With her latest album Under Stars propelling her onto playlists around the country, Amy Macdonald is getting ready to open her tour in Bristol’s Colston Hall, a decade after she first plied her trade in The Fleece on St Thomas St. We talked to the songstress about celebrity, positivity and why she’ll always feel more at home in the studio.
When journalists would ask Amy Macdonald in 2007 – following the release of her debut album, This Is the Life – what she hoped to be doing in a decade, her answer was always the same: “If I’m doing this job in 10 years, I’ll be happy.” But not only is the talented 29-year-old still pursuing her dream vocation, she is flying high as one of Scotland’s biggest music stars with a new album, Under Stars, and a fast-selling UK tour which kicks off at Bristol’s Colston Hall.
The Glaswegian is a breed of popstar that feels sadly rare now. Self-made and an accomplished musician, performer and songwriter, Macdonald eschews late nights in clubs – she’d rather be holed up in a studio. Much of her career success appears to be down to her sheer determination to stay true to herself, never cutting corners creatively – Under Stars took two-and-a-half years to make – and she abhors idleness, once referring to X Factor winner Leon Jackson’s tonsillitis as ‘lazyitis’ after he pulled out of a Hogmanay concert in Edinburgh, as she performed a similar concert in Glasgow while suffering the same illness.
“People think that becoming successful means you are suddenly unapproachable, but I’ve never seen myself as any different from anyone, and I never will,” says Macdonald firmly. “I’ve always avoided celebrity culture, which is much easier up in Glasgow where we don’t really have one, because I think that when you’re an artist it takes the attention away from your music.”
A lucky few may recall going to Macdonald’s first Bristol gig at The Fleece when she first started out. Though hardly considered a ‘sweat and sawdust’ joint, the venue’s illustrious indie heritage – having hosted the likes of PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley and Oasis – made it the perfect setting for this feisty young Scottish upstart as she strutted, guitar in hand and belted out her stonking single, Poison Prince. A decade later, Macdonald looks barely a day older, but she’s grown: greater confidence, a bigger set list and a sleeker wardrobe (though she still relies on her trademark leather trousers) making her graduation from this 450-capacity venue to Colston Hall’s 2,000-plus feel richly deserved.
A powerhouse of positivity, Macdonald leaves the songs about heartbreak to her peers, preferring to focus on upbeat messages and stories. Her latest anthem, Dream On, is no exception as she roars: “I’m on top of the world and I’m on the right track, I’m on top of the world and I won’t look back” atop a jangly chorus of guitars. The reaction to the new single has been enormously positive, though Macdonald admits that with a five-year break since releasing her last album Life in a Beautiful Light, she did have reservations. “I had a lot of people who said they were really looking forward to the new record, which was fantastic, but until they’ve actually heard it how can you really know?” muses the songstress.
In the fickle world of pop, sometimes it pays to stick to what you know, and by expanding her scope thematically – but maintaining her rootsy, folk/rock sound – Macdonald looks set to expand on her loyal fan base rather than alienate it. That she hasn’t kicked back against the style that drew concertgoers of an older age – though the skulls newly tattooed up her arm do suggest some rebellion – is further proof she has her head screwed on.
“During the recording process I was thinking about how I couldn’t wait to share these songs with my fans, but I do also think there is a lot in this album for new listeners as well,” she explains. “It was also important to resist rushing the process, something which is genuinely difficult when everything feels so throwaway these days. So, I was patient and I think the result is something I’m enormously proud of.”
The UK tour may only last for a few weeks, but this rocker has no plans to take the summer off, with the rest of the year already booked up with European gigs and festivals. But regardless of records sold, or acclaim garnered, Macdonald loves nothing better than heading back to Scotland, where she says she is ‘calmest and happiest’. So that only leaves the question of what she imagines her life will be like in another 10 years… “I don’t know!” exclaims the star. “I suppose I’ll have to think of something else to say.”
Amy plays the Bristol Colston Hall on 28th March, the first UK date on a European tour schedule that continues right through to the summer festival season.