The Shetland Songstress Astrid Williamson has been around the music scene for a long time and has lived in a variety of places. I was intrigued to find out what motivated her bitter-sweet brand of folk and how she felt about being dubbed folk’s answer to Avril Lavigne. Thankfully, after completing the Arts Council funded Roadworks tour for up and coming artists, she took time out to answer questions on anything and everything. It won’t take you long to find out that she has an opinion (invariably a refreshing one) one most topics.
It is possible to describe your style of music in the same way as your place of origin the Shetlands; rugged and raw yet beautiful and captivating, plus it will be around forever. Has where you come from dictated your style of music or would your music be the same no matter where you hailed from?
That's nice. Emotionally RAW, for sure? Rugged….hmmm,sounds a bit Bruce(Springsteen) although I'm a HUGE Bruce fan. Captivating and beautiful, Shetland is all of these things (I think…) BUT there is still garbage there too. SO basically I think I'd have written introspective emotional music if I'd grown up in an urban environment. I've actually lived in a lot of cities…
oh, and I don't think ANYTHING will be around forever!
You have just completed The Roadworks Tour with Adam Masterson & Boadixa, a tour that Tom McCrae used to catapult himself to recognition with. Did you find it hard playing to people who may have been waiting for Adam Masterson? What sort of reaction did you evoke from the crowd? And how important are events like The Roadworks tour to artists like you?
I sold a lot of albums each night, it's a great sign people liked you! I think Adam was great Bodixa too…it was actually one of the most fun tours I’ve done. Everybody was really sweet; Bodixa lent me microphones , I worked the shop….Roadworks is great it's arts council funded so you actually get pretty nice treatment and reach a larger audience than you might at a certain level.
You used to be signed with Sony but have set your label up(Incarnation) for your latest release 'Astrid'. Has this allowed you greater freedom? What has the financial impact of this been?
Financially the initial outlay was massive for me .Buying the back catalogue, pressing 1000 albums getting a photo done, having a (good) writer do a biography….ALL this costs money…BUT when you start to sell Cd's you get it back and it feels great! All the decisions have been your own. Nobody is breathing down your neck to cut 90 seconds off your favourite song etc. But it can feel lonely, there is no one telling you you're right.
More and more bands are choosing to self release; [Spunge] have chosen that option for their latest album 'That should cover it?'. Are artists becoming more and more distressed at the oppressive music industry? Would you advise aspiring musicians that self release is the way to go?
“The music business is a shallow money trench, a long plastic
hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like
dogs. But it also has its negative side.”
Hunter S. Thompson
The music industry was ALWAYS oppressive. I think you MUST love what you do as a musician ie. writing, performing, recording (these are the payoffs that get you through the lean times)…It wont be worth it otherwise. If you're in it for the money…forget it!!!
Your debut solo album 'Boy For You' was well received in many quarters with the title track and 'World At Your Feet' standing out. What was your mood when you wrote this? What is the difference between that album and your latest one?
BFY is a story song where obsession meets madness.” World…” is a third person narrative (WHY do we/you/me love the wrong people?)The new album explores the same themes(less madness and obsession just plain old despair) but in the first
person narrative. No more hiding behind YOU when I really meant ME. The new album is better crafted musically and the choruses are stronger, I think etc. I personally think BFY was more interesting lyrically, it literally had more words.
Which of your songs sums up your present mood and why?
Current mood? Despair, sweetened by financial reward. No i'm kidding… I just tend to write about heartbreak.I think my voice was built for that kind of expression, you use the tools you have. All my songs sum up my mood. Do I have bad relationships in order to write sad songs? I SINCERELY hope not. If I wrote happy songs than they would sum up my mood too. I wish I did write happy songs….then again if I was happy WHY would I be bothered writing songs? I'd be busy being happy, bring on the day!
What are your current musical influences?
Umm, The Cure.
Do you reflect much on your days with Goya Dress? If so, what are your thoughts on them?
Happy HAPPY days. I’ll be touring with Cinerama (Terry de Casto ex. GD) so me and Terry will be revisiting some of those oldies!
Some of your songs are quite angry. Who or what makes you angry?
Poverty, injustice, torture, child labour….and of course bad men.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I'm recording a new album and I’d like to put out another album (not mine) on Incarnation.
I have read more than one review about you that says you could be folk's answer to Avril Lavigne. What are your thoughts on this? Are you flattered? If you are can hardware companies send T-shirts for you to wear?!
Avril's ok. I have taught singing (little girls mostly) and had to teach Avril (and Kylie and Dido and Britney and the list is endless…) Do I get to sell 20 million albums then???Actually, I hate advertising PERIOD; it's an evil machine designed to make us want things we don't need. The idea of wearing someones advert is offensive. Branding is crap, ask a cow!
What was the last album you purchased?
I think it was 'The Captain' by Kasey Chambers. The song was featured on an episode of the Sopranos and I went straight out and bought it. She's a country singer from Australia. The song is beautiful.
Astrid Williamson was talking to Dave Adair