Siobhan Wilson is one of those incredible rising talents that I discovered a while ago by chance. From the outset I was immediately taken aback by her adaptability across an array of instrumentation – vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, cello and piano. Her last album There Are No Saints earned her an nomination for the coveted Scottish Album of The Year award last year and although she missed out on the coveted price, it inspired her to get back in the studio to record and release The Departure under her own record label. In short, I love the way she goes about creating music and The Departureis a brilliant follow-up to There Are No Saints. Ideas of ‘identity and independence’ are strewed throughout the album with plenty of her signature fuzzed out guitar, folky elements and much more, all set against her hauntingly beautiful vocals.
It wasn’t long after The Departure was released I knew I had to try and chat with Siobhan again, so I reached out hoping to catch her at an opportunistic moment in between preparation for her forthcoming North American tour. As luck would have it we recently talked briefly about her new album, the power of fandom and her independent new record label.
Siobhan, a lot has happened since we last touched base. There Are No Saints was nominated for a SAY Award, you toured with The Proclaimers and continued to write and juggle studying your master degree in film music composition. You are definitely not one who takes a back seat to life?
By the end of my life I might have been called many things, but lazy will never be one of them.
During that period was it difficult keeping on track your vision for your new album The Departure with so many things going on around you?
No! Writing music is always the core of my existence and eclipses everything else. It’s true that I take a lot on, but I’m only alive once and I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I know what it’s like to not be able to do anything in a day, so I tend to fill my days full of cool things whenever I can. When you enjoy what you work on, it doesn’t feel hard either.
Your new album is a first for you in terms of it being released under your new label. Congratulations. What were some of the challenges you face initially getting it started? And what was the motivational factor that made you start your own label?
Suffering Fools Records is something I’m really proud of. It grows alongside everything else I do. The artists are always portrayed as suffering but really it’s a bit of everyone on every side of the industry who is. It’s a play on words like, oh god I’m starting a label it’s me the fool. I’ve been releasing in different ways over the last ten years and understanding the world as I go. There are big labels and small ones – SufRecords is small and efficient and I love it.
Tell me a little about why you chose Kickstarter to fund your album? How does it make you feel to see that fans were so willing to play a part in helping your record come to fruition? The power of community is immense, don’t you think?
I think you put it perfectly. It’s not to be taken for granted that people come together to support art. Without support from fans it would be impossible to create accessible art. If you want to be cut off from the world and not engage with your community, then it is possible but that sounds very lonely and also like you might just play to yourself in your bedroom a lot or be backstage feeling sad a lot. Maybe I’m wrong who am I to say.
I like getting out into the world and meeting real people in real life, and I also have been helped along by faraway fans through social media and messaging when I’ve been finding my feet or testing things out so that’s an example of real support.
The focus on what’s real vs what’s not real, aided by the influence the internet has had on artist media, can also help female musicians. An example is famous actresses and famous musicians showing their unphotoshopped photos. Or famous people opening up on their Instagram about substance abuse or domestic abuse. They are not looking for attention I believe these kinds of conversations lead to safer working environments for artists overall. It’s connecting both fans and musicians to reality, to talk about real things.
Musicians can be kind of magicians who transport people into fantasy and exercise imagination, or they can shine a light on an issue that needs attention, loads more- these practices are very cool and they are driven by lots of hard work and care. Whether 20 people or 2000 people are listening it’s the same hard work and care.
Ideas of identity and independence are strewed throughout The Departure. It seems timely with what has been going on in your busy life?
Yes! I am achieving a lot, and most of which I have been told by somebody at some point in my life I couldn’t do. That feels very positive and very cool.
The Departure also follows up strongly on some of those key elements you put in place sonically on There Are No Saints in particularly your signature fuzzed out guitar on tracks like Marry You, Unconquerable and All Dressed Up Tonight. I sense you are still enjoying turning up your amp and blasting out some chords!?
Can you elaborate a little more about the eclectic process you put in place to bring forth the array of songs and sounds we hear on the album?
I have an organic, but organised process which is also dependant on the other people who come to work on an album with me. I take a lot of time arranging songs and always have done. The same process happens in There Are No Saints as The Departure in that it was recorded in 3 different studios (they both have a French song from the sames studio) and they were both mastered by the same person.
The third track on the album April has been described as a song of empowerment. I understand you wrote it for your teenage self? Where were you when those feelings came through and you went about penning the lyrics?
I can’t remember I believe it was on tour 🙂
Your love of French music is deeply ingrained in your DNA. I love that you conclude the album with Dis, Quand Reviendras-tu. A lot of musicians would be too frightened to even consider the idea of singing in another language. Why doesn’t it scare you?
What is scary about it? I speak French so it is fine, I like singing in French.
Siobhan Wilson’s new album The Departure is available through Suffering Fools Records. For more information on Siobhan Wilson including tour updates please check out her website. You can connect with Siobhan via her Facebook page. Follow her on twitter. Listen to her on Spotify. Watch her on You Tube.
Siobhan Wilson’s North American tour dates:
SUN 14 July – Square Roots Day 3, Chicago, IL, USA.
SAT 20 July – Terminal West, Atlanta, GA, USA.
WED 24 July – Zone One, Elsewhere, Brooklyn, NYC, USA.
THU 25 July – The Back Room at Colectivo, Milwaukee,WI, USA.
FRI 26 July – The Baby G, Toronto, ON, Canada.
SUN 28 July – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR, USA.
TUE 30 July – Strings Music Festival Park, Denver, CO, USA.
WED 31 July – Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO, USA.