“I can’t go in a room with someone I don’t know and write a hit, a song has to mean something to me” - hmv.com talks to Amy Macdonald
It’s been quite a while since we heard anything from Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald. Initially prolific with three albums on shelves and over nine million records sold before she’d reached her 25th birthday, Macdonald has been quiet for the last three years, working slowly on new album Under Stars, which hits shelves today.
We caught up with the singer to find out all about making the album and why she’s been away for a while...
It’s been five years since your last album Life In A Beautiful Light, was this a planned break or have you been away for longer than you initially thought?
“I think it’s easy to imagine that I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, but I haven’t. I toured that album up until 2014 and then that was meant to be my year off, but I ended up having a really busy year that year anyway so I didn’t get my break. I started working on the album at the end of that year and all the way through 2015, so I spent 2016 recording.”
That’s a long time in the studio...
“Normally it doesn’t take me that long, but a few of the songs just needed that bit of magic to make them right so it took a lot longer. I’m pleased I took that time, though, this album sounds exactly how I want it to. We wrapped in September and I’ve just been getting ready to come back, so I know it looks like I’ve been lazy, but I’ve been really busy.”
Were you conscious of how long it was taking? Or were you just immersed in songwriting?
“I’ve never been conscious of the time or the gap. I’ve been very lucky that my label understand that when you’re fully into writing songs it just takes a while to get right and that songs don’t come out of nowhere, that you need to have songs you’re proud of and you want to share with everyone. I’ve been with the label for 10 years and I’ve never had anyone put any pressure on me, from what I’ve heard from other artists, I’ve been very lucky…”
Have you worked with any new writers on this album?
“No. I always write on my own and this album is the first time that I haven’t. A lot of these songs have been written with some of my bandmates, but I’m not the kind of person you can send off to America, it doesn’t work for me, I’m too shy, I can’t go in a room with someone I don’t know and write a hit, a song has to mean something to me. If a track doesn’t mean something to me then I don’t think it’ll mean anything to anybody else.”
So a much more natural process?
“Much more natural. When you spend so much time with people on the road you naturally start to jam and make up little ditties so it was just a progression. There were no writing trips to Los Angeles.”
Did your band produce the record?
“We got the demos right and then I went in with Cam Blackwood, he’s another Scot and a wee bit mental, but we worked well together and we had a good laugh. Then I also did some sessions with this duo called My Riot, we touched up a few songs and sprinkled a bit of extra magic dust on some of the tracks.”
How do the lyrics on this LP compare to what you’ve done before?
“To me, it was a completely different thing having people to bounce ideas off. Before it was me on my own trying to think of everything, this time I had other people to help me. I think people who liked me before will still like me on this album, but it will bring new people in. I never want to fit in with what’s cool or write in a particular style, I just want to write catchy tunes that mean something to me and people can relate to. These songs are songs about things that could happen to anyone.”
What were you listening to during the making of the album?
“I’ve got a really eclectic taste in music. I’ve always loved Bruce Springsteen, I go back to him all the time, he’s really the cream of the crop. But then there’s a lot of old Motown and then newer bands like The War On Drugs. It doesn’t influence me directly, I’m not one of those writers who will hear something and then can go and write something like it, it usually comes out sounding totally differently.”
When did you settle on the album title?
“Naming an album is always difficult because it’s something you have to live with forever. I put a lot of thought into them and this time I choose ‘Under Stars’ because it’s a song about one of my best friends. I wrote it as an opening track and it’s a really good indication of what the album is all about.”
Are you excited to get back out on tour? It’s been a while since you’ve done a big UK run...
“Totally. Until recently I hadn’t played in the UK since 2013 and I’m so grateful that people are still interested in me, it’s been a while. It’s an amazing feeling to be welcomed back and I can’t wait to see everyone.”
Any special treats planned for the live show?
“I think people sometimes think my live show might be a bit rubbish, but they’re always surprised by how raw it is. I don’t like gimmicks, just hard work from me and my band. The reaction we’ve had from the shows so far with the new songs has been incredible.”
The singer will perform live and sign copies of the album at two hmv stores next week. Click here for full details.