“I just thought, ‘Wait a minute. You’re supposed to do things that make you feel good. Do I feel good? I don’t feel good and I’m not taking care of myself.’ I was just so exhausted by everything that I think I just needed to go … I had that feeling at the end of the band, too. You just have to go and recalibrate. I’m a really quiet person anyway, so I think a lot of the touring stuff takes a lot from me. It’s been really good to just think about myself and do really boring things like go to the supermarket.”
Isobel Campbell at length about re-establishing herself as a solo artist, preparing to write her book, riding the storm of album-and-tour cycles with Mark Lanegan and becoming more comfortable about looking back at her time with Belle & Sebastian. Oh, and also why it’s hard for a “little girl from Glasgow” to not look out the window at California’s beautiful weather and think, “#$%@.”
* * * * *
PS: Well I guess to jump right into it, I know you’ve been talking on Facebook and Twitter lately about your work on a new musical project. I’d like to find out a little bit about that—I understand if you don’t want to spill all the details quite yet—but to get a little bit of an idea of what you’re working on now.
Isobel: I was doing another record—I suspect I probably have about 3 records, but I wanted to do another record that would be solo. It’s been awhile for me. I was kind of ready to go, but some of the legal stuff just takes forever. I’ve been in the studio already, but as soon as the legal stuff happens, I’ll go back and I think I’ll really immerse myself in it. I was hoping it would be out next spring, but with this legal thing, it’ll probably be next fall.
Isobel: I mean, who knows? It always takes a bit of time and record companies always ask for a 3-month lead and things like that. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m making more of an effort with this one than I ever have before. When I was touring things, I just didn’t have time, but also, I’m kind of sometimes a bit slow with computer stuff. Recently I’ve been telling myself to pull my socks up. I’m making an effort.
PS: I think the most recent thing you put out was that cover of Franz Ferdinand’s “Walk Away,” which was gorgeous. Have more songs come out of those sessions or is it pushing beyond that?
Isobel: There are other songs from that time, but I was actually doing work in November and December, so I have a lot of stuff from then. I have some outtakes from Hawk, and stuff like that, but I don’t think they’ll come out. Or if they do, it won’t be for awhile. But I’m happy to move on anyway. I just have a lot of stuff around.
PS: Well you always gotta save stuff for the 10th anniversary deluxe edition and all that, don’t you?
Isobel: Yeah, right. [Laughter]
PS: You recently posted that long journal entry on Facebook that touched on the end of the Hawk tour. You talked about how you were burnt out at the end of that. Was it important to step away from music for awhile at that point, or was it, “I want to restart and just do things on my own terms now”?
Isobel: Well that kind of came from—I went to my Facebook site and saw, “Oh, they’re still talking about the U.S. tour of 2010.” And I thought, “Oh … that one.” [Laughter] I had to kind of—there will always be fans wanting to know about that stuff, and Mark Lanegan fans kind of will check in too, but I’m kind of like, “Well this is my Facebook …” and I’ve started to write a book, too. So, I’m just going to kind of, as an exercise, tell my stories. I think I just have to tell my story. It’s a little bit scary for me, but I’ve got to do it. And whether that will ruffle feathers or not, I think I just have to be honest about what my experience has been and what’s been true for me. I really put a lot of devotion into that trilogy of records [2006's Ballad of the Broken Seas, 2008's Sunday at Devil Dirt and 2010's Hawk with Mark Lanegan] but then it turned really sour for me. I don’t know, it’s just—we got offers to do different things over the years, and they were great things, but then there were all these conditions. It was like some crazy riddle or some crazy puzzle where you have “In order for this to happen, you have to run the gauntlet and make sure all this happens first.” Then by the time you get to—whether it’s a concert or TV—I just felt so spent at the end of it. I don’t know if that makes sense to you. I think as a people-pleaser, I always want people to be happy, ask if they’re OK, take care of different people. But sometimes there’s taking care of people, and then I’m learning that I’m enabling people. And by enabling people, you’re just continuing bad behavior. So I think that by the time we got to Australia, I was kind of exhausted. I’d split with another manager again. It was our first time in Australia as the duo and when we got to Sydney, the tour manager was in a flat because the promoter was upset because Mark had secretly booked a solo show for himself using my guitarist. It was all kind of—it needed to just end, really. There needed to be some kind of support network there. For me, it was just too much. I was just like, “Whoa. That’s enough. I’m just gonna head on out.” You know, even if I end up playing to like 10 people in a community center or something, at least it’ll be my fans. There won’t be all the red tape of “Can we play these shows?” Or when we get asked to do TV, it’s “No, we can’t do the TV, because he doesn’t want to do it.” It’s been a real headfuck, because that was a lot of years coming. Even in 2006 with the first record, we couldn’t tour it because he was in rehab. So, you know, we started in 2007, but there was always a cold feeling. It was just complicated. And in the end, I just thought, “Wait a minute. You’re supposed to do things that make you feel good. Do I feel good? I don’t feel good and I’m not taking care of myself.” I was just so exhausted by everything that I think I just needed to go and—you know I had that feeling at the end of the band, too. [Ed. Note: Isobel left Belle & Sebastian in 2002] You just have to go and recalibrate. I’m a really quiet person anyway, so I think a lot of the touring stuff takes a lot from me. It’s been really good to just think about myself and do really boring things like go to the supermarket. It’s been fine, but when you put out records, you get caught in the eye of the storm. And sometimes at the end of it, it can feel—for me, anyway—like being spat out, you know? Especially if there’s not a support network around. I was having session musicians around, and they don’t want to know my troubles. Why would they? It’s been a very solitary thing anyway, so I may as well make it completely solitary and do my own shit now. [Laughter] I don’t know if that answers your question.
PS: It does. It does. You know, going back to the U.S. tour in 2010, I got to see you at the Chicago show at Lincoln Hall. What surprised me about that show was just the power that you guys generated in the audience too. I don’t know if you got that on stage. I know as you talk about it now, it was a drawn-out process for you and it got to be very exhausting. But were there shows on that tour for you—especially since the U.S. tour seemed like such a long-time coming—was there any sense of vindication for you? Did you feel like you got the response from the audience that you were hoping for?
Isobel: I remember I enjoyed the Chicago show, but some of the places—I think we played some rock and roll hotel, something in Washington and we played another place in Philadelphia—actually it was really the opposite for me. Like Chicago was great and the American Music Hall was great and L.A. was great, but there were some venues that were really scuzzy and I was just really, really disappointed. I made no money from any of those tours. I think the record company gave me $30,000 in order to do 2 weeks of touring, you know, just so that the operation could go on the road. Also, the U.S. tour—we did like 2 months’ of work in the space of 2 weeks. That’s what the tour manager was saying. So it was really weird. [Laughter] We would be sleeping on the bus overnight, then we would go to the college radio—but Mark said, “I won’t go to college radio”—so it was Willy Mason, who sang a couple of songs on the record, that would come with me for that. Then there would be an in-store. And Mark would be, “Oh, I won’t do in-stores.” So it was Willy and I again. So I’d be doing that, and then we’d get back to the venue, I’d be there for the end of the soundcheck and I’d do the show. It was kind of just like a whirlwind, really. If someone said, “Well, you can do the tour and you can spend $30,000” or “You can not do the tour and keep the $30,000,” I think I would be, “I’ll just keep it, thanks.” It didn’t make any cash, really. I always make records and I always want to tour them, but I was just paying all these people. I wasn’t even paying them a whole lot of money, but it just seemed to add up to a lot. I think at that point—we started the tour in Europe and I think at that point, I felt more fresh and more optimistic and I thought the band were playing better. I think living like that is OK if you’re like 17 years old. If you’re, you know, not 17 … I don’t know. I enjoyed the Chicago show. It might be that I don’t have any perspective or that the whole experience has been really upsetting or distressing for me. I can’t really be that joyful about it. At the end of it, the record company was like, “You can’t really make a record and tour it for 2 weeks. You need to play more shows. There needs to be more flexibility there.” My head was really turned around, and it was just weird. [Laughter] It was a good songwriting experience. I really like writing for other people and I hope I can continue to do that.
PS: But the grind of the machine got to you.
Isobel: It just didn’t work. There was no flow.
PS: You know, looking at that now, you talked earlier about the puzzle and “In order to get this, you’re gonna have to do this, this, this and this” and how convoluted everything’s become. Now I wouldn’t know, but I’d think that when Belle & Sebastian signed the Jeepster deal back in 1996, that was a whole different scene. The music industry was a different beast then. I mean to be looking at it now as opposed to how it was when that band started, is it disheartening for you to have this creative outlet but, as you said, maybe not be able to tame it like a 17-year-old could?
Isobel: It’s funny that you mentioned that. It’s so funny. You just mentioned B&S and all of the sudden, it just flashed: I’m like 20 years old on tour in the U.S. for the first time. And now that I think of it, I didn’t even like it when I was 20 years old. [Laughter] Oh my God! You know what it is? It’s fucking hard work. And I don’t think it’s my place to tell people that it’s hard work, because nobody that comes to see your show wants to know how much horrible, hard work it is. But I think if there’s support between people that are playing and there is friendship—I think it needs to be fun. It’s funny, because I see pictures of some of my friends on tour, and I just know. I look and I go, “Oh my God. They’re fucking exhausted.” [Laughter] “Oh my God. They’ve been sleeping rough on that bus” and stuff. There’s all that dead time. The long drives, the time in the airport, and when you land, you become a bit of zombie and go on autopilot. And then every night, you live for the 2 hours you’re on stage. One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how tired I am, I will never be tired during the 2 hours that we’re playing. That’s always good. But even so, I remember that [Belle & Sebastian] were just a band. None of us thought about making money. Are you kidding? We were just happy to be there. I remember we did a radio session and we got like about 100 or 200 pounds each. Or even a show we played at Glasgow School of Art—I think Stuart [Murdoch] came over at the end of the night and gave me like 20 pounds or 30 pounds, and I nearly fell over, because I did it just to do it. I didn’t really give a shit. It was fun.
I remember on one of the tours, we were touring with string sections and stuff. I think after B&S got big, I didn’t make any money from playing live shows, because even then it was going towards crew, sleeper buses, session musicians like the string players. But I don’t know, like, now they don’t tour with the section, they just pick up a section in every town, which I think makes way more sense. I feel like you just have to be smart and not be reckless. Sessions musicians—that’s not happening on the road, for example. It’s just very expensive. It doesn’t really work. It’s not impossible, but I think you just have to be smart about it.
PS: A lot of the people I’ve talked to have made the point that you made earlier of “If you’re going to make this a viable money-making opportunity, then you’re going to have to spend a lot of time on the road.”
Isobel: Yeah. Being a musician is a nice idea. You know, having all these ideas and expressing them. But having a thing that works, you almost have to be a completely different person. Have your shit really together, you know?
PS: To talk a bit more about the music side instead of the touring side of it, I’m a fan of the Amorino album, and one thing that struck me in particular about that album was the jump in styles from song to song. The track that still blows me away is “The Cat’s Pyjamas,” which is just “OK, now we’re in New Orleans for 2 minutes.” With the trilogy, it moved a lot more toward that rootsy Americana. On Hawk, for example, you were covering Townes Van Zandt. Going forward, are you looking to explore more musical styles, or have you become more enamored with the rootsy Americana?
Isobel: First and foremost, I think I’m just a music fan. I think as a songwriter, when I was writing for Mark’s voice, I was really super tuned into his voice and what’s gonna work. Yeah, I was really into that rootsy stuff. I feel like I might be coming around now. Because that was quite—as a little girl from Glasgow, you know—quite exotic for me. I have friends that ask, “How come you’re that way?” It’s the way I dress or something. I don’t know. I am such a fan of all music. I think on records like Amorino, I was really kind of experimenting and trying to find my own voice. I think that’s why there were so many genres. I’m a big movie fan too. I love Ennio Morricone. I love Fellini movies or like the French movies, and I just take in so much. But I think my next record is really all about putting the care and attention that I put into writing the songs for Mark—I want to do the same thing for myself. And I want to really find my true voice. Obviously I’m not American, so I doubt it will be rootsy [Laughter], but I feel like sometimes you go really far away from something to come back around to it. Like, “Wait a minute, I am this woman and this is where I’ve come from.” Glasgow is rich and Scotland is rich and really, the UK completely—there’s so much music, even folk music that comes out from there. I had a record, Milk White Sheets, which was kind of a hobby thing. I kind of made it when I was waiting 7 or 8 months to get Mark’s vocals back for Ballad of the Broken Seas. I kind of was in limbo, so I was listening to a lot of old folk singers and that record came out of treading water. In many ways, the next record will be terrifying for me, because I’m quite a solitary person, but it’s just going to be my voice and my love of melody and it will just be what it will be. Hopefully I’ll discover a style that’s all my own. That’s what I would really love, you know? My sound. I think that’s really important for this record. Like on Hawk, I was really enamored with Townes Van Zandt and things like that, but I feel like I’m a songwriter and I feel like I was in such a hurry to get that record out, I should’ve worked on my own songwriting more. I don’t want any cover songs. Maybe one. But I want to really challenge myself. Have songs that are just mine. It’s scary, but I think I can do it.
PS: Going back further, how did music come in to your life? Was it learning something at school or hearing something on the radio and going, “I want to do that”?
Isobel: I remember seeing Debbie Harry on “Top of the Pops” when I was really small. I think it was when “Heart of Glass” was number one. I remember being mesmerized and going, “What’s that? I love that.” I think another time, the Police were on “Top of the Pops.” And there was this strange British show with Jimmy Saville and there was this guy that was like a British impersonation of Elvis called Shakin’ Stevens. Anything that was music-related that was on TV, I would just stop in my tracks. I remember when we had group singing when I was like 6 or 7 and we’d all be singing together, I just remember how happy I felt. I felt so uplifted and so joyful and it just really got me going. Even as a small kid, it got me going like nothing else. When I was slightly older, I think 9 or 10, there would be a music class. And I remember just having this rush of adrenaline, going “I want to do this. I’ve got do this.” Then, from having music classes, I think I went home and I begged my mother for piano lessons. I don’t come from a musical family—there was a piano teacher that lived two doors down, and it was, “Oh, please, please, please.” There was a piano at grandma’s house. So I started with piano lessons, and then when I was 11 or 12, a cello teacher came and played “The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals” and she was so tall and had this long neck, so I went home and said, “Please, can I play the cello?” That was really the start. I think I was quite a withdrawn kid—dreamy and not very present. So I think if there hadn’t been music, I might’ve had a really different time at school.
PS: It’s interesting that you gravitated toward the cello, because growing up and being mesmerized by more rock and roll type things, certainly the cello’s kind of in a different direction.
Isobel: I think I just latched onto anything, to be honest. That was kind of what was provided. I don’t know if they give kids cellos for free nowadays, but that was what was there for me and any music, I was just really, really grateful for. It was lucky, because when I became 15, 16, I had this realization that “Ah, wow there’s string quartets on Beatles recordings!” I mean the Beatles, the Kinks—some of the Kinks stuff has harpsichord, and it’s really quite classical. Also some Simon and Garfunkel early stuff is quite classical, and I just kind of found my music. The other kids at school were listening to Nirvana and I was listening to the Kinks and the Beatles.
PS: I was pretty much the same way.
Isobel: You were?
Isobel: I think it’s the best way.
PS: It doesn’t make you a lot of friends at that age, but eventually they all come around. Ten years later, they’re going, “God, I just found the Kinks. They’re great.” And I’m going, “Yeah, dude, I tried to tell you that 10 years ago.” [Laughter]
Isobel: For me, I think it was that my Dad had those records. The ones that were lying around the house, and all the bigger stuff at the time, I don’t know. I just didn’t identify with it. But that’s true. All my friends were into like Nirvana and all those kinds of things, and I never really got that at all. It just wasn’t on my radar. I don’t know what it was. I just fell in love with the Beatles. And once you fall in love with the Beatles when you’re 15, that’s like 2 years gone right there, discovering all their music and all their solo work. [Laughter]
PS: Yep. Learning everything you possibly can.
Isobel: Mm-hmm. I remember I would watch “Imagine” over and over, and I’d watch “The Graduate” so many times. “Don’t Look Back” with Dylan in it. I’d rush home from school and that’s what I would watch. Everything became about that moment in time.
PS: So now it’s kind of coming to that point where you get to be in these kinds of films. I know Pitchfork just made the documentary that touched on [Belle & Sebastian’s] Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister. Is that surreal for you in anyway?
Isobel: No, because on one hand, it was so vivid when it was all happening. In many ways, because that time was so magical, it feels like it was 2 or 3 years ago. I think that’s what all old people say, isn’t it? It doesn’t feel like there were nothing years in between that were just kind of forgotten about or wasted. It really was magical. I loved all this music growing up, and I never really thought that it would be so easy to do it. You know, it was like why would I do that when so many people have done it? I remember when I was 17, I had a boyfriend that used to go around—it’s really bizarre because not many Scottish people are like this. He would go around, saying, “I’m gonna be a big star! I’m gonna be a big star! You’re gonna hear all about me!” I mean people in Scotland, you know, that is not Scottish. Maybe in L.A., yes, but not in Glasgow. I used to think, “Wow! That’s amazing. He’s going to be a big star.” He told me he wrote “God Save the Queen.” Years later, I discovered it was the Sex Pistols. But I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s going to be big. And I’m going to be his girlfriend. This is great!” So that was at 17. At 19, I met Stuart, and I ended up the musician. I thought it was just something that guys did. But you know, when I first heard Astrud Gilberto or Francoise Hardy or Nancy Sinatra, I remember thinking, “Maybe I can sing.” A lot of time has passed, but sometimes certain things are very, very clear still. I don’t know. Does that make sense?
PS: Absolutely. And if that stuff is so clear, obviously it’s a good time to write a book now, instead of 15, 20 years down the road when things might get a little hazier.
Isobel: You think things will get hazy. [Laughter] When I met with those Pitchfork people, the night before I was going, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.”
Isobel. Yeah. Because I got my mother to look through stuff. And I was going, “Anything you find, can you just send it for these guys? I’ll take it to them.” She sent me a letter from Stuart. Now, I have a lot of really lovely letters from Stuart, but for some reason, the only letter she found was really, really mean. And I just read it, and I was thinking, “Oh my God. Oh my God, I’m digging up the past. I don’t want to do this.” So I really didn’t want to go. I was late. I took the dog with me just so I’d have a companion there. But as soon as it was all over, I swear I woke up the next day and I said, “Oh my God! What about that? What about that?! What about that?!!” I started remembering all these things. So maybe it was a little bit of a trigger. But I think [the book] will be good for me, because I think it will help me make sense of everything that’s happened and where it started. I think it’s a good challenge, too. I really like writing. There’s a really nice bookshop here and my friend’s the owner. There’s a lot of interesting books there, and she was giving me all these different things and just to look at all of it, it’s quite exciting.
PS: Yeah, and for someone with the path that your career has taken. I mean, you can read interviews along the way and get idea of how this point connects to that point. But you’ve really forged your own way and probably gone on an unexpected path to what most people might’ve thought. So to get those stories, that’s kind of what the music fans love to get. I mean, you want the records, you want new music. But when you get someone to speak about how it got from this point to this point—I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a nerdy music fan. I’m the kind of guy who would rush home to watch “The Compleat Beatles,” and I would also search out every bit of ink there was on what Paul McCartney was doing. But it’s cool when someone can connect those points that all the interviews over time haven’t done.
Isobel: Yeah, I think sometimes interviews—the journalists have their agenda or what they want to put. I stumbled across this article during the U.S. tour, I think it was for Hawk. I was very fried and I’d decided to move just on a whim. And nobody should ever move 5,000 miles on a whim. [Laughter] It’s really kind of a folly. So yeah, there was this article like in Mojo and it was called “The Odd Couple.” It was awful. We looked so rough, because we’d been sleeping on a bus and I was so miserable. We’d just done this showcase for this guy Gary Calamar. I think he does the music for “True Blood.” But Mark was particularly grumpy that day, so I was getting it from his side and then I was getting it from him, getting it from the woman that was managing me. So I was ready to run away and join the circus. But yeah, I think it’d be good to tell my story and for me to be like, “Oh, this is what happened.” [Laughter] It won’t be a tell-all. I don’t want to trash talk anyone or anything like that, but I think it’s important to say what my experience has been and maybe get some clarity from it. First and foremost, I’m writing it for myself. That’s what I’m thinking. But I’m like you, though. If I like a record, I will read everything I can find.
PS: You gotta know, don’t you?
Isobel: Sometimes it’s just insight into something. At the moment I’m reading Suze Rotolo’s book that’s called “A Freewheelin’ Time.” It’s like all about Greenwich Village in the 1960s. It’s just really interesting. I don’t know, everyone likes stories, don’t they?
PS: It’s one of those traditions that’s endured the test of time.
PS: So I suppose the next logical question is: You’ve done the 5,000-mile move. What do you like about living in America as opposed to Glasgow?
Isobel: It’s funny, because there was the record company when I was 19 called The Enclave and they flew the whole band—everyone except Stevie [Jackson], because I think he was working—and they flew us to New York and I remember being completely overwhelmed. It was so fast, and people were quite rude. And then when we did our first tour of the U.S. and it really spun me out, because the sky’s so big. Even though we talked English, the culture is so completely—there’s similarities I suppose—but it’s very different at the same time. So I’d spent a lot of time in Tucson and written a lot of the songs for Hawk. And a lot of people say that Arizona is a good place for that. That’s the thing, before a lot of people come to L.A., they’re maybe around the area just to prepare them. But I made parts of Hawk there and kind of got adopted there. A lot of people liked it. I guess it’s that support that I was talking about. I actually found that and it’s nice to have people in life that are all supporting each other. I was very superficial about those long, harsh, cold Scottish winters can be really, really hard. So when I finally cottoned onto the fact that “Oh, I’m a musician. As long as I have a computer, I can live anywhere,” that was really liberating for me. I find a lot of it more upbeat, which I kind of prefer. The weather, obviously, because I like being outdoors as much as I can. I like the new country. Europe can be very austere. I mean, there’s plenty right and there’s plenty wrong with both. [Laughter] I never thought that when I was listening to Joni Mitchell records when I was 15 or listening to Simon and Garfunkel that I’d be living where all that magic took place. I like that. I really like Americans. I just love it. Though L.A. is expensive.
Isobel: [Laughter] What are you laughing at?
PS: I live in Chicago. I can relate to that.
Isobel: But then, the prices of gas here are way cheaper than they are in the UK. I know that much. I just kind of love it. You know, now I love the big, open sky. I love the winter, I mean I remember when I just got to California from Arizona, people were like “Why were you in Tucson?” And I remember thinking, “Wow, these are California snobs.” But now, I love it. Everything here—the ocean, the mountains, snow—it’s really a beautiful part of the world. I don’t really do much of the Hollywood stuff. [Laughter] I just like simple, rustic life. Have you spent much time in the UK?
PS: I went over for the first time 2 years ago. I grew up a complete Anglophile. I think being introduced to the Beatles at 8 or 9 years old, it became my goal. “Someday I will go there.” Growing up throughout the 90s and falling in love with all the music that was coming out of the UK at the time, which again, nevermind being crazy about the Beatles and the Kinks and the Small Faces. You know, you go to school where everyone’s obsessed with Metallica and you’re talking about Oasis, the Verve and Belle & Sebastian, they were all, “Yeah, OK, dude. Whatever.”
Isobel: That’s true. There is a culture here—the radio culture here is such a niche thing, isn’t it?
PS: It was broken into so many sectors. But the weird thing about the ’90s was that, especially in the mid-90s, everything seemed to have a chance. It might only get popular for 2 weeks, but if it got on MTV or popular radio for a couple weeks, everybody knew it. So what’s happened since then is things like Spotify or iTunes playlists. It becomes so catered to your individual taste, which can be great, but you don’t have the communal thing where you can have Ace of Base number one one week and then Hootie and the Blowfish number one the next week and it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the artists, you still somehow know the songs. Things are a lot more concentrated now.
Isobel: How do you explain Mumford & Sons then?
PS: I can’t. I don’t know. [Laughter]
Isobel: How did they get through it?
PS: You know, I think eventually there comes a push for that kind of music. There might just be so much fatigue about the processed pop …
Isobel: Ah! And that’s why people say they went for Adele, isn’t it? Because she was just a girl standing on stage singing, and people hadn’t seen that for a long time. [Laughter]
PS: Right. But then people who got really into that, that starts the debate about all the young, new soul singers that are coming through. But then, of course, she’s got the one song that pushes above. I mean, it’s interesting. I did an interview a few months ago where an artist and I were talking about how I thought we were going back in the cycle to the 1950s time, when it was just …
Isobel: “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” …
PS: [Laughter] Well it was all singles. It wasn’t albums-driven. And I thought we’d gone back in time to that. So people will figure out how to make the proper online album and get people listening to a full body of work, but then you get the stuff like “Harlem Shake” and it’s just regression. People are just listening to 30 seconds now and not even a full song.
Isobel: Oh my God. That’s interesting. Obviously, I grew up with records and albums and I love the journey that an album takes me on. There’s nothing like that to make you want to make every song really good if people only buy the one song that they really like. Well, if you have all songs that they would really like, maybe they need to get all the songs. In a way, it’s like, “Goodbye album fillers,” but maybe it’s good because it means that people don’t get lazy. But yeah, I think things do probably go in cycles.
PS: I’m always amazed with the music that Glasgow, and Scotland in general, produces. Just the amount of talent and fantastic artists that have come out of there.
Isobel: Even in the ’60s.
PS: Oh yeah.
Isobel: I think it’s because it’s so rainy and horrible. We’re all depressed so we have to do something. “Oh it’s raining again. I think I’ll write a song and handle my misery.” [Laughter]
PS: So you’ve made it really hard on yourself moving to a place with the big sky and nice weather all the time.
Isobel: I know, because I’m Scottish, everyday I look outside the window and I’m like, “Shit.” Because in Scotland, when it’s a sunny day, you have to drop what you’re doing—actually it’s like that in the whole of the UK. When it’s a sunny day, it’s like, “Everybody drop everything. Let’s all go outside.” So I still have that mentality. Everyday I wake up in California, and I go, “Oh wow. It’s a great day. I better get outside.” Then I think, “Oh wait. Probably the next 30 days will be like this. Maybe even the next 6 months.” [Laughter] I love it. I’m not a fan of the grey parts of L.A. or the terrible traffic, but when the sun is out and there are trees all around, I’m beside myself I’m so happy. In a rainy country, it’s just “Oh, let’s go down the pub,” or everyone goes to the cinema to keep out of it. Chicago must be a bit like that too. I remember it was so cold.
PS: How quickly California makes one forget about winter …
Isobel: [Laughter] I’ve become the ultimate snowbird.