Amy Macdonald Bio 2012
Macdonald lives a life that’s ordinary in every way but one. The 24 year old
has sold over four million albums, conquered Europe
and won countless awards. Yet when she arrives at a restaurant in Glasgow to discuss her
glorious new album, Life In A Beautiful Light, no one bats an eyelid. Which is
precisely how she likes it.
has been famous since the age of 18, when she burst in to the charts with a
debut album, This Is The Life, that bore the hallmarks of her homeland. Rootsy
folk-rock might describe it, or just gutsy pop played on real instruments.
There were no tricks or trying to keep up with trends. Live, Macdonald didn’t
need dancers, props or expensive light shows. Her image was as honest as her
songs, in which real tales of real lives became stomping singalongs.
years on, Macdonald insists that little has changed. She looks sleeker and
dresses smarter, she has bought her own home and the band with which she toured
non-stop until the end of 2010 feels like a second family. But when it comes to
her job as a songwriter, Macdonald remains a simple storyteller, albeit one
with an ear for a magnificent melody and a striking way with words.
year, for the first time since she signed a deal aged 17, Macdonald took a
break. She didn’t travel the world looking for inspiration – there was one
holiday to Dubai,
but she got food poisoning on the plane out. She didn’t hang out with other
successful singers – she has always hated the celebrity scene. She didn’t have
a devastating break-up, fall head over heels in love or spend her days
soul-searching. Instead, she had fun with friends, pursued her hobby of racing
cars and hung out at home listening to the radio and watching the news on TV.
was lovely to have a year off,” says Macdonald. “There was no pressure.
Whenever an idea popped in to my head, I would get out my guitar and press play
on my Mac Book. I wrote A Curious Thing [her second album, released in 2010]
while touring the This Is The Life. There was no time off because my debut
started selling across Europe – first the Netherlands,
then Germany, Poland, Switzerland,
It was incredible, but I felt under pressure to rush out a second album. This
time, it was a much more natural process.”
songs for Life In A Beautiful Light were begun before the break. Heady,
air-punching anthem In The End, which closes the album, was written at the tail
end of Macdonald’s last tour, when she found herself questioning whether being
a musician was a worthwhile occupation.
very rare that I write about myself,” she laughs. “But that song is me
pondering what I’m doing with my life. My sister’s a doctor, she helps people
every day. Do I help people? I thought about it and realised that making music
is a contribution. I get so many letters from fans saying they feel better when
they listen to my songs. So I’m not as bad as I thought!”
other was the sprightly, strings-soaked Human Spirit, which Macdonald wrote about
the Chilean miners’ nail-biting rescue.
could you not be inspired by that story?” she says. “I felt compelled to write
about it. I’ve always been a narrative songwriter, inspired by actual events.
Every human emotion was etched on the faces of those miners’ families. I went
through most of them myself.”
great gift is not only to capture those emotions in song, but to describe real
events in a way that relates to the lives of her fans, be they in Britain
or abroad, where her honesty and earthiness has won her armies of fans and seen
her sell out stadiums. Life In A Beautiful Light does precisely what the title
suggests – it’s a life-affirming set of songs steeped in optimism. Hope seeps
from the majestic, shimmering Across The Nile, a song inspired by Egyptians
celebrating the recent downfall of President Mubarak. Joy drives the raucous,
rollicking 4th Of July, on which Macdonald recalls a childhood trip
to New York
with her family on Independence Day.
“I was watching the 10th
anniversary of 9/11 on the news late last year,” recalls Macdonald. “I’m a very
emotional person, I could cry at anything. But what I remember about my first
visit to New York
was watching the fireworks and feeling incredibly happy. So much bad has
happened to the city since, but it’s still an amazing place. I wanted to write
an upbeat song to celebrate New York.”
lifelong Rangers fan, Macdonald was twice inspired by football. The Green And
The Blue, which features football crowd chants, is an optimistic ode to the
rivalry between Celtic and Rangers.
is a big part of my life, of anyone’s who lives in this city,” says Macdonald.
“I have friends who support both teams, all of whom get on. I wanted to say
that there is a positive side to the rivalry, not just the bad that folk always
is a classic Macdonald track that 50,000 Scottish football fans will claim as
their own. It could be an anthem for the Olympics, but in fact it was
penned about the singer performing at Hampden Park.
“I’ve been asked loads of
times to sing for the Scotland
team,” says Macdonald. “I did the whole campaign for the European qualifiers.
It’s an amazing feeling, so emotional, but I never get nervous. There are
50,000 people singing and you are leading them, literally covered in goose
bumps. It’s an honour.”
Heart breaking ballad
Left That Body Long Ago deals with the devastating disease Alzheimers, from
which MacDonald’s gran suffered before her death a decade ago.
“When my nan was still
alive, my mum would always say, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not your nan anymore, she’s
left that body’. That made it easier for me to deal with. So many of my friends
now have relatives with the disease. I wrote the song for them, because it
might help. One of them burst in to tears when they heard it. They knew exactly
what it was about.”
Revealing the stories behind
the songs is typical of Macdonald. She doesn’t want to be oblique, to appear
mysterious. She’ll happily admit that album opener Slow It Down is about
nothing more meaningful than her being a petrol head.
“I’ve done track days at
Silverstone and at Mercedes Benz World in Surrey,”
she says. “I adore fast cars. I’m addicted to Top Gear. My aim is to get a
The 24 year old is as
full of life as her songs, or perhaps her songs simply reflect her own
happiness. She has never felt better about being a singer, and never sung
better. Her fans will notice her range on this record – there are songs, such
as bluesy, strings and brass-backed belter The Game, that she couldn’t have
attempted in her teens.
“I’ve definitely grown in
to my voice,” she agrees. “My range has gone crazy, probably from all the
touring and singing every night. My voice is much more powerful and I can
control it a lot more. I never get sore throats. I can sing higher songs and
hit lower notes.
“The Game is a song I
wouldn’t have tried to sing when I started out. I didn’t actually write it for
myself. During my year off, I was asked to write for several other artists –
one of them Susan Boyle. When I recorded The Game, I said ‘I am Susan Boyle’
and just went for it. It’s a different style of song for me, but everyone who
heard it insisted I include it. It’s a real gets-you-in-the-guts number.”
Life In A Beautiful Light
was recorded in two sessions in Surrey last
year with Macdonald’s longtime producer Pete Wilkinson. There are no co-writes
and no guests - her live band and a few other musicians provide the backing.
Earlier this year, the album was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, who worked on
“It’s always good to have
a man who mixes Bruce Springsteen,” says Macdonald, a Springsteen devotee, who
now also counts Noah & The Whale and Lana Del Ray among her iPod
favourites. “Bob was such a fan that he sent me over all this equipment -
brilliant mics, software and stuff. But I’m such a technophobe, I have no idea
how to use them.
“I like the simple life.
I like songs you can sing along to, songs that say something. Oh, and racing
cars. And running in the sunshine, listening to great music. Although living in
usually running in the rain.”