In the Undercurrent

Amy Duncan 

Scottish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Amy Duncan's much anticipated fifth album Undercurrents comes out in February 2016. We caught up with Amy to find out more about the album and what's next for her.

Your fifth album Undercurrents is due for release in February 2016, what can listeners expect?

There are 12 songs, featuring my long term collaborator Fiona Rutherford on harp, bassist Lawrie MacMillan (Stiltskin, Ray Wilson), drums by Liam Bradley (Van Morrison, Ronan Keating) and Scottish Chamber Orchestra musicians; Sijie Chen (violin), Jane Atkins (viola) and Donald Gillan (cello). I have written the string arrangements and I also play acoustic and electric guitars, piano and double bass on the album.

The musical style is somewhere to the left of folk-pop with rich string arrangements, gorgeous harp and bass, and interesting drums and percussion. You will find emotional songs exploring themes of mental health, dissociation and hallucinatory experiences; self-acceptance and letting go to the flow of emotions to find real love and connection.

You can hear the two singles from the album The Good Life and Different Dimensions and receive an instant download of these songs through my Pledge Project.

You’ve worked with world class Producer Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile,
Prefab Sprout) on the new album, how does this change the recording process?

Before working with Calum I recorded my songs at home, producing my first three albums. I found the process of producing my own music rewarding, but my lack of technical knowledge gave me the sense I was not achieving my full potential.

It was great to work with a producer and to be freed from my tangle of cables and general technical confusion! It was also great to have someone that I trust steering the sessions, and to know that the sound quality was going to be excellent. All I had to worry about was the arrangements and getting the performance right.

I was worried that I might feel out of control working with a producer, but Calum didn’t ever take over and my musical ideas were respected. As a result I was able to be open to his ideas and I think it all went really well. I thoroughly enjoyed the process!

Undercurrents album artwork 

Undercurrents is the follow up to Cycles of Life, how have things developed for you from album to album?

I feel that my songwriting has strengthened, and I am more confident within myself generally, which comes across in the music. So I would say Undercurrents is bolder and has more variation in mood with more involved string arrangements. I love hearing Fiona Rutherford’s harp more prominently.

For me her parts bring so much harmony and emotion to the music and I always feel so lucky that she plays harp with me! For the first time I am not playing all my own bass parts on the album. Lawrie Macmillan plays bass on six of the tracks, and I love the fluidity of his playing, and how he always intuitively creates the right part for the song. It has been good for me to let go of my bass playing a bit, and be more open to collaboration.

What inspires and influences your songwriting, and has this changed as your back catalogue has grown?

My main inspiration has always been life and emotions and I always write from my own experiences. Songwriting has been a very useful way of making sense of life, and is a vehicle for self-reflection. It helps me to think more deeply, finding acceptance, and new more positive ways of looking at things. I don’t listen to my back catalogue very often, but I know what I have already said, and I try not to repeat myself!

What’s next for you, will there be a chance to hear the new album live?

I am currently planning a tour for 2016 so there will be lots of chances to hear the songs live!

On 6 February there is a great chance to hear the Undercurrents vinyl being played on a crystal clear audio system ahead of the release, at Loud & Clear HiFi Edinburgh. Tickets are available through my Pledge Music page, where I am currently raising funds for promotion and to have the CD and vinyl pressed.

The official release date is 19 February, and the Edinburgh album launch party is at The Voodoo Rooms on 25 February, and everyone involved in the Pledge Music project gets free entry! It’s going to be a great night with live music and DJs afterwards.

I’m really looking forward to sharing the album with everyone!

Photo Credit John Need. 

Amy Duncan received funding through Creative Scotland's Open Project Fund for the recording of Undercurrents.

This article was published on 20 Nov 2015