Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with Belfast-based songstress Isobel Anderson that ran in the Buig List a few months ago. As they used to say in the 90s-PEEP THIS!
Isobel Anderson Q and A
Continuing our year-long catch-up with some of NI’s latest and greatest acts, this month we meet rising singer/songwriter Isobel Anderson. Enjoy.
Hi Isobel and welcome to the Big List. First up-your second album ‘Dark Path’ is out on Sep 14. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
“Hi Edwin, thank you for having me. The album was recorded at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast and was mixed and mastered by Chris Corrigan, who is the studio manager there and is sort of the godfather of sound in these parts. There’s a real live feel as it was recorded with us playing together as if in a gig, but in the studio. ‘Dark Path’ is more instrumentally dynamic than my first album ‘Cold Water Songs,’ so it was important to keep the energy of our live shows, which can be hard in a studio environment, especially when recording percussion.”
In your opinion, how does it differ from your debut album ‘Cold Water Songs?’
“Before moving to Belfast I had been playing solo for a long time in London, but when I moved there to study, suddenly I had the luxury of having a student’s timetable and lots of musicians in a small city. This meant I started to expand my sound and within about six months of ‘Cold Water Songs’ being released I was regularly playing with Paddy McQueen on cajon and Gascia Ouzounian on violin, so ‘Dark Path’ represents that expansion.
‘Cold Water Songs’ was very much an album that expressed a particular time in my life. Each song is from the 12 months prior and after moving from London to Belfast, so there are very definite themes running throughout. ‘Dark Path’ has more of a variety of styles and sentiments.”
It’s only been a year since you released your debut. How important was (and is) it for you to keep releasing new material?
“I think it’s really important to keep releasing new work. I really loved making ‘Cold Water Songs.’ It was a record I really poured myself into: performing, recording, producing and mixing it myself. Once I was playing with Paddy and Gascia regularly, I started to want to have a record that represented our live sound. So, even though it’s only been a year since releasing ‘Cold Water Songs,’ it feels like ‘Dark Path’ existed long before now and I’m already thinking about the next one. I think once you make one, you get the album bug.”
Influence-wise, what inspired ‘Dark Path?’
“I guess songs like ‘My Love’ and ‘Your Love Is Cruel’ would be very influenced by traditional English Folk, or singers like Sandy Denny or Joan Baez. ‘Let Me Go’ has much more of a country feel to it, whereas ‘The Proposal’ has a real tongue and cheek Jazz influence. Then ‘Resolution’ and ‘Never Enough’ have really syncopated rhythms between the cajon and guitar, giving them almost a sort of flamenco feel. ‘Dark Path’, the title track, is almost like a sort of 40’s crooner ballad in its vocal line, so it’s a real mix of influences really and similarly in terms of the actual ideas and emotions behind the songs. ‘My Love’ is a story of love dying, but resting in limbo, whereas ‘The Proposal’ is a sort of smutty ode to Belfast. It’s pretty diverse!”
What’s your favourite song on the record?
“I think it would have to be ‘Dark Path’. It’s the song I named the album after as it’s probably the one I feel the most affinity with. The chorus line was in my head for years. I kept singing it to myself. One night I sat down in the studio and wrote it and it’s one of those songs where I cried while I was writing it because it felt so raw at the time. A sort of “stop smudging the ink on the page with your tears”, kind of moment. That’s a nice depressing image for all your readers..!”
This year you performed at Glastonbury? How was that?
“Glastonbury was amazing! I was so surprised to get the chance to play. I completely was not expecting it, but it was such a good experience. There was such a great energy in the crowd and the whole festival had a good atmosphere.”
Have you always wanted to play there?
“Yes-I would say most musicians do, so I feel very lucky to have had that experience.”
Finally, what are your plans for the next six months or so?
“Well, I’ll hopefully be booking up some gigs around Ireland and the UK to promote the album. I’ll be playing at Proud in Camden on the 28th of September, which is a really cool venue, so that’ll be a chance to play in London again. I’m also doing a PhD at the moment so I have lots of work to get done for that, and will be making a trip to the States to present some of that work as well as do a couple of gigs hopefully.”
Isobel Anderson performs at the Black Box, Belfast on Sep 14. For more information on her check out www.isobelanderson.com.