“I’ve just lit my fire and I’m getting cosy. What’s it like in Cardiff?”
Cerys Matthews is at home in Pembrokeshire. For the ex-Catatonia front woman and Radio6 DJ, it’s a rare time to relax at home.
“It’s lovely here. The sun’s shining but it is cold.”
The picture she paints is very different to the grey mist that has swallowed up Cardiff on a cold winter morning. The Welsh capital is of course, where Cerys was brought up and lived when she first shot to fame during the 1990s.
“We used to live in Whitchurch. We had an Uncle Gwyn who lived at the top of Rhiwbina. We’d often go to visit him, and then head out into the woods to pick blackberries. The M4 was being built at the time and we’d sit and watch the workers. The thing I remember about it most was the soil. It was red, all of it red. They also created this monster mound with the waste soil and we’d play on it. I think it’s still there at the top of Rhiwbina.”
For a moment, Cerys goes blank as she struggles to remember the name of the school she attended as a youngster.
“Nan!” She shouts. “NAN! Which school did I go to in Llandaff?! There’s a muffled conversation in Welsh before Cerys comes back on the phone and announces the word ‘Bryntaf’ very proudly.
Cerys’s love of music started at a young age, yet it was during the nineties, when Welsh talent was riding on a crest of a wave, that she found recognition. Well-known for fronting Catatonia, Cerys also collaborated with Tom Jones and Space.
After Catatonia split, Cerys began exploring other forms of music, taking her to the US and back. But it is her latest work that has seen Cerys really opening up her creative pools. During November, Cerys will be singing live at a Ballet Cymru performance in London.
“Their Artistic Director, Darius, got in touch. They had all loved my latest album, Tir. Darius is something of a visionary. I did ballet as a child; it’s such a beautiful art-form so when they asked me to do it, I gave them an ‘Absolute Yes!’. I’ve even taken ballet up again now as an adult. I like to pretend that I’m Margaret Fontaine, even though I probably look like an elephant.
“But I’m so excited about the performances. And I’m so proud that Wales has its own wonderful ballet company.”
Ballet isn’t the only show that Cerys will be putting on this winter. Her tour is set to take her the length and breadth of Britain in the run-up to Christmas.
“I love anything mid-winter. I love Christmas. I want to be a bear and hibernate for the winter when I think about the weather turning cold.
“So the tour is my way of keeping people warm during the winter months. It’s just me, on my own. No pyrotechnics, no dance routines. Just a nice relaxing evening of traditional songs from all over the world by candlelight.”
“There are two gigs, one in the afternoon and one in the evening when we play Cardiff on Friday 7thDecember. The show, at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama draws together a wide-ranging collection of songs that stretch back into history.
“I find it fascinating to discover music and ways of life that people would have enjoyed 300 years ago or more. I’ve also got a Christmas album up my sleeve. And a sing-along book that will be published next year.”
For Cerys, embracing new ideas means that life is more interesting.
“I wouldn’t want to go back to the days of Catatonia. Life’s too short. It was enjoyable at the time but what I’m doing now is even more enjoyable. You grow up, and as you do, you open your eyes to the magic of the world around you. You have to keep learning, keep reading.”
Reading is one pastime that Cerys will need to undertake on an industrial level this winter. She has recently joined the judging panel of the Sony Reader Award for Unpublished Writers, a newly created category for the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize.
“I’m being forced to make time to read. Usually reading is something that comes at the end of the day when all the chores have been done. But now I’ve got twelve novels to get through. I’m reading them where and whenever I can. And I’m loving it!”
Looks like it’s going to be a very busy winter for Cerys Matthews.