Amy Macdonald is one of Glasgow’s much loved assets, having graced our airwaves for more than a decade.
With her newest album, The Human Demands, released at the end of October, Amy will be performing live for Scottish Music Awards tonight.
An awards show like no other, Amy will be playing alongside Biffy Clyro, Lewis Capaldi, Wet Wet Wet and others to raising urgent funds for Nordoff Robbins music therapy charity.
We caught up with Amy – who has been nominated for the Women in Music Award – to find out her thoughts ahead of the big night.
So Amy, you’ve had a really busy lockdown, have you not?
The first lockdown wasn’t so busy – once we started to get out of it I was able to get back in the studio and finish off this record. It was brilliant, just having music to focus on again and something to work towards after such a quiet down-time. It was really nice, and I felt very lucky that I was able to do that.
(Image: Roger Dekker)
Had you always known in those months of lockdown that you’d be hitting the ground running when you came out?
We were half way through the album when we went into lockdown. I’d recorded half the album, then we had four months. When we were able to get back into the studio again, I didn’t know if the album would even be released, but it made sense to get back into finishing the record rather than leaving it halfway.
Did the album change when you returned to it after four months of lockdown? Did you feel differently towards the music?
I was worried that it would hamper the creativity process. Myself, my producer Jim and other musicians were in a really great place and we were thrilled with how it was turning it out. We were in the middle. When we stopped it was strange but actually, getting back into the studio again, seeing each other again and being able to work towards something again made us so insanely happy. I think that subconsciously, it gave us an extra push, and I think there was a wee bit more welly in the end because we were so excited to be back there.
You’ve been in the industry for so long now and COVID-19 has been one of the most disruptive things to happen to the industry of late. Could you share your thoughts on what you think the impact of COVID has been, not only on your career, but on the careers of other musicians across the country?
This has had a massive impact on every industry going, it’s not unique to music, but obviously this being my industry is the only one I can talk about. It was talking to my concert agent and she was saying I’d love to be able to make a plan for something – but I just can’t plan anything. We had a heart to heart, and I was worried about what was going to happen. She reassured me that I wasn’t alone – every single artist she had spoken to had the same worry. Every person has the same affect in one way or another. We just don’t know what’s going to happen. We can sit and worry but as everyone is facing the same uncertainties and unknown – it can be a comfort. We’re all just trying our best.
You’ve been raising money for We Make Events this month: how did that come about?
I just wanted to do something. I have so many friends in events, loads of crew, people I’ve worked with over the years who are self-employed and so many of them have been forgotten, or treated like s**t – they’ve been told they should retrain, that their job isn’t really important. To me, it leaves such a bad taste in your mouth. These people are the lifeblood of the events industry. There wouldn’t be events without them. People don’t think of these people when they think of events, they think of the artists and things like that – that we’ll be okay. The majority of them will be okay but this isn’t really about the artists, it’s about the people that work the arse off in the background to make these events happen. When I was thinking of what I could do, I thought about doing a live stream. Thankfully there have been charities and organisations, ones like We Make Events, who have started to help them so I connected with them and it was all I could do to help out.
Talking about causes, you’re about to play at the Scottish Music Awards, who raise money for the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. Does that charity mean a lot to you?
I worked with Nordoff Robbins at the beginning of my career and it’s something that’s amazing – it shows how powerful music can be and the impact it can have on their lives, that it can help them function better.
To me, it’s always a pleasure to lend my support. People that work there and in similar charities work so, so hard to help others 24/7. This year has been way more challenging and it’s impacted the way they work and fundraise so this Music Awards will be the most important one yet. It was a no brainer that I’d be lending my support. It’s a privilege to help them.
How do you feel after being nominated for the Woman in Music event?
I didn’t even know that I was nominated, I just was expecting to do my performance! It’s about the charity and the performance for me. Its always lovely – to me the most important reward is putting your record out and your fans liking it. To me, that’s the most important part – it’s nice to be recognised in the industry, of course, and getting a bit of a pat on the back.
What’s been the most memorable part of making your new record, The Human Demands?
It’s probably always going to be the most memorable record I’ve ever made, with the backdrop of this year. I joked to my producer that it doesn’t matter about what ever has come before or after but this will be the one I’ll always remember, and we did have a laugh about that. I think it’s had to be the fun I had in the studio. Even though everything was going mad on the outside, I will always look back on that time with such fond memories. we laughed 24/7. Jim and the musicians and I just clicked and felt like an amazing team. It was the most fun I’ve had making a record. I’m so proud of how it turned out and I feel so lucky to have worked with the amazing people I did -I’m so fortunate to get to work with people like Jim. They’re lovely human beings as well so I’m just very grateful that I got to spend that time with them and it’ll always be there in my happy memories. I spend most of the days crying with laughter. Making these connections with people, with everything that’s happened this year, makes everything feel more solid.
(Image: Media Scotland)
The album tackles themes of love and also ageing, and getting older. Where did the inspiration come for that?
It’s a reflective album, I feel like I’m at a point in my life and career where I’m taking stock of everything that’s happened and what’s to come. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and i’ve kept going. It’s not an industry where you get the luxury to do that so I’m fortunate there are a lot of people who like what I’m doing and I’m grateful for that support. I sing about getting older, and people tell me that I’m not old but in the industry things move quickly. Every month is always about the next young, hip artists and that’s what every year’s about. Every year that passes you can start to feel like furniture and you can feel old before your time because people seem to want the new. It’s difficult sometimes to keep ups with that and you can feel like you’re treading water to keep yourself afloat. That’s where that aspect of it comes down to. Also, when you hit your 30s, social circumstances change. Your friends get married and have kids and life isn’t so carefree as it was. From a writer’s point of view there is a point where it changes quite dramatically. Those ideas are behind the songs. It’s about life and the ups and downs and everything in between.
The music industry does seem more than anywhere else to be a trendy place, looking for the new trends. Do you feel that can be the case?
Yeah, it does feel like it’s a constant whirlwind. You don’t have time to catch your breath and you can’t jump off because it’ll be impossible to get back on. That can be quite hard, you’re constantly having to prove yourself and you keep having to try. There is no middle ground – you have the new, young emerging artist, and then the older, successful legends. There isn’t really space between and if you aren’t one or the other then you have to work extra hard to get yourself out there.
Looking back to when you started, has the industry changed since you’ve started?
I think it has changed beyond recognition. Even when I signed my contract, everyone at the label was saying it was crazy that they were signing me from an advert in a magazine because it didn’t happen like that. At that point, it was all about myspace and that was how they were being discovered. Now it’s more of the same – youtube, or Instagram, performance art schools. I think it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for artists to break through just doing their thing. It’s a shame – some of the best artists and bands started from scratch and I’m not sure that happens so much these days.
Who will get signed first – the person busking on the street or the person making music in their rooms and putting it online?
Probably the person making the music online which is crazy to me because for me the most important part of what I do is live performance. You won’t ever get that experience not performing or staying in your room, I think you need to get out and meet other people and that’s the thing that was the best part about how I got signed. I wasn’t stressed about performing in front of people because I’d done it. I’d done open nights and as many gigs as I could and that was the side I was most comfortable with. That’s what a lot of people struggle with: they don’t get the exposure to that early on enough, so they go stiff in the spotlight, having not had the time to get used to it. The most important part is being comfortable doing your thing. Performing live is how you improve yourself, I mean, how many people do we know that sound great on the CD and then it goes awful when they’re live? To me, I want to see someone performing live and they sound better than they do on the CD. That’s what my experience has always been, with the artists I’ve loved and grown up listening to.
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What’s your advice to young female artists in Glasgow now who are looking to forge a career like yours?
The live side – it’s impossible to perform right now, obviously, but when we get our lives back – do as many gigs as you can. You can start off doing something so small where people aren’t even listening but to me that experience is invaluable. I think it’s why I’m still going. My live shows are the strongest part of what I do and it’s what I’ve always focused on and I’m very grateful I’ve got that experience at a young age – it’s helped me immensely.
Amy’s album The Human Demands is out now. Stream her performance live on Nordoff Robbin’s Facebook, Youtube and Website: @NordoffRobbins.