Amy Macdonald -The Human Demands – The world is a very different place from the one Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald announced herself to almost 15 years ago. Her debut record, This is the Life, was positively received and she scored a number one spot on the charts in six different countries. This saw Amy’s musical stock rise and she achieved global recognition, leading to a succession of international tours and the release of four subsequent albums as well as a Greatest Hits compilation over the course of the next 10 years.
But as an artist in 2020, it’s impossible to look beyond the “viral” elephant in the room. The live music industry has been one of the sectors hit hardest by COVID-19 in the UK and many venues face the prospect of closing their doors for good.
With the industry in a truly existential crisis it might seem like a strange time for the 33-year-old artist to release a new album, but perhaps more than anything right now, we need our creative icons to lift our spirits. I sat down (virtually) with Amy to chat about her upcoming release The Human Demands and the struggles of keeping creative whilst in isolation.
P: How have you been keeping sane throughout all this craziness?
A: It’s obviously super weird for everyone right now and the lockdown was crazy for me too. I was in the midst of recording this album when they told us we would have to go into lockdown. So, to go from making a record and all the excitement that comes with that, to suddenly being stuck inside the house for three months was a little bit strange. I just did what I could to stay sane – spoke to my friends a lot, watched a lot of Netflix, kept listening to music and tried to stay as fit and healthy as I could. But with the new record coming up I feel like I finally have something to be excited about again.
P: Speaking of things to look forward to, you have a tour coming up next year! How does it feel to think about hitting the road again?
A: I can’t wait. When it’s been so long I think you do have those worries and anxieties – I was even worried about going to the supermarket at first! It was the same when I had to go down to the studio in London; I was pretty nervous about it. But once you’ve done it, you actually feel much better about it. Yes, we’ve got to be incredibly careful, but I think we’ve also got to have something to hope for. For me, for my band, for everyone involved – I needed them to know we had something to work towards.
P: Tell about your time in the studio for recording this album.
A: Well it was really strange going down to London – it felt like a ghost town. My producer and I aren’t from there, so we ended up sleeping in the studio as the hotels were all closed. I mean, I had already written all the songs before I went into the studio, but I was concerned about having a big four-month gap from when we first started recording. But actually, it had a really great impact on it – we’d all been twiddling our thumbs for months so we were all really excited and happy to be making music again – it was the most connection we’d had in months.
P: It’s often said that it’s only when something’s taken away from you that you realize how important it is to you; did you feel that way during the lockdown?
A: Obviously having to stop in the middle [of recording] was a bit disappointing – but all throughout lockdown I spent a lot of time conversing with my fans on social media, and so many of them said how much my music had helped them – even just putting up little performances online. Going back to the studio initially I did feel a bit guilty – I was asking myself “is this essential?”. But when you think about the lockdown, the arts have been one of the most important factors in us getting through it. So I think music is essential.
P: It sounds like you’ve been able to draw some positives from the present situation.
A: Of course you don’t want to look at this as a “positive thing”, but there are some things you can take from it. On the “Human Demands”, the theme running through it is about how we place such ridiculous demands on ourselves and everyone else – we’re expected to be available 24/7, we feel that we can never say no to anything, that if you’re not happy all the time it’s a sign of weakness. So I think what was a good thing about [the lockdown] is that people have realized there’s a better way of doing things. Most people now are aware that people struggle – even more so with COVID – but it’s ok to struggle, it’s ok to say “I’m struggling”, and I’m glad we can talk about it more.
P: I watched the video for “The Hudson” – the song seems very reflective in its tale of two lovers in the Lower East Side. Does that reflective nature replicate your own feelings to yourself? How do you feel after so many years in the industry?
A: I’ve always been a daydreamer – and the song came from a few different avenues. It started with a story that my dad was telling me from when he and my mum got together. They had no plans, no money and they decided to hop on a flight to New York. And I just found it so interesting thinking back to my parents taking all those risks cause I’m just not like that! And it made me think about myself and everyone I know. I think people contemplate over choices they’ve taken and wonder if it’s the right thing to do and if life might have turned out differently if you hadn’t taken that path. And we spend such a great deal of time thinking about it though we’ll never know the answers.
So I was sat at in this particular seat, and I’ve got a picture of New York on the wall and out of nowhere came “The Hudson”. I think it’s a song most people can relate to cause we’ve all been in a place where we’ve been reflective making about our past decisions and even mistakes.