One of the skills of a great artist has always been to put a mirror to the world, to reflect back to their audience an image that simultaneously speaks to them and makes them look at the world a little differently. That can be an even trickier thing to achieve when the artist turns the mirror back on themselves. Arguably that’s what Edinburgh-based songwriter, Siobhan Wilson has achieved on her wonderful recent album, The Departure.
An album Siobhan declares, “a poignant celebration of independence”, The Departure is a record that is always asking questions; questions about who we are, questions about what society tells us to be, questions about how we fit into our ever expanding vision of the universe around us. The questions are there in the empowering words of April, “you make your own rules and you break the ones you choose”, and they’re there on All Dressed Up Tonight (Better Than I Ever Did With You), a track about casting off your self-doubts and fighting against the tendency to view yourself through another’s eyes.
Musically, as well as lyrically, The Departure is an exploratory record for Siobhan, it gets darker and louder than we’ve heard before, as on the over-driven lead single Marry You, yet equally is unafraid to be fragile and beautiful, as on the waltzing Stars Are Nonzero. There are tributes to the French culture she adores in covers of Serge Gainsbourg and Barbara, while a step into vocal collaboration with Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale, feels like something fresh and quietly thrilling.
Quite possibly our favourite moment on the record comes in the penultimate track, Northern Clouds; there’s a delightful lightness of touch, as twin vocals line flutter and dance atop the hypnotic piano patterns and gentle crackle of analogue tape. As Siobhan sings towards the songs climax, “what is fragile is not broken, we’re all chaos and order”, it feels like a testament to letting yourself be delicate and open, of embracing yourself; not an idealised vision of who the world tells you to be.
Off the back of her recent UK tour, Siobhan was kind enough to answer our questions discussing collaboration, definitions of success and what comes next for one of Scotland’s finest songwriters.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Siobhan Wilson?
Singer-songwriter, composer and romantic in Edinburgh. Who used to live in Paris and grew up in Elgin. Label owner, studying a masters in film music.
FTR: Your new album, The Departure, is out next month, what can you tell us about recording it?
There was a huge focus on collaboration when writing the album. I was over the moon to have singer songwriters Rachel Sermanni, Stina Honeyblood, Jo Mango, and Esther Swift join me in the writing process. They are extremely talented and profound and badass! This meant that the scope for writing was broader and inspiration was larger and came from different sources. I found that a very exciting writing process.
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Do you see music as a viable career?
Yes it already is. I couldn’t have made it without the help of my Kickstarter backers and Creative Scotland, there are organisations in the uk currently helping artists a lot.
FTR: Who are your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote The Departure?
Patti Smith, Barbara and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
FTR: After the success of There Are No Saints, did you feel some extra pressure with this record?
No! I’ve been making music my whole life. Success is measured by others in a totally different way to me and it’s all subjective. Yes, The Departure is a success and I’m so happy about it being out in the world. I’m thinking about the next album already, and I don’t think about There Are No Saints that much cause it was a good few years ago I wrote it now.
FTR: Why do you make music? Do you have any other creative outlets?
I am painting a glass window in my garden just now with glass paint with a nice border that will have Mary and Jesus eating pizza.
FTR: The album’s obviously coming out on vinyl, are you attached to physical formats? Do you see streaming as a good thing or a bad thing for the music industry?
I see both of these things as opportunities for people to listen to my music. Both steaming and physical copies have their qualities and as a listener I mostly stream when I’m not at home, and then I have a collection at home or things I can choose to listen to.
FTR: What can people expect from the Siobhan Wilson live show?
Emotion, musicianship, lots of care and extra time working hard to put on the best show. At my Summerhall show on August 7th I’ll have a band! I am psyched.
FTR: What’s next for Siobhan Wilson?
I’m going to the USA in July to play some shows!!! Some headline shows in cities and also supporting Suzanne Vega on 2 dates . I’m really, really excited about that.
The Departure is out now via Suffering Fools Records. Click HERE for more information on Siobhan Wilson.