“You look back and wonder what really happened there. I was asked to lie about my age and I just thought, ‘I can’t be doing this anymore.’ It wasn’t fun”: One single show rekindled Magenta singer Christina Booth’s passion for music

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“For me, music transcends everything,” begins Magenta’s Christina Booth. “It has the ability to connect people and brings a sense of hope.”

The Welsh vocalist and singer-songwriter recently released her long-awaited third solo album, Bar Stool Prophet. Its 10 songs’ various themes are tied together by the belief that it’s never too late to alter the course of one’s life – and that concept is encapsulated by the final track, Rise Again. With an emotionally charged harmonica solo by Steve Hackett, the spine-tingling composition is one of Booth’s favourites.

“No matter what, you pick yourself up and get on with it,” she explains of the lyrics. “There’s always something better around the corner. I put a lot of myself into the lyrics, though they’re not always about things that have happened to me.”

The pure, lilting quality of her voice exposes the layers of emotion behind her harmonies and lyrics. She speaks about the darker side of her music and her desire to blend those heavier melodies and themes with something more uplifting. “I find it easier to write melancholy songs,” she confesses. “Happier songs sound a bit twee when I do them. I hope the emotion comes through in my songs. However, even if some have dark undertones, I try to bring hope.”

Booth composed Bar Stool Prophet’s title track following the death of a friend, and her lyrics explore the dark side of alcohol and the damage it can cause. “Within a couple of minutes of knowing that he’d died, I started writing the song,” she recalls. “His death made me think about people we’ve lost over the years through alcohol. Drinking is part of our culture in the UK and it’s celebrated, which is fine, but it also ruins lives.”

It’s not the only song with emotional undertones on the album. Riptide is about her sister’s near-drowning experience, and Sail On Sister Geneviève is inspired by the death of a 28-year-old woman from leukaemia.

The creation of these songs, and of the entire album, was not only a cathartic experience for the singer-songwriter, but also a way to connect with her listeners in meaningful ways. “I share a lot of what I feel through songwriting,” she reveals. “A problem is made a lot easier by sharing it. It’s such a powerful thing to make a connection with people.”

Booth’s own connection with music developed in early childhood. She recalls performing for family members and, in later years, attending punk concerts with her sister. It took some time, however, before her own singing abilities were realised. “I loved to sing, even when I was very young. I didn’t really discover that I could sing, or that people would want to listen to me, until I was 19 or 20.”

Booth reflects on the extent to which her parents’ musical tastes influenced her own. She recalls her mother listening to Ella Fitzgerald and her father to Johnny Mathis, among others. “It was a lot of the old singers,” she explains. “I still love that kind of music, but I’ll listen to anything if I like it. If you limit yourself to one kind of music, you’re going to miss out.”

Your voice changes as you get older – you have to adapt. I’m still raging that my body won’t respond the way it used to

Despite her passion for music, she never undertook any formal vocal training, but did receive some vocal support while struggling with coughing fits during the recording of Magenta’s second album, Seven. “I lost my confidence and had singing lessons for a couple of months to reassure me that I wasn’t damaging my voice,” she says.

The voice is a fragile muscle, especially when strained due to a lack of practice or unavoidable factors like illness or ageing, and the latter is a theme explored in the track Breakthrough. “Your voice changes as you get older – you have to adapt,” Booth states. “I’m still raging that my body won’t respond the way it used to, but there are good things as well. You become more accepting.”

She also refers to the strain put on her voice during her breast cancer treatment nearly 10 years ago and, more recently, because of Covid. “All of us were inactive – you could sing as much as you wanted around the house, but it wasn’t the same.”

Although she launched her solo career in 2010 with Broken Lives & Bleeding Hearts, its follow-up, The Light, wasn’t released until 2015. Bar Stool Prophet was first conceived in 2018, but its release was pushed back due to the pandemic, creating a distance between the original demos. “I almost had to acquaint myself with the tracks, even though I’d written the lyrics. It was bizarre,” she says.

Alongside guest performances from Hackett, she’s joined by Chimpan A’s Steve Balsamo and Magenta pals Dan Nelson, Jiffy Griffiths, Chris Fry and long-term collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed.

At one point, I didn’t have the desire to sing at all – the record deal experience spoiled it

“I usually start by scribbling lyric ideas down and then I work around the vocal melody,” she reveals of working with Reed. “I’m ashamed that I don’t play an instrument well enough to do my own complete composition. I then hand the music over to Rob and he’ll start building on it, and then we’ll work through it together.”

Booth met Reed through mutual friend Robert Cottle and the pair started working together under the banner of Trippa. She explains how close they were to securing a record deal before things started to fall apart. “It’s one of those things you look back on and wonder what really happened there. I was asked to lie about my age and I just thought, ‘I can’t be doing this anymore.’ It wasn’t fun.”

The experience led Booth and Reed on to new adventures. He invited her to do some vocals for his then-studio project Cyan, and shortly afterwards, Magenta were born. Two years after the release of their 2001 debut album, Revolutions, they were invited to perform their first show at the Baja Prog festival in Mexico.

“At one point, I didn’t have the desire to sing at all – the record deal experience spoiled it,” she recalls. “The gig restored my faith. This, to me, was what music was about.”

With Bar Stool Prophet out now, she’s ramping up the promotion and has sights set on live shows. She also has plans to explore new ways of creating. “I’m hoping to write with a few other people. 

I love working with Rob Reed but I wonder what it would be like to try something else – to push me out of my comfort zone

“I love working with Rob but I wonder what it would be like to try something else, to push me out of my comfort zone. I want to do something with my sister. We had an acoustic band years ago, the Sisters Of Murphy. Murphy was our maiden name.”

And she remains certain that music holds great power: “Music is still a mystery to me. A song can take you back to a particular moment. You might not understand the language a song is in, but it can bring people together. It lets them know they are not alone. I’ve made great friends around the world through music.”

Francesca Tyer

Francesca Tyer is a young adult fantasy author and founder of the Untold Stories Academy which offers creative writing workshops for children/adults and mentoring/editorial advice

for new and established writers. She also works as a freelance editor, content writer and English tutor. Francesca attended Royal Holloway University where she earned a BA in

English Literature. She began freelancing shortly after graduating and her debut novel was published six months later. Francesca lives in Wiltshire and when she isn’t working, enjoys

reading, walking, baking, playing violin and listening to a variety of music.