Tom Raine interviews

The Edinburgh Interview Series - Morven and the McArdles

In this second Edinburgh interview, Hannah Dodd-Vastiau speaks with Morven and the McArdles about her background, inspirations and her new 4-track EP, Amsterdam.

Hannah – You’ve just released your new EP Amsterdam (congratulations by the way!), how did it come about?

Morven – So I’d originally released Amsterdam which is the title track of the EP, but I deleted it because I wanted to re-brand my name so I released it as a 4 track album. I guess all three songs are quite old, written a year or two ago. I just wanted to get them out there.

H – Did you have a few songs to choose from or did you feel these songs have to be together?

M – I think more in terms of instrumentation and the progression of an album, I mega-produced two of them (the first and the last track), the other two are a bit more gentle, so I kinda like how the album progresses.

H – Did it take a long time to record and produce them all?

With Amsterdam I took like a year to record it because I had lots of different versions of it, one with just string quartet, one that was more electronic, I didn’t quite know how I wanted it to sound like. Then I went back to the 9th or 10th version in the end. Some of them I managed to record in one day.

H – Whereabouts are you from? What is your background?

M – I’m originally from East Linton, a small village near North Berwick. I moved to Edinburgh when I started going to a music school there and I’m now in Glasgow to study at the conservatoire there.

H – What are you doing right now? This is obviously a weird time, how is this the current lockdown affecting you creatively?

M – I feel like a lot of my songs draw from my darker or sadder emotions because I’ve felt them more being in such an isolated environment. I feel I’m someone who’s always got to be busy, I’ve always had a job, always been really busy with studies and I’m a classical pianist so I’ve got to practise a lot. So being stuck at home has been difficult, I’ve been working a lot of things through in my head and that brought out a lot of songs.

H – How would you categorise your music? Would you class it as folk?

M – I listen to quite a bit of folk and play fiddle, I hear some similarities in artists I listen to such as Adam Holmes and Rachel Sermanni but I find it quite hard to put myself in a genre, although I don’t mean that in a pretentious way. Folk is probably the easiest genre I could use – taking folk and using my classical background to come from a different angle.

H – Did you grow up around a lot of music at home? Do you have quite a musical family?

M – I feel like my dad probably showed me most of the music that influenced me, he was in a band when I was really young and it was very folky based. A lot of Bob Dylan etc. Although my mum isn’t musical in the slightest she loves music and is always dancing around to it, I guess they both helped influence in their different ways.

H – How many instruments can you play?

M – I play classical piano, guitar for most of my singer/songwriter stuff, then I also play viola and fiddle, I took up the oboe one time in summer but it didn’t go well!

H – Do you try and incorporate all the instruments you play in your music?

M – Yeah I think there’s a way of introducing them all, there was viola in nearly all the tracks because I think it’s rad, totally underrated, everyone in an orchestra makes fun of it!

H – At the moment everything is at a bit of a standstill, do you have any plans moving forward?

M – I think I’m gonna try and record an EP at home, like a quarant-EP! But we’ll see how it goes, I’ve got a lot of uni work at the minute so don’t hold me to it! I’ll maybe sit down for 4 days and try to get it down. Other than that I’m thinking of doing an EP launch in public, I did an online one but I’d kinda like to play with a band. I was rehearsing with a band before all of this happened (edit in audio). I have ideas in my head, I want to release a solo piano album which is just voice and piano and maybe get a gig at the conservatoire, I have lots of ideas but it’s very difficult to plan as I don’t imagine gatherings of more than 30 people will be allowed for a while. The creative industry is gonna take a massive hit and it’s very depressing.

H – I’ve seen recently that there were a band in Marchmont playing in the street for people, maybe you could do something like that!

M – I live quite out of town so maybe I could busk on Sauchiehall Street but I feel like I’d be moved on by police.

H – Had you been gigging much pre-lockdown?

M – I had a gig every week for a wee while in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Glasgow I was at the Hug & Pint and at Edinburgh I was at Henry’s Cellar Bar, I was meant to do a gig a Sneaky Pete’s but then a lot got cancelled. I think my first gig is in September at the Record Factory in Glasgow so hopefully that stays on.

H – To finish off, I was wondering if we could play a little game. I’m gonna say the name of a singer and you’ve got to tell me the first things that come to your head!

M – Ok sure!

H – Elton John

M – White suits

H – Leonard Cohen

M – Sexy, dark, depressing, really poetic!

H – Billie Eilish

M – Young, sad, interesting, really interesting to see her future.

H – Thanks so much for that! See you around!

M – Thank you!