We’re delighted that Karine Polwart has written one of the songs for this February’s workshops. We caught up with her and asked her about her inspiration, the process and who she would like to sing her song.
- What was the inspiration behind Come Away In.
The song was inspired by a wee Burns poem called The Wrens Nest which goes:
The Robin to the Wren’s nest
Cam keekin’ in, cam keekin’ in;
O weel’s me on your auld pow,
Wad ye be in, wad ye be in?
Thou’s ne’er get leave to lie without,
And I within, and I within,
Sae lang’s I hae an auld clout
To rowe ye in, to rowe ye in.
I came across the poem on a search for stuff about robins and wrens, two of my favourite birds (I write a lot about birds!). To me, it’s about having someone’s back, offering hospitality and space at a time of need, even if you have very little to give yourself. It’s about kinds and humility. And that’s something we need to be minded of. It’s a kind of moral imperative in our time. I’ve deliberately referenced different groups of dispossessed people in the final section, because I think if and how we welcome people from elsewhere to where we are and to what we have is a great test of who we are as people.
- Which came first – the music or the lyrics?
The theme came first. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted the phrases “welcome into the house” and “come away in” as the lyrical hooks. They’re implied in the wee scene that the poem paints. Once I’d decided on those phrases the structure of the song sort of fell into place.
- What the most interesting thing you learned about Burns during your research?
I’m not sure it’s a new revelation to me. But I was minded of his ability to say such a lot with very little. The Wren’s Nest is quite a profound wee thing for all it only has 8 lines. As a songwriter, that kind of economy is gold dust.
- What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?
The first glimmer of what the song is about and the final flourish to finish it are both equally satisfying. But possibly the best bit is when the architecture of a song clearly emerges. Once I see that, I know it’s nearly there, and will write itself.
- Who would you most like to sing one of your songs?
With this song, I’m really hoping that people will sing it in company and pass it along mouth to mouth. It’s essentially a song about togetherness, for sharing and singing together. There’s nothing more gratifying as a songwriter than hearing one of my own songs sung independently of me, by a whole room of people. So, fingers crossed!
Find out more about the workshops here.
Image by Sandy Butler