Zoe Graham: 'It's quite a surreal experience to be recognised for the work and commitment I've put in over the years'
- Cheri Amour
- 13 November 2019
credit: Julian Bailey
Trading her strings for synths, the Scottish Alternative Music Award winner opens up about the end of adolescence, life on the road and embracing change
Around this time last year, Scottish songwriter Zoe Graham found herself in flux. After moving out to pursue her music career full-time, she was no longer rooted to her childhood home. A relationship ended and her beloved dog, her sidekick since she was ten, passed away. The moment marked an end to adolescence and a beginning to her adult life. 'Everything happened over those six months but felt instant at the same time,' she tells me over the phone from her home in Glasgow. 'I remember sitting in my flat, thinking about how different everything was only half a year ago.'
It wasn't just situational and emotional shifts that the solo artist was feeling though. Her sound had also begun to evolve. A sidestep and syncopated beat onwards from the tender acoustic strings and interwoven vocals of 2018's 'Hacket & Knackered', latest single 'Gradual Move' focuses on this idea of transition. Instead of those stripped-back strings, tinkering keys swirl and Graham's vocals are sharp and direct: 'Everything changes, it's just a gradual move.'
Yet while the new material might hint at a darker, more electronic sound, there's still a lot of respect for Graham's folk roots. When we speak, it's only a few days since the Scottish Alternative Music Awards where the songwriter bagged the Best Acoustic gong, much to her surprise. 'It was very unexpected. I was imagining a quiet night and to be in bed by 11pm,' she jokes whilst being insistently humble about the reception from her peers. 'It's so special and quite a surreal experience to be recognised for the work and commitment I've put in over the years. It makes all the heavy lifting, rough gigs, and countless rehearsals very worth it.'
It's this dogged determination that was, no doubt, fostered through her teens growing up surrounded by fellow artisans; her mum an actress, her dad an artist and her brother a conductor and composer. 'I had the perfect conditions to learn music growing up and I was encouraged to venture into the arts from a young age,' she recalls warmly. Originally applying for art school before pulling a U-turn to focus on her songwriting, Graham explains how she knew she'd made the right decision. 'I discovered the Academy of Music and Sound and their songwriting course and knew I had definitely found my place.'
Since then, Graham has been no stranger to lofty arts establishments, having recently shared the stage with everyone from pop siren Kate Nash to wedding singalong favourites The Proclaimers. Because if any band knows a thing or two about going the distance, it has to be those two, right? 'Each of those shows were in these huge 5,000 venues, which is deceiving because when you're on second on a five-band bill it feels like no one's there. But that's because 700/800 people doesn't look like much in such a huge space. Then you realise "Oh shit... that's still a lot of people!"'
But it's her own solo shows that Graham now has her sights set on, particularly welcoming her full live band to the stage; something she feels will continue to shift the perception of her as an artist: 'People have really only seen me solo up to now so I'm excited for people to see this other side of me.' It may well be a gradual change but it's definitely steering Graham in the right direction.
'Gradual Move' is out now. Zoe Graham plays BBC Quay Session, Glasgow, Mon 18 Nov; Mad Hatters, Inverness, Thu 21 Nov; Spin Records, Aberdeen, Fri 22 Nov; Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough, Sat 30 Nov; Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, Sat 7 Dec; Oran Mor, Glasgow, Thu 23 Jan.
Intimate show from hotly tipped Scottish artist, Zoe Graham. Catch her at this special limited capacity venue while you can.