In the Studio: Rose Elinor Dougall on the “Expansive Outlook” of Her New Album | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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In the Studio: Rose Elinor Dougall on the “Expansive Outlook” of Her New Album

A Little Less Insecure

May 07, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Bookmark and Share

Almost four years after releasing her debut solo album Without Why, U.K. musical artist and former member of The Pipettes Rose Elinor Dougall will release her new sophomore full-length in 2014. Dougall developed the songs over the course of a year with producer Oli Bayston (who also releases his own music as Boxed In). Claudius Mittendorfer (Temples, Jens Lekman, Neon Indian) then mixed the album. At the time of our interview the album was still untitled, but Dougall said there was “quite a bit of mixing to do but it’s basically finished-fingers crossed. I’m sure with a bit of distance there might be some more stuff I want to do but it feels like I finally have a solid body of work.” Dougall spoke to us from her flat in the north-east London neighborhood of Dalston about her progress on the album just as she was putting the finishing touches on it. [Note: These are extra portions of our interview with Rose Elinor Dougall, quotes that didn’t make it into our main print article on her.]

Mike Hilleary (Under the Radar): What do you think has changed the most for you musically since releasing Without Why?

Rose Elinor Dougall: Well, Without Why kind of coincided with me touring and singing with Mark Ronson. I wrote a song for his last record and sang on a couple of others and that touring went until the end of 2011, and that was kind of a big experience for me in a way, having left The Pipettes and kind of rejected a lot of that pop stuff. Without Why was, well, a very insular record. The way it was written and recorded was very private and [I completed] it with one person, [producer] Lee Baker in Brighton, and all the songs were written in my bedroom. It was a reaction, I guess, to my four years of experience with The Pipettes. And so then when I got asked to do this writing for Mark I just sort of felt like it was a way to pull me out of that headspace, and it seemed like a really interesting project. He pitched it to me like “sophisticated pop music,” which is what he does really well, and it reminded me that it’s a big part of what I love in terms of the way I write, the melodies I go for, and all that sort of thing. I think when I came to [my new] record I wanted to find a way of combining this slightly more expansive outlook. Even doing that tour reminded me I love performing and I love dancing and I love being a little bit more engaged with that process rather than this whole hiding-behind-my-fringe thing. And I wanted to find a way to marry some of these experiences together and I hope you hear that through the record. That’s not to say that it’s not still a very personal, intimate record. But I feel like it’s a little less insecure. I’m a bit older. I feel a bit bolder about what I’m doing and I think there are a few risks there that I would never have taken a few years ago. I think there’s a bit more fun in it, maybe.

What other things have personally also contributed to this change?

Well, my boyfriend spent a lot of time in the States, so I also did, which was great. Through Mark I also met a lot of musicians that I got to work with while I was there, and I feel like my outlook was sort of broadened a bit about the way in which it is possible to make music. I learned quite a lot about collaboration which has been really, really interesting. Kind of getting over myself a little bit and freeing things up and allowing other people’s energies to be a part of the process has been quite liberating and at times really challenging. It sort of made me more inversely aware of who I am as a writer once you get put in those situations and I realized what I need out of the process a lot more.

I imagine it must have been challenging for you several years ago, having been a part of this group, and then having to separate yourself from it and distinguish your own identity. Do you feel like you’re solidifying that a little more?

Definitely. I think that’s a natural part of getting older. I’m 27, so I still feel quite wide-eyed about everything, but I’m trying to resist becoming bitter and cynical. But I think I’ve always had a little bit of that in me. [Laughs] But yeah, it was a terrifying thing to make that decision. It was five years ago when I left The Pipettes and that had been a very formative experience. It taught me a huge [lesson] about what to do as well as what not to do for myself.

What is it that you enjoy most about the type of music that you write?

For me, the music that I gravitate towards has a certain level of intimacy and is personal and you can have this private interaction with it. I think that’s something I’ve tried to instill in the way I’ve written this record, creating a sonic space that might intrigue the listener into the meaning of it where it might not be immediately obvious. Rhythm and groove have become much more important to me. I mean, I grew up listening to a lot of folk music like Joni Mitchell and that sort of stuff which was much more lyrical and melodic and as much as that is still a really big cornerstone of what I’m doing, I’ve sort of gotten into more dance music, soul, hip-hop, and R&B, just sort of trying to break out of this rigid white thing that seems to surround me quite a lot. I’m just trying to create a drive and propulsive beat but finding a way of retaining-I need it to be emotional music. I am very emotional. That’s what I need out of the process…. I’ve been going dancing a bit more. Living in Dalston there’s a barrage of bullshit half the time but there’s a lot of clubs and I’ve become aware of how music functions in a public space a bit more. Equally, through the tour I did with Mark and watching him DJ and all that sort of stuff, I think I want a bit of that. As much I love going home late at night and listening to fucking Hope Sandoval, I’m young and I want to feel energy and I want to put some of that energy into the music I’m writing.

So when it’s all said and done, what is it that you want this record to say about you?

In terms of what I want it to say about me I haven’t really thought about it, but what I really hope for is a record that women especially can relate to. There are so many female artists at the moment and everyone goes on about how it’s a brilliant time to be a female musician. Every sort of five years it seems like the media want to write about these amazing girls, and they are and I’m really excited about some of them. But it does feel like on the whole you’re either this ethereal ingénue or a really strong soul singer or you’re just a sex machine, or you have to be really eccentric and out there and all these things. And fuck knows if I’ve got any hits or whatever but I thought about writing concise songs and I want them to have strong melodic themes and I want them to be memorable and I don’t want them to be fucking self-indulgent or anything, but I do hope it speaks to young women.

If there’s one thing you would change about yourself, what would it be and why?

Blimey. That’s a heavy one. Christ, I don’t know. I really try to not be too afraid but I think that I can create obstacles for myself. Maybe be more fearless would be something I would like but then I wouldn’t write the music I do. I wouldn’t be myself. I think at this point in my life I just have to accept what I am. It could be a little worse I guess.

[Note: This article first appeared in the digital/tablet version of Under the Radar’s February/March issue (Issue 49).]


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