A Chat with Fiona Liddell (25.08.2020)

Before lockdown, Fiona Liddell was performing with a range of acts across the country. When the pandemic cut this short, she found solace in her older music and taking the time to strip them down to their essence. Her new album The Lockdown Session is a collection of 8 original songs which have been taken back to their intimate core. We sat down with Fiona Liddell to talk about the album, her inspiration, music and much more!

OSR: How did you first become interesting in making music?

Liddell: When I was growing up, my parents and I would sing along to tapes in the car on long drives. We listened to some great albums by female singer-songwriters such as Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Aimee Mann. My dad eventually taught me a guitar and, inspired by the songs that were my childhood soundtrack, I started to write and perform my own material when I was about twelve.

OSR: Your album The Lockdown Session features Sam Thorne, how did you decide to collaborate on this album?

Liddell: Before lockdown, I had been working on some electronic tracks, one of which was selected for a compilation album of Leith artists. The organiser of this CD had hoped to host a gig of all the featured musicians. When that sadly couldn’t happen, she invited me to host a live stream gig instead.

My instinct was to decline. Despite performing in public as a teenager, once I started university I lost confidence in my original songs. I compared myself to the other music students who seemed to me to have more developed songwriting skills. When I mentioned the possible gig to my husband (Sam Thorne) and my intention to refuse, he encouraged me that we could revisit some of these older songs of mine and rework them with piano. He’s always been my biggest supporter, and it’s really down to him that I had the confidence to perform the live stream!

OSR: What was the inspiration behind The Lockdown Session?

Liddell: I was inspired to perform the live stream and to release the subsequent live album by the hope that I could bring some of the excitement of live music back into people’s lives. Like most musicians, I haven’t had a gig since March, and I was missing it terribly. This live stream was a chance not only to get that performing buzz back but to finally release these original songs into the world after ten years of writing.

OSR: Are there any tracks on the album that hold a special place for you?

Liddell: ‘Raised’ is a particular favourite of mine because I wrote it when I was about fourteen. It was my first instance of writing a song and feeling excited about what I’d come up with. The song has come a long way since its initial incarnation, but the melody and lyrics remain the same. ‘Screen Time’ is my most recent song and you can hear the stark difference in lyrical content and chord progression. What a difference a decade makes!

OSR: As you recorded the album at home, what was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Liddell: The hardest part about recording the album at home was trying to work out the easiest set up so that we could have the live feed and the recording happening at the same time without too much lag. I spent the whole gig praying that nothing crashed! Luckily, a few of my musician mates gave me advice from live streams they had previously done and recommended a few programmes to help smooth out the sometimes volatile process of live streaming.

OSR: How nervous were you to release your first live album of original material?

Liddell: Extremely! Despite weeks of rehearsal and positive feedback from the gig, I was so nervous that I couldn’t even bring myself to listen back to the audio. I was convinced that all of the doubts that had festered since university would be reaffirmed worse than ever. Luckily, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised! Backed by my husband’s wonderfully fluid piano playing, the songs sprang to life anew. I was very proud of what we’d created and I was happy to release it for people to enjoy.

Fiona Liddell The Lockdown Session cover

OSR: How different is it to release your own music compared to performing with other bands and projects?

Liddell: It’s a huge difference! There’s much less on the line for me as a violinist or backing singer for another musician. I was very used to hiding from the spotlight! As lead singer for a wedding band, I have never really felt nervous that people won’t enjoy our performance or leave not having felt entertained. I feel a great deal more insecure with releasing or performing my own material. After this live album, I’ve regained the confidence I had as a teenager in my ability as a songwriter.

OSR: What is the one thing you would like people to take away from this album?

Liddell: I’d like people to listen to the album and leave it with hope that live music will be back in our lives soon. The album’s success proves that you don’t need a huge studio budget to release and record something. To that end, I hope it also inspires other people to create and release home-recorded material. Don’t do what I did and lock all your songs up in your head for ten years!

OSR: If you could collaborate with any artist from any time, who would it be and why?

Liddell: I would be honoured to have the chance to collaborate with Joni Mitchell. Her songwriting style has shaped my own along with countless other songwriters, particularly the songs on her album Court & Spark (1974). I love how you can see her songwriting style develop over the years and how you can hear her experiment with different genres of music.

OSR: What do you have planned for the next 12 months?

Liddell: I have a couple of other singles to release before the end of the year with my electronic band Gefahrgeist. The singles are both electronic versions of two of my favourite songs from the live album. It’s our debut release so we’re hoping to build a strong audience with them. ‘Graceless’ will be out in October and ‘Nukular’ will be out sometime in December. Next year, I’m hoping to record some more of my songs with a full band and release them as a short EP. Who knows? We might even be able to record them in a studio!

Thanks to Fiona Liddell for chatting with us! You can find more about her on her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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