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Amy Macdonald —The Human Demands: Glasgow Music Walking Tour Blog

This time last year, Amy Macdonald was preparing to record her fifth album, The Human Demands, probably fairly secure in the knowledge that she would have another hit on her hands, such is her avid fanbase.

Recording commenced at the start of 2020, then a certain pesky virus reared its head and Macdonald found herself twiddling her thumbs at home in Glasgow rather than touring globally.

Photo by Richard Dekker

Since the spring lockdown, she has completed her album with Adele/Arctic Monkeys producer Jim Abbiss at the helm, released it to a warm reception and familiarised herself with the livestreamed acoustic gig and online promotional trail.

Only last weekend she performed at the virtual Scottish Music Awards where she picked up the inaugural Women in Music Award – another trophy for the heaving cabinet of one of Scotland’s most successful music exports.

We were delighted to grab some time with Amy to discuss a “crazy” 2020, starting with her thoughts…

On entering lockdown

Because I was in the middle of recording my album, there wasn’t much I could do without being in the studio. It was a bit of a nothing period. I did a few acoustic things, and interacted with my fans on social media as much as I could but I didn’t really do anything particularly meaningful.

It was just as uncertain for me as for everyone else but I can’t really complain. I heard a great quote that summed everything up, that we’re all facing the same storm but we’re not all in the same boat, and I think that is a perfect analogy. Yes, it’s scary and strange and difficult but I have a roof over my head and I’m healthy. I’m sure it’s easier for me than for others but I don’t think it’s particularly enjoyable for most people.

On recording and releasing an album during a pandemic

In all honesty, it was a bit shit. It’s difficult enough bringing an album out, with the constant anxiety and worry and nerves but add the pandemic into the mix and everything is heightened so it’s been a bit of a weird situation that I would hopefully not want to repeat again.

Getting back into the studio was amazing. Myself and my producer Jim [Abbiss], all the musicians, we were just so happy to have something to focus on again because we’d all been in this kind of limbo so to be able to get back together, make the music again, and put everything into the album was amazing for us. At the start, myself and Jim were living in the recording studio because there were no hotels open so we were in there 24 hours a day and it was quite intense but after the crazy four months we’d had at home it was nice to have a purpose again.

I have so much faith in it as a record. I think it’s meaningful, it’s got depth and it just sounds wonderful.

On the inspiration for The Human Demands

I’ve got to a point in my life where I’m getting quite reflective and taking stock of everything that’s happened cos it has been crazy. I signed my first record deal at seventeen and I’ve not known anything other than music since. My entire adult life has been in this industry. But also when you get to your thirties your social life changes quite dramatically. Your friends get married, you get married, your friends are all having children and the life you had in your twenties has kind of gone. You see your parents are starting to get older and the worries that you have start to change, and the things that you realise are important in life start to change and I think that’s all something that was happening to me in the time when I was writing this album.

On writing a rare love song

Fire was the first song I wrote after I got married [to Partick Thistle footballer Richard Foster]. I wasn’t trying to write anything in particular and that’s what came out and afterwards I realised that it was clearly a song about that, and that’s not something I’m used to doing. I’m not an overtly romantic person that writes all these love songs, it’s just not really me, so that was a bit strange.

On winning the Women in Music Award

We have to have awards that specifically recognise women because it still isn’t an equal playing field and that’s across the board unfortunately in every single part of the industry.

Festivals get a lot of stick for not having a lot of women headliners or in the line-up but I don’t think it’s just down to them. If you go into a recording studio, it’s strange to see women working in there. I think radio play, TV support, streaming support, it all needs to come on board so we can get to the point where there are loads of great, exciting new young females breaking through. Because right now it’s still incredibly difficult for them and if they don’t hear other girls rocking on the radio then they don’t really feel inspired to do it, so there needs to be a collective effort from every corner of the industry to start getting to a point where there are loads of females prominent doing their thing. I think we’re still a long way off that.

On her “new normal”

I hate when people say that! Life for me at the moment is probably similar to most people. I get up, try and do my exercises and sit in front of my laptop on Zoom – granted, I’m doing interviews, but that’s life for me. It’s the same as everybody else, trying to get on with it, trying to be as upbeat as possible, and trying to stick to a routine as much as I can.

 On her (lack of) Christmas plans

I haven’t even thought about it. Usually I’m so organised. I’m in there with the food order on the supermarket but I haven’t done any of that this year because it doesn’t feel that warranted. It feels like this year has become such a nothing year that there’s not really any excitement about anything. I’m hoping for it to fast forward and get to the spring and hopefully we find ourselves in a more positive place.

On her (hopeful) plans for 2021

I’ve got this tour booked for the end of April so I’m just crossing my fingers that that happens. For me, an ideal 2021 would be that that could go ahead and through the summer I could get out to festivals and start playing the album live and being able to connect with people again, being able to travel with my band again and have that bit of normality back. I’ll never take it for granted. I said to my manager that I would never complain about an early morning flight ever again! What I would give to be on a crack-of-dawn Ryanair – something I never thought I’d say. I’ll be absolutely buzzing for my 4am lobby call…

The Human Demands is out now on Infectious Records