Wednesday 1 August 2012

K&A with Amy Duncan

It's been well over a month since my last interview... remember the days when there used to be two a week!?  So what better way to kick off August than by hearing from an ol' Kowalskiy favourite... the lovely Amy Duncan.  I first featured her back in November of 2010 when I finally managed to get around to giving her Potential-Space album the praise it quite rightly deserved.  Key words at the time being "angelic", "achingly-beautiful" and "dreamy electronica".   Since then, Amy's been busy recording her new album Cycles Of Life, part-funded by Creative Scotland, which is due out later in the year... exactly when, pretty much depends on you!

Like a growing number of artists, Amy's signed up to PledgeMusic to raise some funds ahead of it's release.  You can pledge towards the project by buying a whole host of goodies, from a copy of her CD, to a double bass lesson or even some exclusive art by Amy herself.  So, without much further ado, it's time we heard a bit more about it from this multi-talented lady...

Kowalskiy:  Who is Amy Duncan?
Amy:  A human being, compelled to expressing the ups and downs of life through words and music.

Kowalskiy:  For those out there not familiar with your good self, how would you describe your music?
Amy:  There is definitely a folk element but not in the traditional sense. The new album is mainly acoustic sounding, with string arrangements, creative drums, double bass and atmospheric electric guitar.  If I were to compare my music to another artist I would say there are similarities to early Sinead O'Connor as there is a simplicity yet deep emotional feeling to her earlier music which I think has had some influence on me.

Kowalskiy:  For your new album Cycles Of Life, like a growing number of artists, you've opted to sign up to PledgeMusic.  What made you go down that route?
Amy:  I initially wanted to find a way of raising the money to have the CD designed and pressed without going into debt, but the experience has become much more than that. It feels extremely supportive and encouraging when people pledge, and exciting too that it is helping new people find my music. As a solo artist you spend a lot of time on your own, and it feels good to be connecting directly with people who want to buy the music.

Kowalskiy:  So what goodies are on there for folk to pledge towards?
Amy:  When I was setting up the project I felt a bit daunted by what to offer as exclusives. I had a look around my flat and suddenly had the idea that I could put my artwork on there. Two of my paintings have been pledged on but there are 2 large paintings left, and 2 smaller collages left too. Pledgers have access to the album download before the official release, signed CDs, handwritten lyrics and music manuscript, the opportunity to be included in the thank you credits of the CD sleeve plus other things! Anyone who pledges will receive updates throughout the project, with free downloads of unreleased tracks, and previews of songs from the album.

Kowalskiy:  Back to the new album. How does it compare to your previous releases?
Amy:  I think this release sounds much more accomplished. My previous releases were all self produced at home, and I think I reached the limit of what my basic knowledge of production would allow.  Creative Scotland funding allowed me to work with the producer Calum Malcolm which has brought the sound quality and creativity to a place I could never have reached on my own. The process of working with Calum has been a great experience, and a real boost in confidence to have been supported by such an experienced producer. The opportunity to have real strings (players from McFall's chamber), drums by Liam Bradley who's credits include Van Morrison, and harp by Fiona Rutherford has taken my music up to a new level which is a bit of a dream come true! I don't feel held back in promoting it because I know its a really strong record worthy of recognition.

Kowalskiy:  Once you reach your target (or before), are there plans afoot to tour the album?
Amy:  I would like to tour the album at some point next year, but I thought it might be a wise move to try and gain more recognition first, so I'm planning some showcase dates, beginning with the album launch at The Voodoo Rooms on November 1st. I want to make this a big event with a full band. My friend and artist Carol Le Lievre is going to create some artwork inspired by the title 'Cycles of Life' to be projected during the performance. I'm working with Little City Pictures on a music video for one of the singles from the album which will also be shown on the night.

Kowalskiy:  What would be a) a typical Amy Duncan gig and b) your ideal gig?
Amy:  A typical Amy Duncan gig would be me singing and playing guitar and Fiona Rutherford on harp. It was amazing to find Fiona as she adds so much to the music, and its not often you find someone that you gel so well with musically. I love playing intimate gigs like this, and would like to travel further afield to other cities throughout the world and play in lovely venues. In some ways my typical gig is my ideal one too, especially when the audience is so quiet and there is space to be more expressive with dynamics. But I would also love to be able to play with strings, drums and to have a double bass player on stage. I play the double bass parts on the album, and its always a source of frustration that I can't play the double bass for my live set!

Kowalskiy:  Back to the Pledge concept... this is as deep and philosophical as my questions get... in the current economic climate, do you see this increasingly becoming the norm for some of the more established artists looking to release new albums?
Amy:  I do think that more artists will turn to crowd funding as its a good way of expressing that you really value your music and the people who buy it. I wonder if platforms like Pledge may also help with the problem of illegal downloads - if fans can engage with their favourite band or artist and be part of the whole process they might find it a more rewarding and preferable experience.

Kowalskiy:  If you were to pledge for any piece of musical memorabilia, what would it be?
Amy:  The double bass in the Kate Bush - Babooshka video!

Kowalskiy:  My topical-tentative-link one to finish off. Bradley Wiggins' sideburns. Your thoughts?
Amy:  Nice and fluffy :)

I'd go for '90s Madchester personally... though surprisingly aerodynamic! 

Be sure to head on over to Amy's PledgeMusic project page where you can have a listen to Navigating From The Heart, one of the gorgeous tracks from the album, and watch her pledge video too.  Last I checked, she was just over a third of the way towards her target.  So, if you're interested in helping her get closer, get pledging!  There'll be a fair few exclusive previews and other pledge-only incentives to keep you going until your copy of Cycles Of Life finds it's way to you.

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