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Amy Macdonald – ‘A Curious Thing’
It’s hard for Amy Macdonald to remember the high point of the two-year period following the release of her 2007 debut This Is The Life. Was it supporting Paul Weller in Holland at the beginning of 2007? ‘He and [guitarist] Steve Cradock were very nice to me and we became friends,’ the singer-songwriter remembers. ‘Then when I headlined Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2008, Paul came along – that was a total thrill.’
Was it winning the Best International Newcomer at Germany’s Echo Awards, beating Duffy, Adele and Gabriella Cilmi? Going five-times platinum in Switzerland? Watching the album’s title track become a Number One single in ten countries? Becoming the biggest selling debut British female since Amy Winehouse in Germany? Performing a triumphant homecoming show on the main stage at Scotland’s T In The Park, the festival she had attended religiously since she was old enough to legally pitch a tent?
Or was it knocking Radiohead’s In Rainbows from the Number One spot in the UK album charts in January 2008? ‘That was just brilliant for me,’ admits the Scottish artist, who was only 19 at the time of the release of This Is The Life (she’s 22 now). ‘The album had hung around the charts all Christmas. It had been out for six months and it had gone to Number Two when it was released. And when it got to Christmas I was just so chuffed that it was anywhere near the Top 20 at that time of year. The week after Christmas it was climbing… On the Friday it was Number Three, a couple of thousand copies behind Take That and then miles away from Radiohead at Number One. But I think I benefited from the Saturday shoppers – mums in Tesco are not gonna buy Radiohead, so I think that’s how I trumped them.’ On hearing the news her first phone call was to her mum. ‘It was just amazing.’
The high point amidst all those peaks? None of the above.
‘I just love performing, and I’m so glad that I’ve established the live side of things,’ she says eagerly of a world tour that continued right up until autumn 2009. ‘That’s the most important thing, especially ‘cause that’s what I remember from when I was younger: after I loved a CD I’d be like, “right, now I want to see this band live.” And now I can’t believe that I’m able to play festivals and clubs all over the world.’
Months, miles, club shows, pub shows, halls, theatres, festivals, encores, second encores: through good old-fashioned gigging, word-of-mouth enthusiasm and constant, overwhelming radio play (notably for the internationally ubiquitous singles Mr Rock and Roll and This Is The Life), Amy Macdonald went from being an unknown teenage Scottish singer-songwriter to international star. Being the ever-restless songwriter she’s been from her early teens, she’s alchemised those experiences into the sound of her second album, A Curious Thing. Big, bold and dramatic. Intimate, tender and touching. It’s Amy Macdonald, full-voiced and rebooted and reenergised, with added hammering piano and a couple of guest spots from Paul Weller.
The album’s title, she explains, is taken from new song No Roots: “this life I lead, it’s a curious thing but I can’t deny the happiness it brings”. It’s a reflection on the strange turns her life has taken in the four years since she signed a record deal.
Not that Macdonald’s singing about the torment of staying in hotels, nor that she’s upped sticks for sunnier swankier climes. Home is still smalltown Scotland, a few miles from Glasgow; inspiration continues to come from her heart; and her preferred creative environment remains the pokey, stuffy and not-a-little-smelly studio in the Surrey home of her manager and producer Pete Wilkinson. ‘It’s the way we do it and the way we’re comfortable and the way we like it,’ she says firmly.
She began writing songs for her second album last spring, in a brief break from her touring commitments. For the first time she began poring through her old notebooks, looking at song ideas – previously she’d sit down to write a song and if it didn’t come straight away, she’d abandon it. Hence the instantly…