Saturday, March 10, 2007

Scottish Singer Seeks Solo Success

Emma Pollock
Mo Pitkin's, NYC - Mar 8th, 2006

The music industry is a cruel and unusual institution.

How else does one explain the relative obscurity of the Delgados, a Scottish band who were consistently excellent over the decade of their existence? Their five album career spanned a noisy, alt-rock beginning, eventually evolving into a lushly orchestrated sound. Sadly, the Delgados disbanded amicably in 2005, following bassist Stewart Henderson’s decision not to do another recording with the group, in which he admitted that a lack of recognition played a factor.

But this spring, one member of the Delgados may finally receive the exposure she deserves.

Guitarist and singer Emma Pollock has been pursuing a solo career over the last year, playing various shows in London and Glasgow, including an opening slot for M. Ward in England. Her two shows in New York mark her continental debut, followed by an appearance at SXSW. She will play at Union Hall tonight.

Despite her long tenure with the Delgados, she sees these shows as an introduction to old and new fans alike. “The idea of these two shows is to give people the opportunity to find out what it’s all about, [so there’s] not a huge amount of pressure,” said Pollock in a telephone interview.

Although her former band had a tradition of substantial live lineups, including a tour with a nine-piece orchestra in support of their fourth album, Hate, these New York shows will be solo acoustic affairs. This setup is consistent with her recent gigs, with her only accompaniment being Jamie Savage, brother of Delgados drummer Paul Savage, on piano and guitar. At what is still the infancy of her solo career, she said that she couldn’t justify bringing a full crowd to New York, although the SXSW shows will have a full back-up band.

Pollock’s appreciation for music began early on, despite what she calls a somewhat isolated childhood in a small town in Scotland. “I remember when I was very young – 12 or 14 – getting some Christmas money. I went to a local store and bought “The Best of the Police” and “The Best of Kate Bush.” They were very important records to me, never being off my record player,” says Pollock.

Appreciation for music soon developed to an active pursuit of the craft a few years later. Pollock recalls receiving a classical guitar from her father, hearing New Order, and playing along. This developed into original songwriting, and she eventually joining the Delgados in 1994, splitting vocal and guitar duties with Alun Woodward.

But the Delgados weren’t merely a band; they were the founders of Chemikal Underground, Glasgow’s influential independent label. Aside from issuing the debut album of countrymen Mogwai and Arab Strap, along with the chart-breaking single from Bis, Chemikal issued the vast majority of the Delgado’s impressive discography.

Thus, it comes as a minor shock that Pollock will distribute her album through 4AD. “If you look at the history, it would make sense to keep things with Chemikal, but I couldn’t handle that. Even though it was a very amicable split, we still find it hard. I wanted to do something that didn’t require working with the band that just split up,” says Pollock. The Delgados had distributed their albums overseas with 4AD affiliate Mantra, so signing to the label was not so inexplicable.

But that’s not to say that she’s cut all ties.

“I still do a lot of work with the label. It’s my family,” says Pollock. Involvement in the business side of the label, alongside her experiences as a musician, has lead to a mixed perspective of the current music industry.

“I don’t necessarily think that everyone’s opportunities are better. Marketing options are more complicated, but the more powerful record labels will be able to use more resources. It doesn’t necessarily mean that an underground band can become a total success,” says Pollock.

But she remains a believer in the validity of the current business model. “Record companies aren’t there to manufacture CDs. They’re there to distribute. They aren’t unnecessary,” says Pollock.

However, Pollock’s own methodology suggests a willingness to be flexible. Her album was recorded at Chemikal Underground’s Chem 19 recording studio outside of Glasgow. While a full album will not be released until this summer, a demo of the song “Fortune” is available after joining the mailing list on her official site, and the song “Limbs” is available at the SXSW web site.

Both tracks are sparsely but meticulously arranged, featuring a piano melody from Jamie Savage, acoustic guitar, and Pollock’s trademark vocals. Emphasizing melody over lyrics was consistent with her songwriting approach. “Music creates a mood that is more powerful to me [than words],” says Pollock. She notes that the rest of the album is fuller in instrumentation.

Pollock also recently contributed to the Chemikal Underground release “Ballads of the Book,” a collaboration between Scottish writers and musicians, which came out earlier this week. Her track is entitled, “Jesus on the Cross,” with lyrics provided by Louise Welsh, author of “The Cutting Room,” another example of Pollock’s focus on instrumentation.

After this slew of spring shows, Pollock plans to tour the UK in May, followed by a return to the US. But will the Delgados ever reunite?

“Well, anything is possible.”

The Delgados
Black Session

1. Repeat Failure
2. Everything Goes Under The Water
3. The Actress
4. Don't Stop
5. Under Canvas Under Wraps / Pull The Wires From The Wall
6. Blackpool
7. And So The Talking Stopped
8. The Arcane Model
9. The Weaker Argument Defeats The Stronger
10. Thirteen Gliding Principles

More photos from the set here.
Buy: Here


mp3hugger said...

The Delgados were a superb band and the Great Eastern remains a lost classic. Everything Goes Around The Water is in my top ten songs ever. Thanks for the news.

Anonymous said...

Sincere thanks for making the Delgados 1998 Black Sessions available, but.....Well, is it just me, or are two tracks (Don't Stop and Under Canvas Under Wraps) picked up in mid-recording??? I downloaded them twice but got the same result. :(

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