22 May 2024
  • 22 May 2024

Karine Polwart

on 1 September 2019 0

Fresh from turning in an acclaimed album of reimagined Scottish pop songs, Karine Polwart discussed what to expect from her upcoming trip to Paisley.

Was the Scottish Songbook a brainchild you’d had for a while?

“The catalyst came from last year at the Rip It Up! exhibition in Edinburgh. I was dead surprised to sneak into the Scottish voices bit at the end, sandwiched in-between Deacon Blue, Eddie Reader and King Creosote (laughs). They were curating a run of concerts at Leith Theatre that were inspired by the event and I said, ‘I’d love to do a night of folky covers of classic pop’ and that’s what sparked it. The process of narrowing down the setlist was such a labour of love that my brother suggested ‘why not make an album out of this?’ So, we came into Chem19 {recording studio} after the gig and did just that.”

Socially pertinent themes have always been at the forefront of your own material. Was it important to keep that motif intact in this project?

“Definitely. It sounds like a random thing to do on paper, but they weren’t randomly picked. I’ve chosen ones that are most like folk songs where you can strip all the production layers down to singing with piano or a guitar. For me, I’ve picked them because there’s a common feeling. One of the things that Scottish pop does well is ‘euphoric melancholy’ and all these artists nail that. It’s not a compilation album, the songs are designed to sit next to each other and hopefully, hearing one changes how you hear the next one. The closing lines of Biffy Clyro’s Machines sum it up for me — take the pieces and build them skywards. Things might be broken but something beautiful can still come out of it.” 

You’ve recently netted your first top 40 album on the UK Charts. How did that feel?

It’s the only thing that ever made me cool to my kids (laughs). Even if it’s for one day, that moment where I was sitting between Lewis Capaldi and Billie Eilish is gold-dust stuff.

Does this show differ from your regular gigs?

“Oh, it does, it’s much more celebratory. My usual gig is as a trio and what we do is quite reflective. Obviously, a lot of these songs are intimate, but this live show is quite joyous. Some of the live stuff that hasn’t been recorded is really up-tempo; There’s a bit of Primal Scream and Altered Images. There’s an energy to the show and for me, it’s a complete treat to get to play with a six-piece band — which includes Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott — and there’s a bit of banter to it. We’ve only done it twice before, so it’s still fresh. There’s such a vibrant music scene in Scotland and it needs people to turn out to things like The Spree. It’s all about grassroots festivals, some of which are not-for-profit or are civically run. Folk like me have no career without that infrastructure.

Find out more about Karine via her websiteThis interview was published in Mill issue 7 September/October 2019 ahead of her gig at The Spree.

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