Her Amy Is True
She’s the latest Scottish singer-songwriter sensation. But Amy MacDonald is very much her own woman.
Peter Murphy, 10 Oct 2007
Maybe it’s the stern Glaswegian timbre, but Amy MacDonald sounds way older than her years. Forget KT’s tomboy burr or Sharleen’s silky Ronstadt tones – the 20-year-old ingenue reminds this listener of Northern English folk-rock songbirds like June Tabor and Sandy Denny. Mind you, run such names past MacDonald – in Dublin for a quick promo spree to plug her debut album This Is The Life – and her doe eyes go blank.
“I’ve never really been into that sort of music,” she says, “I sing how I sing and it just comes out naturally. My dad played guitar as a hobby now and again, but we weren’t particularly musical, we were more outdoorsy types up the highlands. Me and my sister were massive Michael Jackson fans, that was the first gig I went to, at Wembley Stadium, I was about three or four. I can remember bits of it were unforgettable.
“After that I just grew up like a normal child until I was about 11 and I discovered Travis and fell in love with them, begged my mother to take me to see them. Fran has a wonderful voice and a great way of commanding you to listen, and he’s such a genuine person as well. It really had a massive effect on me. So I taught myself to play and carried on from there and signed to Universal about a year and a half ago.”
The songs on This Is The Life may place rainy folk melodies in upbeat AOR settings, but they also betray a lyrical disdain for the manner in which the pop industry has become a Saturday evening TV conduit for Madonna-be’s and WAGs.
“I hate the word fame,” she spits, “I hate Britain’s whole celebrity culture, it’s just absolutely ridiculous. The footballer’s wife thing, you have to put up with it day in and day out on the front of some newpaper, it really grates on me. Somebody was telling me a couple of weeks ago about this programme they were watching with primary school children, seven-year-old girls, and when they were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, five out of ten said a WAG. We’ve even got a name for them now! I mean most of them don’t have a purpose, they’re just normal everyday people who grab the headlines for shopping. I’d have no sense of pride about myself, grabbing the headlines for spending somebody else’s money and doing nothing.”
MacDonald is not afraid of naming names either. For instance, ‘Poison Prince’ tears strips off Pete Doherty – it seems hell hath no fury like a Libertines fan scorned.
“If I write a song about something, I’ll be honest and say what it’s about,” she states. “It’s not a secretive thing. The Libertines were a big part of me growing up, and to see him go down that horrible path with all the drinking and what-not, that had a big impact on me and still does. Watching him self-destruct made me feel something, so I wanted to write about it. Everyone has an opinion on him, but none of these people know him for his talent, the reason he’s in the public eye in the first place. People just like watching somebody going out of control, whether it’s him or poor Amy Winehouse, pictures of them falling out of clubs, the whole car-crash thing where you want to watch but you can’t. If it’s a matter of life or death, I don’t think it’s something that needs to be on the front page of the tabloids every day.
“I think ultimately it comes down to family and the people that are around you,” she concludes. “I know if that happened to me, something would be said. The whole Amy Winehouse thing, where were her mum and dad when this was happening to their daughter? A couple of weeks ago her dad went on Richard & Judy on Channel 4 to speak about her taking drugs. Now what sort of parent does that? It’s a shame, because she’s a massive talent, but she doesn’t have anyone around her to put her onto the right road.”