Amy Macdonald: I can’t think of any other female artist who is sounding like me right now

Aged 33 and perhaps at her most mature as a songwriter, Amy Macdonald is looking for inspiration in the most unlikely of places: the sweaty, teenage indie disco.

The Scottish singer drafted in Jim Abbiss, the British producer behind some of the music that defined the Noughties, for her most recent and fifth album, The Human Demands.

The record itself, however, has been compared more to Bruce Springsteen than Brandon Flowers.

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“I have never tried to sound a particular way or fit in to a certain style because it wouldn’t feel authentic to me,” Macdonald explains from her home outside Glasgow.

“It’s not who I am. But I think it really helped working with Jim.

“He is somebody I was aware of from when I was growing up, listening to albums he had a hand in making – the Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, all these bands.

“I used to spend my teenage years with my friends down at the rock clubs dancing to all this kind of music, so for me it was really exciting to work with him.

“He brought something really interesting to the music.”

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Macdonald, best known to the public for folkier efforts like This Is The Life and Mr Rock & Roll, admits they make an “unusual pairing”.

She has matured much since her chart-topping debut This is the Life in 2007, becoming a Scottish national treasure and an artist with more than six million album sales to their name.

This is reflected in her enigmatically titled new album, which encapsulates “the ridiculous pressures we put on not only ourselves but on each other”.

Like Springsteen, who she says inspired the album alongside the American synthpop band Future Islands, Macdonald sings of everyday people with a drama and hopefulness not normally heard in rock music.

“I am absolutely thrilled with how the album sounds,” enthuses Macdonald, who married Partick Thistle footballer Richard Foster two years ago.

“I can’t think of any other female artist who is sounding like me right now.

“It just feels exciting and it feels new.

“It feels a bit different and it is something I am really, really, proud of.”

The Human Demands tackles a variety of personal issues – ageing, depression, real love – but is not entirely autobiographical.

While songs like The Hudson recall her parents’ trips to New York in the 1970s, she looked to her friends and strangers to inspire other tracks.

“Life can be hard,” she says.

“It isn’t straightforward and it isn’t always rosy, and sometimes we act like it is.

“I wish we would maybe slow down a little bit, take time to ask each other how we are doing and realise that everybody is fighting their own little battles.”

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The title track itself was inspired by a friend’s experiences of poor mental health.

“A close friend of mine has struggled in their life over the past fews years.

“It was taking what they have been going through and realising that there are so many people who go through similar things.

“The more we talk about it and the more we make it normal then the easier it will be for people.”

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Like many recording artists, Macdonald’s work has been disrupted by Covid-19.

Most of The Human Demands was written before “coronavirus” was even a buzzword on Twitter.

Yet the onset of lockdown split the recording process in two.

Macdonald contends that her enthusiasm upon returning to the studio is audible in the finished product.

“There’s nothing directly about this situation (in the album) but there are a lot of songs about life and the highs and lows, and the ups and downs, and everything in between.

“There are definitely tracks that feel extremely pertinent now. If you didn’t know better you might assume they were written about this situation.

“I tried to stay away from writing songs about being on the road and being on tour because it’s really not that interesting for most people,” she adds matter-of-factly.

Despite “the road” being a distant prospect currently, Macdonald knows she is better off than many of her friends in the music industry: the self-employed technician, the up-and-coming musician.

In November, she launched 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 crew who work behind the scenes.

Close friends have been forced to look elsewhere for work during the pandemic, she explains, at Covid-19 testing centres, supermarkets and Argos.

She is riled by the Government’s suggestion live music jobs will not be viable in the future.

“Is that where we really are where we are now saying that there will never be music, there will never be theatre and that the arts are just going to disappear? That to me just feels a bit crazy.

“It’s doing everything you can to further yourself because it’s hard. It can be hard to get started in it. For me it has been horrible to watch and see people I know struggling.”

Also audible in her voice is the distance between the teenager who on a whim answered a songwriter’s add in the NME and the technically gifted songwriter of today.

“When my first album came out it was a whirlwind,” she recalls.

“If you think I was 19 years old. I never really knew what I was doing.

“I still don’t think I know what I am doing.

“But I just went with the flow and my album came out.

“It was a ridiculous success.

“You think, ‘Oh that’s what happens, you put these songs out and they do really well’.

“I now know that that is not what happens. It takes an immense amount of work behind the scenes and out front to make anything happen these days.

“The lesson I have tried to learn is not take things too much to heart because it can be such a s***ty industry.

“Sometimes you can be treated like absolute crap from whoever.

“It’s hard not to take it personally sometimes. I think I have tried to learn not to take things to heart so much. But it’s easier said that done.”

The Human Demands by Amy Macdonald is out now.

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