John Davy described Ally MacLeod’s approach as:
“Making poetry out of everyday experience, she builds her songs from familiar situations and has a knack of finding the beauty, the dignity and the poignancy in what might seem mundane experiences.”
(Full Review here) The forthcoming album ,’Astor Place’, is very much rated by those in the know, so we were pleased to hear that Ally had time to talk to us…
From the sleeve notes in the album it seems that a singing career has come as a bit of a surprise to you so how does it feel to be releasing Astor Place?
I’d wanted to be a singer since the age of four but would never have thought I would be good enough to do it for a living. I’d done loads of theatre over the years, working as an actor, and sang in many of those productions but an actual career as a singer songwriter was something that, I thought, was reserved for the immensely talented – the Natalie Merchants and Sarah McLachlans of this world. I’ve written songs since I was a teenager, coming in of the back of writing poetry, and worked with a music producer a few years back on some of my songs but gave up as I just wasn’t getting the right kind of support. So, it’s not so far removed from what I had dreamed of for many years but it is, most definitely, a dream come true. Even when I first started recording with Martin Stephenson, and that was dream enough, we didn’t necessarily have the goal of an album in mind but things started taking shape fairly early on and it became clear that there would be enough good material there for a release. Every step of the process has been so exciting and continues to be that way. Hearing a song that you’ve written being played on the radio is immense and I’m so thrilled to be having the album launch at our much loved Strathpeffer Coffee Shop. To do what you love doing and to do that every day is fantastic and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who has helped along the way.
There is no real secret about the influence of New York on your music, what are the other influences on the album?
Lots of things, really: friendship, love, dreams and dreams going awry, the power of nature, family, conversations I’ve had, conversations I’ve overheard. The song The Blue Kite was inspired by a photograph I found of my brother and me sitting on a park bench and that developed into little memories of him and then I added to that a lovely incident I happened to see on Dornoch beach a couple of years ago. If All the Stars Were Falling is about my Dad and the changing values in the workplace. Strange Comforts is about helping someone who’s in need of a little friendship. We tried to give the album an almost 1960’s feel on some tracks but the sound ranges greatly and could be the Mamas and the Papas meets Portishead in places. There are subtle hints of Americana and country in there too – and some not so subtle.
Is there a track on the album that is particularly resonant for you?
All the songs have their own special meaning to me but my favourite track has to be ‘All the Wild Horses’. The production on that by Martin is completely intoxicating. He’s added a late-night-listening foggy bluesy guitar line which is quite simply exquisite.
How does it feel to have such significant supporters as Martin Stephenson and Rob Ellen?
Their great love of music shines through at all times and their support has meant I’ve been able to turn my life into something much more meaningful. I’m now able to immerse myself in the music on a daily basis and do it with a confidence I never had before. When you get people like Martin and Rob liking what you do you kinda get to thinking you might be on to something. When you know your work is valued there’s a great feeling of being protected and supported. If it wasn’t for Martin and Rob, and also my music partner Donald, I certainly wouldn’t be doing any of this.
What are the next the step in the musical journey for you?
I’m hoping that the album will receive a considerable amount of attention both here and on the continent and it would be great if we could get a good number of gigs out of that. Also, there’s already enough material recorded for a second album so that will be released sometime next year. Last year I got together with Inverness-based musician Donald Forbes and we formed the band Red Hook Rapids and we’ve been gigging round and about for just over a year now. We’ve been very fortunate to have supported a whole host of people – the Lush Rollers, Michael Weston King, the Wynntown Marshals, Suzette Lawrence, a rockabilly gal from Nashville, as well as doing gigs of our own. Donald is a singer songwriter in his own right so we’re able to do his songs, my songs and a good selection of covers at gigs. We’re already working on Red Hook Rapid’s first album which will appear sometime in the spring.
Apart from the forthcoming album launch have you any other forthcoming dates?
We’re going to be concentrating on recording and doing video shoots during December but we’ve got the Market Bar on the 13th of January which we’re hugely looking forward to. There’s a good few other places pencilled in but no definite dates as yet. We’re very fortunate not having any other significant commitments in our lives – it means we can go anywhere, anytime.
Questions by Chris Lemon
Answers by Ally MacLeod
Ally MacLeod’s debut album release ‘Astor Place’ is launched at the Strathpeffer Coffee Shop on the 26th of November from 730pm.