Enjoy this wide-ranging talk with Jethro and Prem Williams by mwe3.com.
Sausalito, California based Real Music will make a lot of New Age music fans happy with four new CD titles from the Australian based Sacred Earth. Released by Sacred Earth on Real Music in January 2014 are four distinctive CD titles: Bhaktí, Breathing Space, Inyan and The Way Home. As part of their Sacred Earth campaign, Real Music is releasing all four titles simultaneously. When you look at the CD packaging for each title, you’ll see the name Sacred Earth and just underneath you’ll also see the words “music for inner peace”. If there was ever a motto for this band and the label they are on, it’s those four words. Sacred Earth are the perfect soundtrack to your relaxation downtime, meditation or yoga experience. All four albums are somewhat similar in that they each feature performances by Jethro Williams (flutes, whistle, and guitars) and Prem Aliyah Williams (vocals, keyboards and dulcimer). Prem’s female vocals are very Enya like in the sense that the lyrics serve to color the notes of her voice. The Breathing Space album is all instrumental while the other three CD titles features a mix of meditative synth keyboards, flutes, guitars and female / male voice. Jethro’s guitar and flute sounds are well recorded and the whole sound clicks in a positive way. The Sacred Earth sound is truly enchanting and the meditative nature of the sound places this unique group clearly into the healing music genre. All four albums are quite sonically satisfying and overall, Sacred Earth are quite an asset to Real Music’s ever growing catalog of New Age magic.
mwe3: How did the members of Sacred Earth meet and how did that meeting of the minds, so to speak, evolve into forming the group? What were your musical goals and sonic aspirations in creating Sacred Earth?
SACRED EARTH: Sacred Earth is made up by husband and wife duo Jethro and Prem Williams. We first met at a gathering at the Permaculture Village “Crystal Waters”, we instantly connected and stayed up playing music by the fire until we were the last one’s awake, we had an instant connection. Prem was already part of a successful band that had just come to a close and Jethro had been playing music since the age of eleven. Together we embarked on a journey of self discovery through yoga, meditation and music that eventually led to the music of Sacred Earth. Our goal has always been to create music that inspires the listener to connect to the deeper place within themselves, the still place that is always waiting for us when we take the time to connect. Sound wise it has always been important to us that the music holds the listener in that deep space through out the duration of the CD and that the sound is felt more than heard.
mwe3: Real Music in California just released four Sacred Earth albums on CD in early 2014, including Breathing Space, The Way Home, Bhakti and Inyan. Can you tell us in what order the albums were recorded and released? Sacred Earth seems to fit right into the Real Music musical ethic. What are your impressions of Real Music and what do you like best about the label and their artists?
SACRED EARTH: We both had a good feeling about Real Music from the get go, they are committed to supporting their artists in an ethical way and are also committed to spreading inspiring and peaceful music out into the world. Inyan was recorded in 2005, The Way Home (2007), Bhakti (2008) and Breathing Space (2011).
mwe3: Of the four albums you recorded that were released by Real Music, is there a way to individually describe them? I know that Breathing Space is all instrumental and the other CDs all feature a mix of meditative instrumental music featuring your two vocals. Was there a particular mission or goal you set out to accomplish for each individual album or do you feel that they all connected?
SACRED EARTH: I feel like there is a thread that runs throughout our albums that has a signature sound unique to Sacred Earth. We have always held the intention of playing music that touches the heart of the listener and inspires them to make a connection with the deeper part of themselves and in that process find more peace.
mwe3: Where do you see Sacred Earth fitting into the New Age / healing music world and what healing properties do you use or implement when you record your albums?
SACRED EARTH: It's hard to say where we fit, we have been playing our music for 14 years now and have seen the industry change and grow in different ways. In some ways we are unique in what we do due to our isolation in Australia. When we started in 2001 we didn’t have anyone to follow and so were free to explore our own expression of music without comparison. Our music was born from giving up the life of the typical “musician” and exploring meditation, yoga, chanting... while also being passionate gardeners and lovers of the earth. Our name Sacred Earth is all about finding the balance of a grounded spiritual journey, to not be so grounded in the material world that the spirit is forgotten and to not fly away in spirit and forget our earthly journey... Instead seeking to find a balance in life. When we perform and record this is what we bring to our music.
mwe3: Can you tell us something about where you live now, where you grew up and how does living there influence you both as individuals and as a group?
SACRED EARTH: We currently live on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia and while we tour frequently, we love our home and our community. The Sunshine Coast is part of the subtropical region on the east coast of Australia, we enjoy a very even temperature all year long with pristine beaches, rain forests and an abundance of locally grown fresh foods, Jethro is a keen surfer and we both love to be immersed in the rain forest or in the veggie patch at home. The region we call home which ranges from the Sunshine Coast down to Byron Bay is a hub of creative people that inspire each other and make for a colorful place to call home.
mwe3: Who were some of your big musical influences, your favorite musicians and favorite musical styles?
SACRED EARTH: Wow, life is long and we pass through so many phases in life, I have been influenced by so many musicians I could fill the pages with their names. Right now I am enjoying “Bobby Alu”, Solomon Island Reggae. Reggae has always been a part of our home for its feel good vibe. I have huge respect for Deva Premal and Miten and always enjoy connecting with them in song when ever we get the chance. To name a few: Jai Uttal, Snatam Kaur, Bobby Alu, OKA, Kevin James, River Tribe, Shimshai, Sting, Baka Beyond, Ben Leinbach, Hari Prasad, Karunesh, Prem Joshua and on and on...
mwe3: Before he got into music, Jethro studied Chinese medicine, martial arts and shiatsu. In what ways did learning and experiencing those things influence the Sacred Earth sound?
SACRED EARTH: Sacred Earth music is all about supporting a connection with the deeper aspect of our selves, moving away from the mundane into the inner life, my study of these things was a journey towards finding my life’s work in Sacred Earth. The study of shiatsu, yoga, meditation etc. is essentially an exploration of the inner life. So the holistic study, meditation retreats, yoga, Chi Kung etc. are part and parcel of the journey of Sacred Earth. .
mwe3: Can Jethro tell us something about his guitars and what guitars he prefers and has in his collection and if he uses some effects and amps to color his guitar sounds. Also what other instruments does Jethro play on the Sacred Earth albums?
SACRED EARTH: I play a Maton guitar. Maton is an Australian crafted guitar using native Australian timbers, I have played a lot of different guitars over the years and keep coming back to the Maton, I love the warmth and the tones that the Australian timbers create. On stage I use a T.C. Electronics “G Natural”, it is an effects pedal/station made specifically for acoustic guitars. I also play the Bansuri flute from India, Shakuhachi from Japan and whistles from Ireland..
mwe3: Can Prem tell us something about her background in music? How did she get into playing keyboards, guitar and harmonium and can she tell us something about her unique style of singing? I heard she doesn’t sing words but instead uses ancient languages to find the resonance in the song. How does Prem decide what languages, syllables or words are right for each song?
SACRED EARTH: Music was placed in my lap at 24 years of age. I had no intention of becoming a musician but was surrounded by wonderful, free style musicians who welcomed me to express and join in whenever they were having a jam. I found during this time that when I sang the feelings of my heart without the use of words it always sounded right to me. I sang in this style for many years until I discovered mantra during our yoga teacher training study years. From that point on I sang my own heart language combined with ancient prayers and also began to sing in English again.
I was also blessed to discover the Maleny Folk Festival (now Woodford Folk Festival) where, during the late hours of the night, I found my rhythm in all night chai tent drumming frenzies. I dabbled in guitar and bought myself a keyboard. My harmonium was a precious birthday gift from my friend Arjuna. I don’t ever decide what to sing, or how a song goes, the songs are gifts from the divine, they are already written when they arrive. I am simply an open vessel and it is my life’s work to sing these songs to remind ourselves of our connection to the earth, our connection to the divine, our connection to one another and our life’s purpose. I pray each time that I sing that our music will guide us all home.
mwe3: Does Sacred Earth use a producer during the making of their albums? Who else do you work with during the making of your albums, including other musicians, producers, engineers, tech people, sound people such as mastering engineers and others?
SACRED EARTH: For our first three albums we collaborated with an engineer by the name of Herrin Larkan. Our fourth and fifth albums (The Way Home and Bhakti) were recorded by Stuart Favilla, who also features playing a unique instrument called a light harp, piano and vocals. Our two most recent releases (Call To The Divine and Breathing Space) we recorded in a home studio. All of our albums have had guest artists, usually a friend that plays an instrument that we can see a particular song would benefit from. Guest artists include Derwood Charlsworth (digeridoo), Tunji Beir (percussion), Caseal Mor (Esraj), Herrin Larkan (guitar & piano), Stuart Favilla (vocal, piano and light harp), Nilong Buchanan.
mwe3: How will Sacred Earth’s music make the world a better more peaceful place and what are you looking forward to in 2014 and beyond including some of your upcoming plans?
SACRED EARTH: Peace on earth has to start within each individual... We look forward to deepening our own inner practice and growing into a more peaceful and harmonious place within ourselves. We pray that our music encourages the world to become a more peaceful place.
We have two new CD projects this year that are due for release at the end of the year, a new Sacred Earth album and a remix album that is being put together by some of the world's best remix artists. We have a national tour of Australia and we will also be spending a month on the island of Bali facilitating two week long Sacred Earth Bali holiday retreats in June - July. We have a 16 year old daughter that we are committed to helping through her final two years of school as well as a 2 year old boy and another baby on the way. We are committed to creating a peaceful home for our children that encourages them to be open, honest, motivated, self loving, self respecting and deeply connected to nature... hopefully inspiring them to be peaceful, life loving adults in the future.
Beyond 2015 we look forward to taking our touring further abroad to the U.S. and Europe. We also have the vision to travel Australia in a bus for a year or so with our children, offering concerts as we go and in between times spending our time around the camp fire, surfing, beach combing, mountain hiking, swimming in rivers, singing and laughing lots.
Thanks to Sacred Earth