Amy Macdonald finding a way to stardom

EMMA LEE Great things are predicted for Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald, who plays the Waterfront, Norwich, on Tuesday. EMMA LEE spoke to her.


Not long ago, university and a geography course were calling for Amy Macdonald.

But a few lucky breaks later, the talented young singer-songwriter has taken a different direction and is heading for music stardom instead.

It's been a hectic few months for the 20-year-old - and there's no sign of things slowing down just yet. She's in the middle of a UK headline tour, which explains why she's a bit croaky.

“I've got a terrible sore throat,” she says. “But I hope it'll be ok.”

Amy learned to play guitar when she was 12, bitten by the bug after hearing Travis's album The Man Who for the first time. The simple songs, such as Driftwood and Why Does it Always Rain on Me, performed with passion, moved her, and soon she was penning her own tunes.

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“I wanted to do the same thing myself,” she says.

Her first attempt - inspired by the posters of film star Ewan McGregor on her sister's wall - was, she admits, pretty dire.

“They were just about me, what was happening around me. They were pretty naive.”

But practice makes perfect and she started hitting the right notes. She didn't immediately think of it as a viable career option, but that was to change.

When she was in third year at high school a community music group called Impact Arts visited. Local musicians came to work with kids interested in music. They spotted Amy's talent, and soon she was doing shows round Glasgow organised by the Impact team, just her, her acoustic guitar and a set made up almost entirely of her own songs.

“I enjoyed singing and writing, it was something that relaxed me,” she says. “But I didn't think of it as a career. I was planning on going to uni.”

She built up some regular gigs at venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and is lucky never to have had stage-fright.

“I never get nervous,” she says. “It's my job and what I do. I'm one of the lucky ones.”

After leaving school having secured places at two universities, she deferred entry for a year and began sending off home-made demo tapes to labels and management companies.

She was taken on by Melodramatic Records, a London-based production and management company ran by Pete Wilkinson.

He helped Amy, who was still not yet officially an adult, record better-quality versions of her songs and he spurred her on creatively. Within six months she's secured publishing and record deals.

Last year with Wilkinson producing in Soho and rock legend Bob Clearmountain mixing in Los Angeles, she recorded her debut album, This is the Life. There's also been a pretty full-on touring schedule too.

She was personally asked by Elton John to support him in Glasgow and she's played alongside her childhood heroes Travis. And this summer she played Glastonbury and her own favourite festival T in the Park.

“The highlight so far has got to be playing T in the Park,” she says. “It's the festival I've grown up with.”

Is she surprised by how quickly things have fallen in to place for her?

“Not really, no. Even though I'm young, I've put the work in,” she says.

While her career has its highs, it also has its lows.

“Every day you're doing something different. Some days you're up at four in the morning and don't get to bed until one four days in a row. It's tough.

“Making videos is the worst part. It's a really long day and I'm by no means an actor. I don't have a clue what I'm doing. Luckily the people making them are professional and they appreciate that you're not an actor. It's good to work with someone who knows what they are doing.”

t Amy MacDonald plays The Waterfront, Norwich, on Tuesday, October 16. Support comes from the Sonic Hearts. Tickets £8 in advance from 01603 508050,, UEA Student's Union, The Waterfront, Soundclash

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