Eleven years ago in April, British band Morcheeba played to a packed Wellington Town Hall.
The band's mix of dance, electronica, folk, blues, country and pop - under the shorthand of "trip-hop" - had many in the audience spellbound. But while much of the kudos went to brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey - all eyes and ears that night were on the siren-like quality of singer Skye Edwards.
Edwards first met the Godfreys at a party in 1994 and in the band's first years she struggled with stage fright. At times she'd rely on alternative medicine in the form of valerian root, or a few glasses of wine, to feel comfortable on stage. That was all behind her when she played Wellington, where she didn't seem to flinch at the attention from the crowd or the rapturous applause.
But only a few months after the gig, Edwards was fired.
Edwards says there had been inklings that the band was going to implode. They performed in Trafalgar Square in London a few months after Wellington and "I was over it by then".
"A few weeks later there was a phone call from my manager saying ‘it's finished. Morcheeba is over' - for me anyhow. I was very unhappy and they [the Godfreys] weren't very nice people to be around. I had made up my mind that I was going to have to leave and I think they kind of sensed that. So it was kind of ‘well, she's not going to leave us, we're going to get rid of her' sort of thing. So that's basically what happened."
When Ross Godfrey was asked last year about the breakup, he replied tactfully: "We just felt like we couldn't breathe. I'd been in the band and on the road since I was 18, so to have any kind of break from that was just amazing".
However, Morcheeba carried on. The Godfreys regrouped and two years later released The Antidote with another British singer, Daisy Martey.
"I don't think that was such a good idea. A lot of fans were surprised. But it was necessary," says Edwards. "It was necessary to take that break and do a lot of growing. I went off and did a couple of solo albums."
Martey's tenure as Morcheeba's singer was brief. She was fired after The Antidote. For the next Edwards-free album, 2008's Dive Deep, the Godfrey's employed several singers including English singer-songwriter Judie Tzuke, Norwegian Thomas Dybdahl and French singer Amanda Zamolo. Zamolo and Ross later became a couple and last year had a baby. "So everything happens for a reason even though maybe at the time you don't quite understand why," says Edwards.
Two years later, many were taken aback when Morcheeba released their seventh album Blood Like Lemonade and, lo and behold, Edwards was the singer. "I didn't want to return," she says.
Edwards was in the middle of working on her second solo album Keeping Secrets when the Godfreys made their overtures.
"My husband and I argued really seriously about it because he was convinced that I should go back to Morcheeba. [He said] I owed it to the fans, the legacy of Morcheeba and myself.
"I was ‘why would I want to go back? They're horrible. They hate me, I hate them'. I was just awful. But eventually I agreed to have a meeting. I hadn't seen them in seven years - and it was fine. We had a laugh. But it was a little awkward and there were times when it was ‘this is never going to work'. Half of the album was already written and they had the guy that used to play bass singing some of the songs. I said ‘if I'm going to come back I think I should sing the whole album. The fans would appreciate that than just coming in and doing a few songs'."
The Godfreys also agreed to do a few shows to see if the band could renew themselves live as well. "It was great. I could tell Ross was happy to have me back and they could really appreciate me being there, which was really nice. It's been a chance for our friendship and our working relationship to grow and mend. We have a lot of fun on stage now. It's a really good place."
But Edwards laughs remembering the first live appearance she did back with the band. "It was actually in Paris for a perfume conference and award show, so it really wasn't a first gig as such but it was a lot of fun. Paul, who doesn't tour anymore, was there at the side of the stage.
"It was smiles all around. "When I was doing my solo shows I was still singing Morcheeba songs. But it didn't quite feel right and I didn't want to do Morcheeba songs, I wanted to do my own songs."
The first proper gig back with the band was at a music festival in Switzerland.
"I enjoyed singing those songs again and hearing people singing them . . .
"It was really good to be back."
Morcheeba play Auckland's Powerstation on Thursday and Wellington's Opera House on Friday.
- The Dominion Post
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