process.
He always creates the music first and foremost, and then he plays it for me. We do the topline, I’ll go walk through the woods or take a drive or something and absorb that and try to come up with the lyrics that match the visual of that music perfectly. But we can go into the studio and hear all this different instrumentation and play different instruments within the song.
And I’ve seen him play incredible things on the guitar and then listen back to it and say, “You know what? I feel like the electric guitar in that spot is too overwhelming. Let’s take it out and put in a recorder or a mandolin or hurdy-gurdy or something.” And I can’t imagine any other virtuoso guitarist or well-known guitarist or legendary guitarist, is your head going like this now? Or are you not listening to me at all ?
Ritchie: No. I wasn’t listening.
Candice: Take out their own works and their own solos, and put in an obscure… A nyckelharpa or something in the place where that guitar would be. So, for me, I just always love watching how he assembles and then disassembles and then reassembles, and to see how it winds up at the end of the process, it’s just amazing.
MK: Tell me about the album cover for ‘Nature’s Light’?
Ritchie: I just loved the idea of the simplicity of the sun coming up. It’s a new day and it’s a very natural thing. The sun will always rise as far as we know. I think it’s such a basic thing, looking out early in the morning and seeing the sun rising. I don’t know, it’s again, back to that organic, natural feeling of, the sun’s coming up, another day, what do you have to say? What have you done?
MK: You cover the Sarah Brightman song ‘Second Element’ on the album ?
Candice: ‘Second Element’. Back to Sarah Brightman.
Ritchie: Yes, carry on.
Candice: … and Frank Peterson.
Ritchie: No, you carry on because…
Candice: We’ve been big fans of Sarah Brightman for many years. And her work with Frank is just incredible. When we heard the song on an album that she had done many years ago, we just instantly fell in love with it. ‘Second Element II’. But there’s two versions of it. One, she does as more of a love song. And this other one, it’s really still a love song, but it’s a love song to the element of water, and how water is the source of our lives. And how traveling through rivers and springing up life everywhere it goes. And it was just such a fascinating concept.
Of course, we’re very connected with elements, with earth, with nature, with fire, with water, with air, with the moon, with the sun, all of this going back to ‘Nature’s Light’ again. So, we thought that it would be a perfect home to do a song that was so entwined with our theory of ‘Nature’s Light’ and the element of water. And that what the song wound up being, the ‘Second Element’, which was the water element.
MK: You also re-recorded Blackmore’s Night’s version of ‘Wish You Were Here’, originally by Rednex ?
Candice: ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a great song that we discovered while we were touring. Actually, it’s before we were on tour with Blackmore’s Night, we were touring with one of Ritchie’s other bands. Well, we recorded it for Shadow of the Moon, 1997 originally.
Candice: So, we heard it on the radio when we were on tour, probably with Purple or Rainbow, I think? And it was originally done by the Rednex. And it was such a great song that when we heard it, we had tried to find out more information about it. And it stayed on the charts in Germany for… What was it? 17 weeks?
Ritchie: 17 weeks.
Candice: 17 weeks on the charts in Germany. And Ritchie really just fell in love with it. It’s actually one of our favorite songs to do in concert. And we always ask the audience for requests, what they want to hear, and it’s one of the songs that they always ask for, like repeatedly asked for.
So, although we originally did record it in ’97, and kind of put our own spin and our own take on it. Then after that we released it again on Winter Carols. And then we decided to do a 2020 version of it.
MK: Many bands believe a healthy level of pressure between band members is good for creativity. Does this apply to Blackmore´s Night ?
Ritchie: As a musician there is too much pressure in the world in every part of life. It’s pressure, pressure, pressure. Whether it’s paying your taxes or doing this, you have to do that. Maybe that’s part of why I love the simpler times when one would just catch the plague in the 1500s and it was all over. No pressure.
Candice: It’s amazing how you can get creative from friction and pressure. Like you take that energy…
Candice: … and edginess and you ride off it and come out with incredible solos or incredible performances or incredible performances on stage or incredible songs. But I think in our situation, I don’t feel pressured by our creative relationship.
Ritchie: No, absolutely not. There is no pressure with us. That’s why we go on stage and everything’s just relaxed. I would notice that a lot of people in the audience are very old. I would say Candice, there’s a lot of old people out there tonight. And I suddenly realize I’m older than all of them, which kind of makes me think, Ooh pressure. Right? But it’s true.
The music that we play now in Blackmore’s Night, doesn’t have that pressure. We’re trying to relieve that pressure from people’s lives, especially with her voice, which is so melodic and comforting and things like that. I love that music that’s why I’m drawn to it to get away from the pressure of life.
Candice: I think that when we work together that we know each other so well, that we’re able to… We kind of psychically know and have great respect for each other, where the music is going to go. He gives me free reign to write the words and do the lyrical concept of it but not only that but also the singing perspective of it. Anywhere I want to go with the vocals, he’s fine with.
And I have great respect for him being an incredible genius, where he comes out with these amazing songs and really has this great visions to composing the songs and what they are and what they could be. So, I think that mutual respect for each other and the compassion and the fact that we’ve been together for so long, really works in our favor. I wonder if the pressure thing is more for rock and roll world, maybe. I’m guessing.
Ritchie: I would go on stage with Deep Purple and Rainbow and I would be fired up. It was quite a bit of friction there. And I would use that friction to pull out the energy. But this particular band that we’re in, it’s the opposite. I go out there and I see friends shaking hands with everybody and asking the people what they want to hear. And we keep it very jovial and very party-like and I kind of liked that.
MK: This year was spent in quarantine, with almost no touring and concerts. What have you missed most about life on the road?
Ritchie: I wanted last year off completely from touring. I hate traveling because I’ve done it so much through my life. I hate getting to planes and trying to be somewhere. So, to me I thought, great. We’ll take the year off, but it has gone on a bit too long.
Candice: We’ve done a couple of those virtual shows and people were so happy when we did it. We’re not very good at technical things, but we did at the beginning of this whole lockdown. We set up our iPad and just sat and played and took requests on the screen but there’s just nothing like that live energy. The people were really happy and really excited to see us. They tuned in from all over the world.
There were just so excited just to see us playing and talking to them and referring to them as they were typing in and taking their requests and playing the songs and seeing a natural environment like our home. Doing it there. So, it was very intimate and very personal. And that’s a beautiful thing as it is, but there’s just nothing like stepping on stage and feeling that energy that you get from the audience. And I think that’s something that we’re really missing.
Ritchie: I don’t miss personally playing to 15,000 to 250,000. I love to play to 100 people because we’re all a community and we all just pull together and it’s like a party time.
Candice: There’s nothing like waking up in a castle or going to perform at a castle and putting your hands on that stone and feeling that it’s been there for hundreds and hundreds, in some cases over 1000 years and the foundations of the stone and wondering about the stories it can tell and trying to channel these stories. Or finding out about the local folklore or walking down cobblestone streets. Right. Exactly. Every area that we’ve been it’s had their own amazing tales and stories that we often use as inspiration for our songs.
Not only can we find out musically and regionally, about what songs were going on in those areas. And we discover new musical inspirations from the places that we toured in, but lyrically, too. All the legends and myths and things that, you know, that stories, folklore, that people have told us about their specific regions. You can Google all this stuff but there’s nothing like laying your hands on a stone foundation castle wall and just feeling that energy.
MK: Blackmore’s Night often perform live in impressive castles. What makes it so special and unique to perform in a castle, as opposed to a modern venue?
Candice: We’re so lucky in our band that Ritchie has such a love of castles, historical venues and mainly in Germany, which is our strongest market really. So, he knows more about the castles in Germany than the local Germans do in the towns that are there. And he is often educated the German people on a lot of the castles that are in these towns. He reads about them, he studies them, he’s stayed at them, he’s played at them and he’s been doing that for many, many years.
Actually, often from what I remember when he was on tour with Deep Purple, they would stay in main towns and he would take his own personal roadie and go miles out into the countryside in a castle and just stay by himself in the castles while the rest of the band would stay in the modern hotel with the room service in town and in the city.
Ritchie: That’s true. They would always stay in the nearest hotel to the city that we were playing in and I would always like to go probably a hundred miles away to stay in a castle. There’s a magnetic feel about staying in the castle.
Again, it’s the earthiness, the stone. I’m obsessed with castles yet if you know the history of a lot of castles, it’s been so many problems. But I think it’s the music. I can relate to what the music might have been in that castle in the 1500s. The minstrels and playing of the shawms, the hurdy-gurdies and all the organic instruments. So, I feel very comfortable in a castle.
Candice: Plus, there’s a sound element. I think when we’re playing outside, not only do you have the castle as your own backdrop, which is incredible, but the sound that you can get from it when the instruments are kind of bouncing off the stone walls and it has its own natural echo. It’s just beautiful. Ritchie Blackmore: Absolutely. A lot of resonance in a castle. The sound just travels.
Candice: The moon is rising overhead, there’s clock towers that are chiming in the distance and fields that just go on forever. I feel like if you get to be enraptured by that magic or those magical moments once in your lifetime, it’s something you remember forever. And we are so blessed that we’re able to experience that and enjoy that and love and feel that so deeply every time we get on stage. That’s just incredible to me.
MK: What are Blackmore’s Night musical influences, both in terms of other acts/composers/musicians, and in terms of instrumentation?
Candice: We could mention bands from different regions that are big in those regions or even in that genre of music, but then you get out of that and nobody knows… Like Nordman. It’s amazing. They’re a Scandinavian band.
Ritchie: Yes. And they did some excellent music, playing a lot with nyckelharpas. A nyckelharpa is a very interesting instrument. Came about around the 13-1400s, proceeded the violin and it had pegs like a hurdy-gurdy. And we were doing a fan show somewhere in Germany in a castle to make a change. And the fans presented me with a nyckelharpa. They said, just play it. I had no idea what the hell to play with this. It’s two octave pegs chromatic…
Anyway, I learned to play it to impress a few people at a party. I could play party pieces on it now. And I do add the nyckelharpa sometimes in certain music that we play and record, but it’s a great instrument. It has four strings of the main strings. And you have like 16 sympathetic strings, so that certain notes will ring more than others. And it’s played with a bow and you play the pegs. Now I’ve become glued to that instrument. It’s a fantastic instrument. Once you get a little bit of knowledge of it. So, I include that quite often.
And I often play to myself around the house, the nyckelharpa. Plus, the mandola, which is over there above the fireplace. That is an eight-string instrument that was played back in the 14-1500s and it’s tuned very differently to most instruments. And it has a drone factor to it. And drones were very important in the 14 and 1500s. Especially back in the 1200s and the King Alphonse and people like that. The Cantigas Santa Maria, the drone was very important to monks singing and they would have that drone going through the basis. And they really didn’t have any bars to their music, which was very peculiar because sometimes you couldn’t quite figure out how that was written.
Candice: I know some of the inspirations that I like to listen to is of course we mentioned Sarah Brightman. I think she’s amazing. Not only the old stuff, like the song that we recorded, Second Element, but also Eden, La Luna, Harem. This was so just amazing. Her vocal prowess and the songs that she chooses and the way that she can change her voice into this big booming opera voice. Not that we try to emulate that but it’s definitely inspirational to be able to listen to that.
Also, Maggie Reilly, I think is incredible. Maggie Reilly’s work with Michael Oldfield and even without. Midnight Sun. So many songs that she’s done, which I know a lot more people obviously know her overseas. Like I might say here it’s obscure to know her but overseas… I might say here it’s obscure to know her, but over there, people are like, “I know exactly who Maggie Reilly is.”
Ritchie: Again, we’re back to they don’t play that on the radio here.
Candice: Songs like Back to France or Moonlight Shadow… Moonlight Shadow is one of the songs that inspired us to do Shadow of the Moon in the first place.
Candice: So, that was her work with Michael Oldfield.
Ritchie: My father said to me, he said, “Don’t you think it’s a bit risky going over into Renaissance music when you’ve been known for rock and roll?” And I was like, “I know it is.”
Candice: Very brave.
Ritchie: It was a form of kind of suicide, but I had to do it. I’d loved Renaissance music ever since 1976, when I heard David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London, they were playing all this music by Tielman Susato. It just overwhelmed me. I just felt that it was so organic and right. And ever since then, I’ve been fans of that music.
MK: How do you create music together? What is your creative process?
Candice: So, our creative process is usually that Ritchie will come out with the music, right? He’s often just sitting, playing the guitar, whether it’s outside on the deck to the birds and the water or sitting inside on the couch in front of a fireplace. He’s always, always playing. So, he comes up with just incredible melodies and then I’m usually around, if I’m not running with the kids.
So, he’ll often call me in and say, “I’ve come up with this idea, here’s a melody line. Hum it or just hum along and let’s see if it works.” And from there I just kind of absorb. I feel like his melodies are always so visual, even if they’re instrumentals or if they’re songs not yet done, waiting to be completed in lyrical form. So, it’s so easy to just close your eyes and listen to the melody and then channel it and see the pictures that are painted in your head as to what the melody wants to be about.
I feel like they always, the melody will always tell you and lead you down that path. So, I just kind of try to imagine the pictures painted in my head and make that into words, that hopefully other people relate to and resonate with on a deeper emotional level. And it could be about some legends or myths.
We love to get inspired by legends, myths and fairytales are a big inspiration, nature obviously but hopefully with a very deep emotional connection. And we usually go in with just the skeletal idea which means I’ll just sing it and he’ll play it on acoustic guitar. And we map it and then we kind of flesh it out from there.
Ritchie: Yes, we do.
MK: Ritchie has said in interviews before Blackmore’s Night that he wished to start a medieval music project, but was in doubt whether this should be period-correct or more pop-oriented. Do you think Blackmore´s Night achieves both, or does one side dominate? Is there a balancing act between the two?
Ritchie: I’m often drawn to doing it in a purist way, with the right instruments, crumhorns, sackbuts, mandolas. And then I’ll think, people just will not accept that. So, we kind of compromise and we go in with maybe a synthesizer, pulling up certain sounds.
That is a tricky position to be in because I’m always torn between, “Let’s keep it purist.” And then I’m like, “Who am I kidding? Only I’m going to like it, nobody else.” And Candice will put her little fairy dust on it and it will become a little bit more appropriate for the average listener who hates Renaissance music.
MK: When did you discover Renaissance music?
Ritchie: 1972. Although, it can go back. I went to Sunday school in England once and my mother and father thrashed me if I didn’t go. So, I turned up and there was a schoolboy there. I was about 10. He was singing Greensleeves and I was so taken by that melody. It just took me back to another time. That’s where it started, this drug of Renaissance music grabbed me.
Then back in 1972, I heard David Munrow in the Early Music Consort of London playing Tielman Susato, who was a very famous composer back in the 1500 hundreds, thing called Danserye, and that sold me. After that all I did was after my shows with Deep Purple and Rainbow, I would go back to the hotel and play Renaissance music in the hotel and often get complaints from the people next door. But that’s where it started. How about yourself?
Candice: I never heard Renaissance music before I met Ritchie. He introduced me to it.
Ritchie: It was me making her sing and play this music. In fact, we were in I think New Hope, New Jersey, and we picked up a recorder and Candice played it immediately. And I said, “Well, you’ve obviously had lessons hadn’t?” She said, “I’d never had lessons.” Right?
Candice: No, I never did.
Ritchie: And she just played all these instruments. She started playing the rackett, the crumhorns and the…
Candice: …bombards, shawms.
Ritchie: …the shawms and the…
Ritchie: Rauchepfifes. And she’s had no teaching whatsoever which was very bizarre. That stuff if you play, it’s not chromatic for a start. It’s not like a piano where you just go up chromatically. These are all different shapes and different fingerings. She knew it. And to this day, that’s remained an enigma of, “How the hell does she done that?” How hell did you know?
Candice: I don’t know, I’m teaching myself. I’m just try and feeling my way. He would only play tapes of Renaissance or Medieval music throughout the house. And I remember one day looking out the window and the deer were on the front lawn and snow was coming down and listening to this music and everything just clicked.
It sounded like that music was perfect for the visual. It was the perfect meeting of audio and visual. And they married perfectly, and you just got this hum like this amazing vibe, this energy that everything was perfectly placed at that moment. And I think that’s what just made me, it just resonated with me at that point.
MK: The Deluxe edition of Nature’s Light has two short stories by your daughter Autumn, and a painting by your son Rory. What advice would you give them if they wanted to pursue music, art or writing as their profession?
Candice: Yes. Our daughter, Autumn has written some of the stories that are included in ‘Nature’s Light’ and our son Rory he’s… So, Autumn is 10 and Rory is eight. And Rory did a beautiful painting of artwork of a sun coming up. Some beautiful art there but musically, although Autumn is an amazing writer, as far as short stories are concerned, musically, Autumn plays cello, plays guitar picked it up so easy… Well, she’s got the best teacher of course, for guitar. So, they have their own little jam sessions, but she’s got what, a three and a half octave range.
Ritchie: She does. Yes.
Candice: And Rory sings as well. He’s amazing. And he plays the drums. He’s the percussionist in our family band. But I like the information that you tell people whenever anybody’s looking for advice in the musical world. Do you remember what it was?
Ritchie: Get a proper job.
Candice: I thought it was, “You learn your first three chords…”
Ritchie: Oh yes. Yes, okay. Something I should’ve done after I learned my first three chords was to get a good lawyer.
Candice: Because this industry will eat you alive.
Ritchie: They will try and steal everything you make which is terrible. But I don’t take it personally because it’s happened to everybody in the business. Luckily, we have a good manager now.
Candice: But as far as our kids are concerned, if they want to get into whatever industry they want to get into, I guess we will be supportive of them, of course.
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