9Bach’s Lisa Jen Brown on the art of storytelling

If you have a story to tell, my default setting is to always tell it. We all love a good story, whether it frightens us or enlightens us or simply shocks us, it’s a way of communicating. You can bond over a good story. It’s a barometer to gauge how well you get on with someone if that story binds you. In a way it can tell you a lot about a person. If that story particularly moves you both, then it’s alright – you are going to get on!

When you put these stories with beautiful melodies then – oh! – it’s dreamland. In any language – in all the languages – the folk song tradition is sublime. Without a language you can understand, the story through the melody – it’s very clever!

For me, the Welsh folk songs are our soul music, our roots, and a taste of what our ancestors saw and felt. They are ‘their’ stories but most of the time sit so close to the emotion and ‘feeling’ we can relate to now. That’s why we can really feel it when we sing them.

Lisa Jen Brown and Martin Hoyland from 9Bach at Real World Studios. Credit: York Tillyer

I guess the natural progression for me as a singer – also new to songwriting – was to write about the stories I felt that needed to be told. Based on the emotion, the political significance and a determination to sing about it. From the true story of a girl befriending a crow that brings her gifts, to the story of the Queen of The Black Lake from the novel that changed me as a teenager, to Ivan who grew up in Moscow with a pack of wild dogs, to The Stolen Generation – the atrocity of forcibly removing the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, by the Australian Federal and State government.

9bach's Lisa Jen Brown and Mirain Roberts at Real World Studios. Credit: York Tillyer

These are stories that, to me, have to be told. It is something I want to sing about! The stream of beautiful old Welsh traditional songs that have been handed down to us (a gift to say the least) have done pain and heartache and love so well that I can’t even dream of matching them. It’s more interesting for me to be reaching out and listening to stories from a world with no borders and responding to them by simply telling their stories.

Featured Release

  • Anian


    Released 28 April 2016

    ‘Anian’ is 9Bach's third album. Like 2014's ‘Tincian’ it begins in North Wales, but broadens out through Greek and Near Eastern influences into an emotional tour de force. Angry, sad, but most of all passionate at the state of the world, the album taps into a truly universal language.

By Lisa Jên Brown

Lisa is the lead singer and songwriter in Welsh band 9Bach.

Main image credit: Dewi Glyn Jones.

Published on Sun, 04 February 18

Further reading

The Zawose Queens announce tour and share ‘Mapendo’ from forthcoming album Maisha

Pendo & Leah Zawose will perform at festivals including Glastonbury Festival and WOMAD.

The Blind Boys of Alabama to receive Liftetime Acheivement Award from Americana Music Association

The cermony takes place on 18 September at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Swaken Lyrics

Bab L' Bluz second album, Swaken, released in May 2024. These are the song lyrics in English, French...

A Tribute to Ernesto ‘Teto’ Ocampo (1969-2023)

Sidestepper's Richard Blair remembers his late bandmate Teto.