Influenced by the likes of Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and John Martyn, UK-based singer-songwriter Rhona Macfarlane has a sound filled with poignant sentimentality. We speak with Macfarlane about her upcoming EP Closing The Window, favourite meals and future plans.
OSR: What drew you to music?
Macfarlane: I can’t pinpoint the exact thing that drew me to music but my mum played piano and my dad played guitar as well as playing records in the house, so I was also surrounded by music from a young age and became fascinated by it. I remember being the age of about 4/5 and hearing the orchestration of the musical Carousel and I became obsessed by the sound and how it made me feel. I guess the power of people expressing their emotions through sound really captivated me. I have always been creative from a young age whether that be doing silly plays or writing songs and I guess I never stopped doing that and decided that I need it in my life.
OSR: What inspires you to create music?
Macfarlane: Different things inspire me to create. Sometimes I write for myself to make sense of something I’m feeling. I usually find after I write a song that what I was feeling becomes clearer and I can almost put the feeling to bed but have it in a piece of art that reminds me of a certain time/thing. I am an observant person and find different people’s stories and how they deal with things in life interesting. A lot of the songs on the EP are just observations and stories of people I know which moved me in some way to want to share them. I think we can learn a lot from the people around us and I don’t think inspiration has to come from major life events but sometimes mundane events and everyday human experiences.
OSR: What do you hope people take from the EP Closing The Window?
Macfarlane: Although these are stories of people I know and my own experiences, I hope these songs can form new meanings for the listener and can relate to their own experiences in some way. I hope it makes you feel something and most of all, I hope that by listening that we might connect with each other and understand that we aren’t so alone in our human experiences.
OSR: Which is your favourite track off Closing The Window?
Macfarlane: Ahh, that is a hard one. I’m not sure I can pick a favourite. ‘No Rain’ is a special one for me as it was written about some close family, but I think ‘Closing The Window’ is my current favourite as it is the most recent song I wrote and it has a fuller production which was fun to experiment with.
OSR: What about your least favourite?
Macfarlane: Again, hard to pick. ‘Black Wall’ I wrote a very long time ago so I have performed it many times. It is the least fresh for me but I still value the song and the subject.
OSR: If you could change one thing about the EP, what would it be and why?
Macfarlane: I try and not live with regret. I think the body of work is what it is and it fulfilled my vision at the time of writing and recording. I think as a musician you are never fully happy with anything, that is part of being a creative person. It can be really hard to know when to stop picking at little things and tweaking things, so once the songs were recorded I wanted to accept I gave my best performance and then move on. I am guilty of being very overanalytical, doubtful and picky and in the past, it has resulted in me never releasing music for a long time so I try to break this habit. At the end of the day, the music is there to express something honest and raw so it will never be perfect. Now I am ready to start new material and to continue to grow as a musician.
OSR: What do you think makes you unique as a musician?
Macfarlane: I somehow struggle with this question. Maybe it is because of my self-deprecating Scottish sense of humour that I find it hard to big myself up. I think everybody is unique in some way, but I would say the fact I play guitar, piano and violin makes me somewhat different. I wrote the full string arrangements and played violin for the EP and really enjoyed writing the parts.
I have had quite a broad musical upbringing with listening to records growing up, studying classical violin and piano at a Conservatoire and playing folk music, so I have a wide variety of influences. These range from singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake to classical composers such as Rachmaninoff and Debussey, to jazz and folk and pop music. I think this mixture seeps its way into my musical creativity and hopefully makes something somewhat unique. I try and not shy away from expressing everyday mundane human experiences and I try to be as honest as I can in delivering these stories.
OSR: If you could spend the day with one celebrity, who would it be and why?
Macfarlane: This is so hard! I think as a classical composer I would love to meet Rachmaninoff. His music is amazing so I would love to get into the mind of his creative process. I’d also love to meet Nina Simone. I think she was a real character with so much individuality and talent.
OSR: What is your favourite meal?
Macfarlane: I’m a sucker for macaroni cheese, as unsophisticated as that may be!
OSR: Do you have future plans as a musician?
Macfarlane: Eventually, I would love to do songwriting full-time, but as of now it is difficult for me as an artist starting out to survive financially doing this. I hope to write lots more music and play with more musicians. I would love to start writing an album as it is an ambition of mine. I hope to play more shows and am planning some gigs and a potential mini-tour of Scotland next year.