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Astrid Williamson - Interview

  by Lisa Torem

published: 19 / 4 / 2009

Astrid Williamson - Interview


In our second interview with her, Shetlands-born singer-songwriter and former Goya Dress frontwoman Astrid Williamson talks to Lisa Torem about her risk-taking forthcoming fourth solo album, 'Here Come the Vikings' which incorporates together elements of electronica, folk and punk

“Marked by effortless grace,” is the dictionary definition of the old English word, “lithe.” And after watching Scottish singer-songwriter Astrid Williamson’s videos, of say, ‘Hozanna’ or ‘I am the Boy for You,’ it’s easy to associate this image with her natural beauty, winsome voice, ethereal lyrics and supple moves. But apart from her outer-wrappings, Williamson’s iridescent imagination looms wild. A classically- trained pianist, multi-instrumentalist and the former lead vocalist of Goya Dress Williamson forged a solitary sojourn in ’96. ‘Boy For You’, ‘Astrid Williamson’ and ‘Day of the Lone Wolf’ drops anchor for her fourth solo album, ‘Here Come the Vikings’. Here with the verve of a sea-faring Viking, she writes, produces and arranges all tracks and distorts any odd perceptions that she only embraces a single genre or theme. Akin to an explorer ravaging the high-seas, Williamson takes risks without a life-jacket - jibbing electronica, folk and punk. ‘Here Come The Vikings’ is set for a June 8 release, and will be preceded by the release of the synth-fully stark, but chilling single, ‘Slake’, on June 1. Catching up with Williamson, Pennyblackmusic looked for the song-writing inspirations behind the tracks of the new release. The details were relayed by Williamson - honestly, humourously – and are to be taken with a copius amount of sea-salt. PB : Congratulations on your new release. There are so many musical genres represented here. Which one feels the most like home ? AW : I'm not sure I could ever really commit to only one genre and music tends to reflect 'mood' in my world, so I guess that makes me a moody homeless bugger! PB : The song, ‘Eve’, has so many overtones. Did you intend for this song to be open to interpretation ? What’s your interpretation of it ? AW : It's about trying to break habits. Knowing you're in a bad relationship but not being able to break away. It's also about shoes. I have a pair of golden shoes with a snakey pattern on them I know that sounds tacky, but they're very cool. PB : Who are your favourite singer-songwriters? AW : Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, the late great John Martyn. I'm so predictable. The song I most wish that I'd written is 'Desperado' so technically my fave writers are Glenn Frey and Don Henley. PB : ‘Slake’ seems like a departure from the norm for you. What prompted this type of writing ? AW : It's a rare example of a song where the words arrived before the music. 'Slake' is really a sonnet. Poetry is such an orgasm. 'Footfalls echo in the memory/Down the passages we did not take/Towards the door we never opened/Into the rose-garden' that's by T.S. Eliot. PB : I know you worked with John Cale when you were in Goya Dress. He is also a songwriter. Does this have an influence when a producer who is a songwriter in his own right produces another artist’s body of work? AW : The work anyone does is really integral to why you want to work with them. It's about respect and love. I love John's song 'Cordoba' and more recently 'Magritte'. His being a songwriter probably just meant he'd expect a little bit of mental before breakfast. I'm sure non songwriting producers expect this too. PB : You have also worked with Malcolm Burn. What do you look for in a producer? AW : I suppose I would expect a collaboration. Otherwise why bother? PB : And now that you are producing your own work, how do you manage to be objective? AW : I don't really think that I do. PB : ‘The Stars Are Beautiful’ is a very innocent song, almost reminiscent of childhood and merry-go-rounds. What inspired that song ? AW : Steve Martin. He sang a beautiful song with Bernadette Peters in the movie ‘The Jerk’ called 'Tonight You Belong To Me'. It's on ukulele banjo. In my head 'The Stars Are Beautiful' is on the uke. PB : ‘Shut Your Mouth’ and ‘Sing The Body Electric’ express a different attitude. Did those songs taken those inspirations from anything in particular ? AW : ‘Shut Your Mouth ( Until I Kiss You)’ is about being passionately infatuated with someone and ‘Sing the Body Electric’ was inspired by the name of my little brother Edwin's band. I loved the way the words sounded together 'Sing The Body Electric', yes please! They come from a poem by Walt Whitman all about celebrating life and being alive and your body and stuff. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is in the song because his name is so cool. PB : What’s important for an independent-minded artist like yourself to know about in the music business? AW : The music biz is like climate chance. Nobody ever really knows what the hell is going on, or what's coming next. Learn to enjoy the storm. PB : Other than your music, what else keeps you sane? AW : I like tapestries. And fine wine. I'm the Frasier of indie music. PB : What advice would you give to an emerging performing artist? AW : Tune up. PB : Now that 'Vikings' is released, what are your other plans? AW : I want to go to St Petersburg. Also I'm guest star singing a lot with Robin Proper-Sheppard in his band Sophia as I did a duet on his new album 'There Are No Goodbyes'. PB : Thank you so much. AW : Thank you, Lisa.

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Astrid Williamson - Interview

Astrid Williamson - Interview

Astrid Williamson - Interview

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Pulse (2011)
Offbeat yet ultimately deeply moving fifth album from Scottish singer-songwriter and pianist Astrid Williamson, which finds her collaborating with ambient guitarist Leo Abrahams
Here Come the Vikings (2009)

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