Ainsley Hamill is a London-based Scottish singer-songwriter, who has studied music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. She has just released her album Not Just Ship Land on 31 March and I had the chance to have a short interview with her to talk about her latest record.
Aron: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and a bit more about your musical background?
Ainsley: “Sure, I’m originally from the West of Scotland and besides studying music in Glasgow, I’ve also toured with folk bands like Barluath and The Usual Suspects in the last couple of years. Music has always been an important part of my life so it felt logical to initiate my solo singer-songwriter project as well.”
Aron: What is your very first memory of music having an impact on you?
Ainsley: “Well, if I had to pick one memory, I would say ‘Riverdance’ had an impact on me, in terms of performance and the traditional Gaelic musical roots. It may not be related directly to songwriting, yet that is a particular memory that got stuck with me and that definitely had influenced me as a musician and as a performer.”
Aron: Do the songs and their stories come from personal experiences or are they based on fiction?
Ainsley: “The songs I write are usually from personal experiences. It is true about my latest album too. The tunes of Not Just Ship Land came by the inspiration I had from all the surroundings and the stories of unsung heroes of Govan, which is a south-west suburb of Glasgow. For instance ‘Belle of the Ball’ is about Belle Moore, who was the youngest British woman and the only Scottish woman to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. Belle was part of the first ever women’s swimming events staged at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Her personal life story inspired me heavily.”
Aron: Can you tell me a bit about the work progress of the album?
Ainsley: “Yeah, sure the record was initially recorded in Govan as well, near the river Clyde, though eventually it had to be finished remotely. The production, including recording and mixing was done by Malcolm Lindsay and the mastering was executed by Felix Davis of Metropolis Studios.
Aron: Wow, that is great! Malcolm Lindsay is a very acknowledged producer who, if I’m not mistaken, works at the BBC and was also involved in several projects for films as a composer. How was it working with Malcolm Lindsay?
Ainsley: “The workflow was really smooth, he’s a musical genius and an experienced jazz musician as well which proved to be very useful during the recordings. He did a great job with the vocals and kept me inspired with his easy-going but helpful work attitude.
Also, you may hear added string sections in the songs like ‘Not Just Ship Land’, ‘Belle of the Ball’ and ‘The Daffodil King’. This kind of instrumentation made a record sound quite cinematic, in my opinion and to be honest, I quite like it this way.”
Aron: It also occured to me those great guitar sounds in songs like ‘Not Just Ship Land’ which also shows the professionalism of Malcolm Lindsay.
Ainsley: “Oh yeah, Malcolm is great, he has a massive collection of vintage guitars, so not only his creativity but his knowledge and the wide range of his instruments proved to be extremely useful to make my album a professional record.”
In your songs like ‘Respect Your Elder’ Gaelic and Celtic influences are clearly sensible. But for example, in ‘No Time to Lose Time’ very smooth drums were added to the traditional Gaelic sonic identity that gave the track a way more contemporary sound and gave it attributes of the RnB genre as well.
What is your artistic intention? Would you like to keep your music mainly sound traditional or a mixture of traditional folk music and contemporary RnB?
Ainsley: “That’s interesting, it’s cool to hear your thoughts on it. Well, I don’t really think about genres when it comes to songwriting. I don’t really like to categorise my music. It is all good whatever comes out of mind and soul. as long as the songs say what I meant to say with them and as long as I like what I’m hearing. I think it is actually important not to categorise music. With limits, creativity might be damaged.”
Aron: As a final question, I wanted to ask you about the song “The Will of the People is Law”. According to its title, it seems to be a political tune to me. Is that right?
Ainsley: “Yes, it is. This song showcases women’s battle for equality – in some cases militantly – to change the system for all. The inspiration to write this song came from the story behind the Glasgow rent strike during WWI and in fact, it originated in Govan, but it is also connected to Mary Barbour’s allegiance with the Red Clydeside movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. “The Will of the People is Law” was a campaign slogan used by Barbour’s Army during the Glasgow rent strikes. It felt like a sort of need to write about these historical events, to give voices to these heroines of Scotland.”