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Amy Macdonald searches for inspiration in the most unlikely of areas at 33 years old and maybe at her most mature as a songwriter: the sweaty teenage indie disco.
The Scottish singer recruited producer Jim Abbiss, who made his mark on Noughties pop, for her new and fifth album, The Human Demands.
However, the album itself was more comparable to Bruce Springsteen than to Brandon Flowers.
“I’ve never tried to sound a certain way or fit into a certain style because that wouldn’t feel authentic to me,” Macdonald says from her home outside Glasgow.
“That’s not who I am, but I think working with Jim really helped.
He’s someone I met growing up listening to albums he’s been associated with—the Arctic Monkeys, the Kasabians, all of those artists, all of them.
“I spent my teenage years in the rock clubs with my friends, dancing to that kind of music, so it was really exciting for me to work with him,” he said.
“He brought something really interesting to the music.”
Macdonald, who is best known for folk works such as This Is The Life and Mr. Rock & Roll to audiences, acknowledges that they are a “unusual pairing.”
She has matured greatly since her chart-topping 2007 debut, This is the Life, becoming a Scottish national treasure and an artist with more than six million albums sold.
“the ridiculous pressure we put not only on ourselves, but on others.”the ridiculous pressure we put on others, not only ourselves.
Macdonald sings about ordinary people with a drama and hopelessness not normally heard in rock music, much like Springsteen, who she says influenced the album along with American synthpop band Future Islands.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with how the album sounds,”I’m absolutely happy with how the album sounds.
I can’t think of another female artist who, right now, sounds like me.
“It just feels fresh and exciting.
“It feels a little different and it’s something I’m really, really proud of.”
The Human Demands address a number of personal concerns – aging, grief, true love – but are not entirely autobiographical.
While songs like The Hudson remember the trips of her parents to New York in the 1970s, on other tracks, she took inspiration from friends and strangers.
“Life can be hard,” she says.
It’s not easy and it’s not always rosy, and we claim to be rosy sometimes.
“I wish maybe we’d slow down a little bit, take the time to ask each other how we’re doing, and realize we’re each fighting our own little battles.”
A friend’s struggle with poor mental health influenced the title track itself.
“A close friend of mine has been struggling with his life over the last few years,” he says.
“It was about processing what they went through and realizing that there are so many people going through similar things,” he said.
“The more we talk about it and the more we make it the norm, the easier it becomes for people.”
Macdonald’s work, like many recording artists, was disrupted by Covid-19.
Before ‘coronavirus’ was even a buzzword on Twitter, most of The Human Demands were posted.
Still, the beginning of the lockdown separated the method of recording into two.
In the finished product, Macdonald states that their enthusiasm is audible upon returning to the studio.
“There’s nothing directly about that situation (in the album), but there are a lot of songs about life and the ups and downs, and the ups and downs, and everything in between,” she says.
“There are certainly tracks that right now sound incredibly important. If you didn’t know better, you could believe that this situation was written about.
“I tried not to write songs about being on the road and touring because that’s really not that interesting to most people,” she adds matter-of-factly.
Although “the road” is a long way off at the moment, Macdonald knows she’s better off than many of her friends in the music industry: the self-employed technician, the aspiring musician.
In November, she unveiled her album with a live-streamed concert from an audience-less Mildmay Club in London in aid of the We Make Events campaign, which supports the crew working behind the scenes.
Close friends, she said, had been forced to stay elsewhere during the pandemic