Interview: Emma Pollock – 'It's about trial and error, letting the music sit with you for a few hours until the song appears'
Ex-Delgado talks about flying solo and her upcoming stint at Doune the Rabbit Hole
For 11 years (1994–2005, to be exact), Emma Pollock was perhaps best known as a member of the Delgados: the indie rock group from Motherwell who also started the label Chemikal Underground. Fast forward yet another 11 years, and Ms Pollock is a household name all on her own, with three solo albums under her belt and a reputation for putting on a smashing live show.
I'm curious to know how playing solo compares to her Delgado days, but she tells me she simply cannot compare the two, since the times they are a-changin'. 'It's impossible to say which I preferred,' she says, 'because the industry's almost unrecognisable to what it was when I was playing in Delgados. I miss being in a band, but we were all growing up together at that point. We were in our 20s, which doesn't sound that young, but it's certainly younger than we are now. We were learning, and there's nothing quite like the first few years of being in a band that starts getting a bit of recognition.'
The experience, Pollock believes, would be very different if the band was starting now. 'All we've seen recently is decline. When the band initially got together, there was still a real buoyancy; there was still opportunity, possibility and potential. We knew that all we needed was a little bit of a kick-start and you could find yourself with a deal or a tour, because that's what a buoyant industry is about. There aren't as many opportunities now, and it's singularly down to the fact that there isn't as much money in the music industry anymore.'
Pollock's understanding of the industry is particularly strong, since she is also the director of Chemikal Underground, the label she co-founded with other ex-Delgados, which now puts out her solo material. 'I think it gives me a sense of freedom that is both good and bad,' she says of that close involvement with her record’s own label. 'It's good that there's a company there to put it out, but it also works against you, because I don't really have a boss asking me where the album is. I have to be very self-disciplined.'
Her latest album, In Search of Harperfield, came out in January to great critical acclaim, and was produced by her husband, Paul Savage. 'It's a keep-it-in-the-family affair,’ she says of the recording process, while the songwriting took place over several years, and involved working in collaboration with the likes of RM Hubbert (or Hubby, as she calls him).
Pollock is a strong advocate of collaborative songwriting, something she believes aids the creative process. 'The collaboration thing is a very natural way to build some kind of momentum. It's a way of being part of something again, being part of a group without having to be in a full-time band. For me, it's about trial and error, letting the music sit with you for a few hours until the song appears.'
Pollock's songs will be appearing all over the UK this summer, as she embarks on the festival circuit, with a notable appearance at Doune the Rabbit Hole, an event known for championing fresh Scottish music and artists emerging from the country's DIY arts scene.
'Without a doubt, it's going to be a really strong line-up,' Pollock says of the festival. 'I know that Sound of Yell are playing which is pretty great. Their record came out on Chemikal Underground and I've worked with Stevie Jones before. TeenCanteen are a really great band so I'm quite excited about that, and there's De Rosa who are fantastic, and C Duncan too. Because I haven't put a record out in such a long time there's been quite a lot of festival offers.’ So, Pollock fans: time to grab your wellies.
Emma Pollock plays Doune the Rabbit Hole on Sun 21 Aug; the festival runs Fri 19–Sun 21 Aug.