Tracyanne and Danny pay Edwyn Collins a visit

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 10:20 am
Updated Friday, 25th May 2018, 10:39 am

They say a change is as good as a rest, but for Tracyanne Campbell, working on her latest album was more than that. And not just as an alternative to the daily chores. Once the phone stops ringing she answers: 'I have a terrible habit of forgetting these things are happening, so I was doing the dishes'.

Back home - for now - she's recently had a bit of a busman's holiday, up in the Highlands to record an album with Bristol songwriter Danny Coughlan, and taking inspiration from the surroundings - something she learned when working with her band Camera Obscura.

'Getting away from home, free from distractions, going to another country or city, inspires you in all sorts of ways - the people you meet or the weather or your apartment or how the place looks."

On this occasion it was close-ish to home - Helmsdale, not far from John o'Groats, providing the inspiration for the duo's album. 'That drive up the A9 to the Highlands is pretty special', she enthuses, 'we did that a few times, it's just such a beautiful spot.'

'Plus it's got windows,' she points out, something unusual compared to the stereotypical dungeon of a recording studio. 'You look onto the sea, it's gorgeous, pretty special.'

'I dunno if it's a sound thing or that if you can't see you'll be more focused, but I didn't think it did us any harm to look out to the world.'

The source behind their creative inspiration is the studio is owned by Edwyn Collins - the former Orange Juice frontman who recuperated there following his life-threatening stroke in 2005. And indeed, he ended up being more than their landlord, producing the record as well as hooking them up with Dexy's Midnight Runner Sean Read on board too - 'a brilliant engineer'.

'We weren't interested in self-producing, and Francis (Macdonald, Camera Obscura's manager and Teenage Fanclub's drummer) suggested we use Edwyn's studio.'

Fortunately, they clicked. 'We met Edwyn and (his wife) Grace at the studio and were very impressed. Working with someone new's always a risk - we were taking a punt, it could all go drastically wrong but it turned out to be a good match.'

As well as lending the duo his vintage gear - including the guitar pedal used on his biggest hit '˜A Girl Like You' - Collins also contributes backing vocals, his dulcet tones can be heard on the lead single '˜Alabama'. That song tells of a place and a time far away from the Scottish Highlands - recounting a trip to Georgia during a Camera Obscura US tour.

It also tells of Carey Lander - the band's keyboard player who sadly passed away in 2015 following a battle with a rare type of bone cancer.

The song is a celebration of Carey's life and its upbeat tone offers no clues to the subject matter - the city providing a mere backdrop.

'We'd only been once to Alabama,' Campbell remembers of her time touring with her band, 'The song's pointing out the... unusualness of it - God, we did that, we've been to Alabama together, that's mad!'

'Also, while I was writing the song I was watching the Truman Capote film, and the southern states kind of inspired it.'

That's the only tune on the record that concerns her friend, but may not be the last.

'Of course, I've written a lot about Carey since she passed away,' Campbell reveals. 'She's very much in my thoughts, she had a massive effect on all of our lives. But Alabama is the only one I want to share for now.

"I don't know when the right time will be but that was one that came quite quickly. It'd seem strange to write new songs and she wasn't mentioned somehow.'

Despite being responsible for Camera Obscura's songs, she now has Danny - who usually works under the name Crybaby - working alongside her. 'In 2013 he asked me to sent me a song,' she recounts. 'But it was finished so there was nothing for me to do with it, but I really liked it and liked his voice - it sounded really special.'

Crybaby ended up supporting Camera Obscura and the two ended up writing - 'two songs became three' - and we now have the album, a real mix of styles ranging from Americana-tinged ballads via country to Coughlan's classic songwriting.

And that's not the end of it - already there are a few songs left that didn't make it onto the album, and there's a likelihood that the pair will work together again..

'Unless no-one buys the record or turns up to the gigs,' the self-effacing Campbell says brightly. 'We're having a bash.'

Tracyanne and Danny is out on May 25. The duo play Glasgow Saint Luke's on May 31.