Over the course of 3 stunning and original albums, Ireland’s Ann Scott has been steadily establishing herself as one of the most courageous singer-songwriters on the scene.
Her new album "Flo" is Scott's bravest sonic venture to date; filled to bursting with mesmerising ambience and enticing, affecting songs. Ann took some time out from playing live and promoting the new album to talk to Ian Fildes about her creative processes, being praised as one of her country's most important artists, and about her dazzling new record
Interview by Ian Fildes
"Flo" sounds quite different to your previous albums, and it's quite sparse and experimental in places. Can you tell us about what the inspiration behind "Flo" and what some of its themes are?
It's definitely sparse compared to what I've done before – that was one of my aims with this record. The songs on Flo are what I call my 'lost songs' and so a big empty backdrop was exactly what I needed for them.
In terms of instrumentation, silence is sometimes the most effective tool in the box. I had to work hard to rein back the temptation to layer and layer, so all of the arrangements on there were stripped back to make sure they didn't overshadow the core mood.
Did you approach writing or recording this album differently to the previous two?
My first ever songs were belted out solo on a dark and theatrical small stage in Dublin - where many of Ireland's current songwriters started out playing, and although I've always been into experimental music and big bold soundscapes there is something about playing a live unplugged stage which really puts emphasis on the song and the performance, and this was what I was trying to hark back to on parts of Flo.
The album was recorded over a period of two years during which time I made a trip to Chicago to put down some ideas at Electrical Audio. That's where the rich roomy acoustic and vocal sounds come from on the record, and the songs we did there were mostly just bashed out live with the guitar. We also recorded timpani drums and snippets of mellotron, which I later chopped and looped and layered up with synths, and those late nights over the laptop were what dragged out the process a bit. So I suppose you could say there was an organic writing and recording phase and then a painstakingly long post production stage and Flo came about somewhere in between those two schools of thought. Also, I spent a lot of time on my own recording the parts and editing them and I think that was definitely conducive to the overall lonely mood on the record.
The last album "We're Smiling" has more of an edgy rock feel to it, whilst the music on "Flo" is quite difficult to place stylistically. Did you gain any inspiration from other artists in finding its sonic palate?
I find inspiration in all sorts of ways. I like things that are old and real and have a hankering for vintage recordings and rare live performances. I like how albums such as Michelle Shocked's "Texas Campfire Tapes" came about. It's a brave collection of songs with a story and a time and a place behind it and the manner in which it was recorded is part and parcel of the artistic statement I think. Those sorts of things are inspiring. On my previous albums there was a lot of tangents and rocking out and time signatures and all of that I really enjoyed but sometimes you can bury the message of the song with all the clever ideas. There are still plenty of stylised elements on "Flo", but there are also times on the new record where I felt ready to let go of the production and just trust in the song.
How did Gemma Hayes' contribution on the album come about?
I"ve been on the road here and there with Gemma over the last few years. One of the joys of making music is that you get to collaborate with a great array of vocalists and talented players. When you're swapping stages and dressing rooms and tuners it's natural that some musical bartering follows. I sang with Gemma for some of her recent shows in Ireland and she returned the favour when I was just at final stages with "Flo". I'm also working on a collaborative recording project now with Welsh singer Katell Keineg which I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into.
Your debut "Poor Horse" was recently voted by critics as one of Ireland's best ever albums. Does that sort of praise affect you in any way as far as pressure, or are you happy just to accept the recognition?
There are plenty of ups and downs with a life in music. Praise is nice… The great advantage of being an independent artist is the fact that you can express the music exactly how you want to. Of course the disadvantage is that you take full responsibility for recouping costs, in my case all of which originate from my own pocket. So pressure tends to arise from meeting the bills rather than anything else.
I'm fascinated as to how the "Flo" material will translate live. Are you planning on taking "Flo" out on the road? If so what can we expect? Do you present these songs solo or is there an Ann Scott band?
I like to do a fair portion with just voice and guitar but I tend to get a bit restless with the same set list so I'm always looking for different ways to present the songs. Recently I've really been enjoying playing live with strings and on stage as a band we all tend to play musical chairs with floor tom, keyboard and glockenspiel. The heavier objects like timpani and piano I have to somehow try and suggest in the live set. I'd love to travel the UK with the band line up if budget allowed but right now, the rule of thumb is - If it fits in the overhead cabin, it comes on tour!
Ann Scott's "Flo" is out now on Raghouse Records. For more info, visit <a href=<SPAN STYLE="font-family: Arial; color: #666666; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none" onMouseOver = "this.style.color = '#CC9933';" onMouseOut = "this.style.color = '#666666'">http://www.Annscott.net</span>>Annscott.net