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Louise McCorkindale - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 19 / 1 / 2024

Louise McCorkindale - Interview


Aberdee singer-songwriter and former Only A Ghost frontwoman Louise McCorkindale talks to John Clarkson about her debut solo release, EP ‘Her Art’.

Louise McCorkindale has released one of the more haunting EPs of the year with the three-song ‘Her Art’ EP, which has come out digitally on Stereogram Recordings. Aberdeen-based singer-songwriter McCorkindale released five download singles as one half of duo Only A Ghost, but the brooding and evocative ‘Her Art’ is a more international, multimedia affair. It combines McCorkindale’s crystal vocals with sparse and gloriously understated acoustic guitarwork from Ukranian multi-instrumentalist Vitaliy Tchachuk and cello playing from Ben Trigg. Artist Sarah Baganz – the muse for the title track – has created a video for each of the three tracks - ’The Darkening Fair’ (which takes its lyrics from a poem by McCorkindale’s late father), ‘Every Turn of the Tide’ and ‘Her Art’. In what is her first interview, Louise McCorkindale spoke to Pennyblackmusic about ‘Her Art’. PB: You recorded a few digital singles with Only A Ghost and were poised to make an album together. Why did you decide to go solo instead? LOUISE MCCORKINDALE: It wasn’t something I had planned, but the decision made itself when a change in circumstances meant that Only A Ghost had to go on hold. When that happened, I started working on some songs I had written myself but had never really developed, and as I was doing that a whole bunch of new songs fell out of the ether and I thought it would be fun to record them and put them out. So, not so much a decision, as the persistence of a productively engaged obsessive. PB: You released the three tracks from this EP, ‘The Darkening Fair’, ‘Every Turn of the Tide’ and ‘Her Art’, and their three videos separately and across three Saturdays in November. Why did you choose to do that rather than put them out all together? LM: We wanted to give each song its moment, highlighting each track in its own right with the accompanying video. I also thought maybe people would be more willing to give three minutes of their time to an unknown artist than to give ten. And I’d discovered that posts on social media platforms are not shared to all followers, so I wondered if doing it as three separate events would give us more chance of people seeing the news about the releases. PB: The three tracks involve the remarkable Ukranian guitarist Vitaliy Tkachuk and were recorded remotely. How did you become involved with him and did he bring his parts to you? LM: Vitaliy is a songwriter’s gift from the gods, and it was just luck. I’m not an instrumentalist and had signed up to a subscription service called Musiversal, where you can book real-time interactive online recording sessions with professional musicians. At that point Musiversal was a start-up subsidised with EU funding and the subscriptions were unbelievably low cost. I was looking for a guitarist and noticed that Vitaliy also played the oud. I was interested in working with someone who could work across cultures as well as genres, so I booked a session with him to try out a song I had written about Afghanistan, and I asked him to play the oud for it. And here we are, twenty-five tracks later! Vitaliy is an absolute joy to work with. He specialises in jazz and improvisation, but he can play anything, and his ideas are great. I give him a guide track of my vocal, a rough ukulele or guitar part, a chord chart, and a brief description of what the song is about, and then I have the privilege of joining him in a session online while he turns that base metal into guitar gold. I can easily get overwhelmed by sound, and I like simple arrangements, so a lot of our tracks are based on acoustic guitar. This is usually nylon-strung as I think that works well with my voice, and Vitaliy plays classical guitar beautifully. Check out his writing and playing on “Life On Strings” which is just a delight, or the classical pieces in his Instagram videos (@vitaliy.tkachuk.guitar). He has an incredible talent for being able to create music that is right for the song, and I love working with him. He has a great instinct for production too. PB: The other musician on this recording is the cellist Ben Trigg. Who is he? LM: Ben is a professional cellist in England who’s also on the Musiversal roster, and has worked with main stream pop bands/artists and on film scores. I don’t want to overwork the word “joy” but I need to use it again to describe working with Ben. He is incredibly versatile and creative, and he has great ideas. He has applied his cello superpowers on another couple of tracks that we are planning to release next year. He has a real flair for dramatic interpretation and expression, and I love his playing. PB: ‘The Darkening Fair’ takes its lyrics from a poem by your late father Bill called ‘Lonesome Road’ and appeared in a 1979 collection of his poetry entitled ‘The Mirror and the Maze’. Why does that particular poem resonate so strongly with you? LM: I have a clearer sense of what the song means to me now, but I don’t know why it resonated so strongly for me when I was younger. Maybe it was to do with a sense of loneliness that I wasn’t even really aware of, and a tendency to dwell on the darker aspects of life, so the song simultaneously moved me and provided the intimacy of recognition. Also, it was usually very clear to me what my father’s poems were about, but this one was a mystery, and that fascinated me. My parents were that generation who regarded it as bad form to share anything of their inner lives, and everything was hidden. So maybe that was why it felt important to me to crack the mystery of that poem. Maybe it served as a symbol of everything I didn’t know about my father and hadn’t thought to ask until it was too late. PB: The title track is about the artist Sarah Baganz and what her artist workshops meant to you, but could also be interpreted as more conventionally a love song by listeners who are unaware of the backdrop to this track. Was it important to you to leave things just open enough so that your listener can put their own interpretation on things? LM: Yes – this! I’m delighted you asked this question, as this is the holy grail for me. I am only motivated to do the work that is needed to get a song out there if it’s something I feel, which is maybe why my writing tends to be in the first or second person. The challenge then is to keep it true but, like you say, leave it open enough for people to find in it their own unique experience. I nearly didn’t record Her Art. I had assumed that it was too personal, too specific, for release, but a very supportive musician friend of mine, John Crawford, encouraged me to record the song. Thank you John! PB: “It is a leap in the dark every time you open your eyes/Every day just getting by” you sing on ‘Every Turn of the Tide’. Do you see the main theme of this EP as finding the strength and the stimulation to carry on against sometimes overwhelming odds? LM: I hadn’t really thought about it in these terms before, but I think you have touched on something there. The theme of how we keep going in the face of life’s challenges does seem to be a core theme in my work, along with finding a level of understanding that brings acceptance and underpins emotional survival. It’s perhaps not so much against overwhelming odds, but just in the face of the universal and unavoidable tragedies and challenges of life. I don’t know anyone who has had an easy ride. The first track, 'The Darkening Fair', expresses quite a bleak existential reality, and we chose the other two tracks to balance that with their more positive elements, of solidarity in 'Every Turn Of The Tide', and of love and gratitude in 'Her Art'. It was more by instinct than by a conscious decision. Looking at it now, in the perspective of your question, I think you’re right about the theme. PB: The three videos were made by Sarah Baganz and are stunning. How did she create them? Were they all structured out of a series of her paintings? LM: I totally agree that Sarah’s work is stunning, and I find it intensely moving to experience the songs in this form, the way she tunes into the emotional essence of a song and manifests that visually. Sarah had kindly agreed to do the artwork for 'Her Art' when Jeremy asked me if I could do a video for the release. I had seen Sarah using a digital art app and wondered if we could run the sequence of changes in the digital file as a video, and it turned out that we could. But it was amazing how Sarah not only created these beautiful images for the songs, but timed the way the images emerge in the video with what is happening in the song. The result feels to me like something between art and animation and again I feel it leaves things open enough for people to connect in their own way. What she does is very skilled, but what really makes it for me is the emotional content of her art and how she works with the song. It’s just beautiful. PB: ‘Her Art’ has been released on the Edinburgh-based label Stereogram Recordings. How did you become involved with them and your fellow Aberdonian Jeremy Thoms? -What are you planning next? Will there be an album? LM: The credit here goes to my sister Morag, who knew Jeremy from back in the day (in the late 70s and 80s) when she was involved in the emerging music scene in Aberdeen. Mo heard some of the Only a Ghost material and suggested sending some of the tracks through to Jeremy. I say “suggested”, but she applied a fair bit of pressure for some time (persistence is a family trait) until eventually we sent through some tracks just so she would stop going on about it. I never thought for a moment that anything would come of it, but Jeremy liked them and Only A Ghost went on to release five singles with Stereogram Recordings. Thanks to my sister’s persistence! When Vitaliy and I had recorded a bunch of songs I sent them through to Jeremy for a listen and here we are. And now I need to use that word again because working with Jeremy is a joy. He is the opposite of what comes to mind when you think of a “record label guy”. He is very hands-off while being quietly encouraging, supportive, and wise. We are planning to release more tracks in the coming year. There is a common theme running through a number of them so we are planning to release them on an album, and there will be some singles as well. I feel a bit driven to get these songs out. It’s partly my usual obsessiveness, and partly the stage of life that I’m at! PB: Thank you.

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Louise McCorkindale - Interview

Louise McCorkindale - Interview

Louise McCorkindale - Interview

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