“I know I can really go down a rabbit hole with my songs…” - hmv.com talks to Polly Scattergood
It's been a while since we had a new record from singer-songwriter Polly Scattergood. Her last solo album, Arrows, arrived in 2013, and its follow-up has taken a while to gestate.
She hasn't been completely absent. A lot of her time went into onDeadWaves, a collaboration with electronic landscaper James Chapman, better known as Maps. The two came together to release a self-titled LP, which was highly acclaimed and took them all over the place, including on support run with big-hitter M83.
Now back in her own world, Scattergood's new project is In This Moment. The album, which is her third, is co-written and produced by her husband Glenn Kerrigan and sees Scattergood embracing haunting melodies and elegant production to create an ethereal sound.
As In This Moment arrives on shelves, we spoke to Scattergood about how it all came together...
This is your first solo album in seven years, have you been collecting songs throughout that time or has it been more stop-start?
“For a long time, it was stop-start. I got little bits down while I was still in London and then I wrote some stuff while we lived in Fuerteventura, but by the bulk of the record was written and made when we moved back to the UK. I got the most done just after I had my daughter.”
Was there a moment when you knew you had enough for an album?
“I always write. I’m completely addicted to songwriting. The amount of songs has never ever been an issue. It’s most having the confidence to make it an album and believing that you’ve got a collection of songs that can really work together. There was a definite moment. A few weeks before I had my daughter, Glenn (Kerrigan, the album’s producer and Scattergood’s husband) said we should do another album and I just said ‘Yes’. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, but I just felt like I should go for it.”
How was picking through all the stuff that you’d accumulated over the years?
“I’ve been lucky with the people around me, people who I trust to listen and give me very honest, if sometimes quite painful, feedback. I didn't value feedback very much earlier in my career. I think that comes with getting older. Between my manager and Glenn, they were able to give me a lot of steering. I know I can really go down a rabbit hole with my songs.”
Was there any pressure from anybody to come back in the years you’ve been away?
“This record is coming out on my own label, so the most obvious pressure hasn’t been there. Even when I was working on a bigger label, I’ve never really felt that much pressure. All of my albums have had a big gap. I’m not the kind of person that writes and is comfortable throwing things out into the ether. I’m more considered in how I do things.”
How have you found setting up your own label?
“It’s actually been really fun. I’ve got an amazing team of people, lots of whom I’ve worked on other records, I’ve enjoyed putting all that together. People with real passion for what they’re doing. It’s been fun so far, I may say something different in a few weeks, once it actually comes out…”
You worked with Glenn Kerrigan on the album, was he the only person who you really thought of to make the record?
“I co-wrote a lot of Arrows with Glenn. On this album, I co-wrote with Jim Sclavunos from the Bad Seeds and Mike Alvarez, but Glenn produced the album and did a lot of the initial work with me. We've known each other for a long time and he is my husband. Working with your husband is pretty much the best. I feel very lucky to have a relationship like that. You definitely get honesty.”
The dynamic must be very different from a normal producer. Is it tricky to keep music and your domestic life separate? Can you switch off when you’re together all the time?
“We’ve got better as time has gone on. On Arrows, we actually had to start emailing each other because the boundaries had just gone to pieces. With this album, we know each other’s strengths now, Glenn leaves me to it when it came to the initial sketching out and I’ would work on my own. He’d come in, do an initial bit of production and I’d leave him alone to do that. Then I’d come back in and we’d keep going. We’ve worked out a balance now in the studio. We’ve both come to value the extra bit of honesty you get when you’re working with somebody you’re in a relationship with. It can be painful and the criticism can be harsh, but it is worth it.”
What kind of album is it lyrically? Is there a theme?
“It’s called In This Moment and it’s 12 individual snapshots. They’re moments in time. The idea is for you to be looking through a book of photographs. I didn’t have a theme in mind when I was writing, but listening back to it afterwards, there’s a lot of nature and the real push and pull of our surroundings. I wrote a lot of it by the sea, where I live now and you can see that. There’s a lot of references to rising tides and natural movement.”
It’s an odd time to be releasing a record, isn’t it?
“I had a record store tour planned, which is now a virtual tour. I was really looking forward to playing live again, but everything is naturally on pause.”
Must be frustrating for you…
“It is. These songs have a real organic, live feel and I was so excited to play them. This time has made me reevaluate things and I’ve been doing these attics sessions. Before all this, I don’t think I’d have been comfortable letting people into my house, but I’ve really enjoyed doing them. It’s something I’ll want to keep when I’m allowed to gig again.”