Recorded at Echo Zoo Studios, Invitation is the first solo LP in seven years by core Magic Numbers member Michele Stodart – although written, arranged and produced by Michele, it has additional production touches from long-standing collaborator Dave Izumi Lynch. And while it features Michele on vocals, guitars, bass and percussion, there are appearances from her brother and fellow member of The Magic Numbers, Romeo Stodart (piano), Andy Bruce (piano), Alice Phelps (harp), Will Harvey (violin and viola), CJ Jones (drums), Nick Pini (double bass), Joe Harvey-Whyte (pedal steel), Dave Izumi Lynch (synths).

Speaking about the record, Michele admits ‘Invitation is an intimate, personal record, with songs that touch on themes of motherhood, relationships, mental health, transformation, endings and new beginnings. It comes from a place of inviting in the darkness, the hard times, the sadness, anger, loss, love and grief… all of the unknown feelings that get woken up inside you. To practice staying with them, no matter how uncomfortable. To understand that they are there to guide you.’

‘I believe that it’s in the learning and listening that we can transform, grow, stay conscious and wholeheartedly true, open, honest with ourselves and others. Words are a powerful resource and we can choose to use them to connect deeply with one another. Songwriting has always been my way of trying to do just that, and I hope this album ‘invites’ us to reach out together…’

It was a delight for me to talk with her…


ANDY: Thank you for this opportunity of talking to you. And congratulations on a fine album with ‘Invitation’ (September 2023, Keepsake Recordings).

MICHELE: Thanks for having me. You’ve been listening to the record? Oh, that’s great.

ANDY: It’s distinctively different from your work with the Magic Numbers. As though you’re defining your own separate career path.

MICHELE: Yes, it is. Well – yeah, I’ve been writing songs separate to the band from being very young. So I think it’s always been like singer-songwriterly (she illustrates with her hand), in the core of me. It’s something like that. But yes, it is a story I’m telling in some ways when I write.

ANDY: The album has a stripped-back small-group Pentangle feel. You know what I mean?

MICHELE: I do. Actually we’ve been compared to Pentangle a few times. I love that. It was never a direct reference, but actually – yes, I can hear it. Nice it is too.

ANDY: You are a bass-player, yet you employ a double-bass on the album, played by Nick Pini. What quality were you looking for by using an electric bass guitar as well as a stand-up double bass?

MICHELE: Yes, the double-bass actually features in one of the songs called ‘These Bones’, which is played by Nick Pini, and it was a song that we recorded quite live, ‘cos I record all the bass on the other songs, where I use an electric bass and a u-bass as well, but I love this particular song that gravitates towards the double-bass sound, that kind of percussive really almost-earthy sound that the double-bass gives, and particularly with that song, it has that kind of – I don’t know, ‘summoning’ quality to it, and I think the double-bass gives a nice percussive solo introduction.

ANDY: ‘These Bones’ has an unusual melodic structure that swings and dances.

MICHELE: I like that – ‘swings and dances’. I really like that. I might have to quote you on that (she laughs).

ANDY: ‘Drowning’ is an epic not-waving-but-drowning track. Can you tell me about how that came about?

MICHELE: For me… when I wrote that song, I had woken up in the middle of the night, and I felt really sort-of underneath everything. I just felt everything was on top of me. I was weighed down, and being pulled down by my own thoughts and by different issues that I was overcoming at the time. But mostly – ‘Drowning’ was being in a dark place mentally, with my framing by different things. It’s a strange one because usually within songwriting and within reflecting on things I kind-of always draw to there being a sense of hope, and there being another side, reaching out to that other side, and with ‘Drowning’ there was a consistency that I wanted to stay in that feeling. It’s actually quite an anchor to a lot of the album because it’s about basically staying with the hard feelings, with the difficult things that come up, with the thoughts, with the depression, with the darkness, and not trying to always shift it and change it into a positive, but really listen to it and see where it goes and where it takes you, and a lot of the time it will take you to realising the things that need to change in your life, and the things that you need to look at and listen to. So – within ‘Drowning’, is when we learn to swim, and that was the part of the album, the part of why I wanted to finish on that song, even though it’s not the most positive of songs, it’s a sense of, like – we’ve gotta go there. And it was a difficult one to put out, in that way – really. It was more of an internal kind of secret song to myself… and suddenly it’s sitting on an album. Yes.

ANDY: In the body of your lyrics, you say that it’s ‘written out in words on the page,’ and elsewhere that ‘writing’s the only way I know to say just how I’m feeling.’ So your songs can be a process of catharsis.

MICHELE: Yes. It is very much for me, writing is very much a way of processing things that come up, different experiences, and being of that reflective time, but also being in the moment of where I am at that moment of time as well. Yes.

ANDY: In the song ‘Push And Pull’ you’re sitting in the railway station with a ticket for your destination, and you’re not necessarily Homeward Bound. It’s a song of life lived on the move, as part of as touring band.

MICHELE: It is, yes. It’s exactly that. It’s got… there’s journeying in that song, of being pulled and on the move away from different things, but also… The story behind that song was about loving both things, being a Mum and loving being a Mum and being with my daughter – but also loving doing music and being on the road, but that sort-of constant pull between the two things that I love doing, and navigating that as well, and realising that both things can exist, they can coexist together. But – as parents, and mothers in particular, we have these feelings of maybe you’re not allowed to want certain things, to achieve certain things in your life once you become a Mum. And yes, it’s about that really. It’s about processing that and navigating those constant day-to-day issues of a touring Mum.

ANDY: Achieving that work-life balance. But there again, you’ve been touring for the best part of twenty years. If it’s a struggle, it’s one that you’ve clearly adapted to.

MICHELE: Yes it is, definitely. I love connecting with people live. Being able to sing the songs, and every night is different up on stage. I always say there’s no other feeling like when you’re up on stage and you get a response from the crowd, or even – like, having those pin-drop moments, where you are in a whole other dimension really, when you are connecting together in that room just for that forty-five minutes or the hour that you get. It’s a gift. I feel lucky to have that, to be able to be still doing that after – as you say, twenty years. It’s a long time.

ANDY: You write ‘the band has taken me places that only dreams can lend,’ which is a good autobiographical comment on your life with the Magic Numbers.

MICHELE: Yes, it literally has, and we used to say that when… We toured that first Magic Numbers show for four years non-stop, and we had so many dreams that we just didn’t even dare to imagine that would happen, you know? We’ve been on stage with Brian Wilson and we were singing ‘Love And Mercy’, and we got to support Neil Young – and just so many different scenarios and things you wouldn’t think possible. And when you lie in bed and you suddenly realise – ‘Oh my god!’, it’s in the quiet – which is what I was saying, it’s in the quiet times that we get to reflect and think about how we feel. ‘Cos we are just constantly on the move, all the time, y’know.

ANDY: There’s a tradition of sibling rivalry in Rock bands, Ray and Dave Davies in the Kinks, Liam and Noel Gallagher in Oasis, all the way back to feuding Don and Phil, the Everly Brothers. How does it work out with the Magic Numbers, made up of two sets of siblings? Do you fight?

MICHELE: Yes. We definitely have our moments. It’s not like, it’s not physical, it’s not like we’re physically fighting, but there’s definitely a lot of arguing and a lot of slamming doors. But – you know, we’re growing, we’re growing as humans. And it’s usually my brother (Romeo) and me, we tend to argue about the same things, but it’s because we love what we’re doing so much, but usually we end up head-to-head, basically fighting over the same things but at different angles (she illustrates different angles with her hands, resembling the sleeve photo of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ LP). Different ways of getting there, really. But yeah, we’ve been on a journey with the band, and we’ve gone away to come back to reconnect with each other as well. ‘Cos it’s a hard thing being on the road with family, and we have to balance being a family as well as doing the music that we love together. So yeah, there’s a lot of emotions in there, and a lot of heart.

ANDY: Going back to the very beginning, when you moved from New York to London as children, it must have been very unsettling for you. Did that period help you bond with Romeo?

MICHELE: Yes. I think it did. Moving around as a kid, it did help us to – it sort-of, glued us together as a family. We relied on each other a lot more, and physically saw us just building this kind of unit together. This untouchable kind of thing. And we moved around a lot. We were born in Trinidad, so we lived and moved from Trinidad to New York and then to London, and both places – all three of those places were very different in culture as well. Trinidad was a small island where everyone knew each other, and we were on the street, hanging out and playing, as kids there was a freedom to it, there was a safe feel within in, you had the network around you, that community. And then – all of a sudden, we were in New York, in this massive place where we didn’t know anyone. We knew our Uncle lived in New York, but – like, we’re this small family in this huge place. But there was a dreaming about New York that instilled musical possibility. My brother, Romeo, got into music, then he got into playing the guitar, and suddenly it was like dreams are possible. And the world was a lot bigger than we initially saw it. Which is always exciting as well as scary. But then – y’know, we moved to London and we clung, we definitely clung to each other a lot tighter, because our family had fizzled and was scattered all over the place, which is when we formed the band, the Magic Numbers, which became a sort of grounding, and a constant in our lives there, and it became home faster than we thought. And… yes…

ANDY: When you first went to school in London you must have felt like outsiders. Were you bullied? Was that part of it?

MICHELE: Definitely. I absolutely hated school when I was growing up. It was the worst, the hardest time for me. I was shy, I was so shy I used to hide – I mean, I’ve got a blanket of hair anyway, but I used to literally hide underneath my hair and sort-of smile awkwardly to get out of situations, so I wouldn’t have to say anything. But yeah, I was bullied as a kid. I remember people used to pull on my hair and there was name-calling, a lot of things like that, and also – ‘cos of my accent as well, that was a big thing. My accent was Caribbean mixed with American twang, that was very strange for people. So yeah, we felt like outsiders, and when we released the Magic Numbers record called ‘Outsiders’ – our last album, there was a lot of feeling around that (‘Outsiders’ 2018, Role Play/ Black Candy).

ANDY: What does Roy Orbison mean to you? There’s a track on the Magic Numbers ‘Alias’ album that bears his name (‘Alias’ 2014, Caroline Records).

MICHELE: Roy Orbison? Well – we love his work. He’s amazing. He’s definitely an inspiration, and we referenced it – Romeo referenced it in the lyric because there’s one of the lines where Romeo sings ‘oh, he was Running Scared.’ And that was a reference to the Roy Orbison song. With listening to his music. We get the crowd to say a big cheer for him when his name crops up.

ANDY: What Pop-star posters did you have blu-tacked to your bedroom wall when you were growing up?

MICHELE: Tricky question. I can’t think. Which one am I willing to proclaim publicly? Well – Radiohead was a big one for me. I had Radiohead on there, and – er, a lot of kind-of bands, Fleetwood Mac, and there were some embarrassing ones (she laughs) – I mean, the Spice Girls were on my wall!

ANDY: Was the Magic Numbers playing the Glastonbury Festival a peak moment for you?

MICHELE: Well – we’ve played Glastonbury quite a few times as a band. Which was amazing. And I got to play the acoustic stage with my last record (‘Pieces’, 2016), which was amazing, which was like completely rammed and I think part of it was probably because it was raining, and everybody was sheltering under the tent, so I felt very lucky about that. Weather conditions! But yes, I love playing Glastonbury. We love playing it as a band – there’s a magical feeling there, it kinda feels like Christmas – it’s like the ‘Summer Christmas’ to be honest. You end up just feeling like a kid, running around, getting all your camping gear ready. We played this year, and I was just incredibly moved by the response, like – I was shaking onstage just by the sheer volume of the crowd singing our songs. And I remember backstage I just couldn’t contain myself, I was a mess. And I think there was a domino effect, everyone else in the band was just crying with me. So we had an amazing year this year and we hope to come back with a new album and I hope to come back to Glastonbury playing my own new record as well.

ANDY: Do you prefer playing to a large audience – like a Festival, or a smaller more intimate venue where you can interact more directly with the audience?

MICHELE: Yes, I think that’s really a good question. They both evoke a different emotion, a different feeling, a different connection. I’ve always been really scared by the complete silence of a crowd as well, and recently – doing my solo stuff and building up that, doing those more intimate gigs, and those – as you said, those more listening audiences, has been so rewarding for me. It’s just been an amazing experience. I really love playing those shows, and having those pin-drop moments and that moment where you’re closing your eyes and you just really go there in the song, and then suddenly you open your eyes and you realise – oh my god, there’s a roomful of people! Because everyone’s there with you. Everyone travels with you with the song. And they’re there, you can see them, it’s like there’s something special that happens in those small rooms. But I think even doing those grassroots independent venues is like… all that history, all those gigs, all those moments are in the walls, they’re like, that magic is still in the room, and every time you enter that stage you’re like a part of something that you get taken over by. So they’re very different, very different feelings. Festival shows are a whole other thing, I don’t think you can compare a Festival show with – like, your own Club show in a small venue. And we’ve had moments within the band, playing to big crowds, when it feels so connected, and so like… and so I think it depends, I think outdoor gigs and playing outside (she extends her arms to indicate wide-open spaces) you don’t get that sort-of in-the-room feeling (she meshes her fingers). So yes, I don’t know if that answers your question.

ANDY: With the band there are four interacting individuals. As a gang. But as a solo artist you’re out front there by yourself, you’re the focus without that mutual life-support system.

MICHELE: Yes, it’s a very different place to be. A different perspective completely. And it took me a while to kind-of make that step into actually committing myself to it, and being a solo artist. I kind-of put out my first record because I had those songs that I needed to record and get out there, and Romeo – he encouraged me to do it, I wouldn’t have recorded it if it wasn’t for him doing that. And then, when I put that out, it took me a while to… you know, that first tour I did with that record, it was really hard, it was very difficult not having the band there with me. And I think I sort-of hid away after it, really. And then realised that I couldn’t stop myself from writing songs. I didn’t want to stop myself from writing songs. It became like a responsibility that I had to the song. To release them. To put them out, to sing them. To tell the stories of them. And that has been a long journey for me, to believe in myself as my own thing, separate to the band, I suppose.

ANDY: Romeo has also done some solo gigs. As though you’re doing just a little bit of extracurricular work between Magic Numbers albums.

MICHELE: Yes, he has, actually. He’s started writing a different kind of song at the moment. He taught himself the piano, and he’s got lots of different influences and things, and I think it’s good that he wants to do some solo stuff as well. It all feeds… it comes back to the same thing, we’re all learning and putting ourselves out there and putting music out to connect, really, with ourselves and with others. So yes, I think it’s a good thing.

ANDY: And Romeo is one of the guest musicians who play on your ‘Invitation’ album.

MICHELE: Yes, he is. I roped him in! He’s just a beautiful piano-player. One of my favourite piano-players. And he plays a lot on the record, as well as a good friend of mine – Andy Bruce, they supply all the piano on the record (she spreads the fingers of both hands to indicate keyboard skills), which is – yeh, I’m not yet able to play. Which is good.

ANDY: When the Magic Numbers has finally run its course, would you consider opening a Blackpool Bed-&-Breakfast together? (This is a reference to the role the band played in the 2013 ‘The Harry Hill Movie’)

MICHELE: (She laughs) That experience was hilarious! Andrew – the phone has been going non-stop, it’s been ringing off-the-hook in response to our acting abilities! Working on that movie was… looking back on it now, it feels just like a daydream really. Yes, Harry Hill, he’s a huge fan of the band, so that email was a nice thing to get, the one where Harry Hill wants you in the movie, and we got to act alongside… well, I say ‘act’, we got to be there alongside some amazing actors (Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Simon Bird and Johnny Vegas as well as Harry Hill himself), and it was a fun movie to make. Definitely. I don’t think we’ll be releasing the ‘B&B Song’ though. (Although it is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rKRZM_A1Z0).

ANDY: Thank you for your time. I’ve enjoyed talking. Is there anything else you want to say about the album, or about yourself that we’ve not covered?

MICHELE: I don’t know. I think we’ve covered most things on there. I can just chat all day. I’ve enjoyed talking to you.

ANDY: You’ve got the image of a crow on the album cover-art. Birds have their own mythology, their own symbolism.

MICHELE: Yes, we can talk about that.

ANDY: Is it a reference to the Ted Hughes poem sequence?

MICHELE: It’s not actually. It’s not directly, no. But the crow, for me, was the transformation. The visual transformation of being set free, but also the internal conflict between all the things resembling that as well, yes, there’s a quote – I forget, there’s a quote about the crow which is on the record that I used… I can text it over…


‘Here are some quotes about the concept around the album … and more about the crow symbolism.

The album artwork and illustrations of the crow, drawn by Joni Belaruski, symbolise some of the key themes of the album: the crow represents transformation, change and freedom. She is a shapeshifter, thought to dwell in both the physical and the spiritual world simultaneously.

I believe that it is in the listening, the learning (and the un-learning) that we can transform, grow, stay conscious and wholeheartedly true, open, honest with ourselves and others. Song-writing has always been my way of trying to do just that. Thank you for listening and being a part of the journey.’





By Andrew Darlington

This entry was posted on in homepage and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.