the AU interview: Isobel Campbell (Glasgow)

Larry Heath catches up with ex-Belle and Sebastian member Isobel Campbell, who is touring Australia with Mark Lanegan for Splendour in the Grass this week and a few sideshows. They chat about Hawk, the Cello, coming to Australia, Queens of the Stone Age and much more...

Hi Isobel, how are you going?

Hi I’m good, how are you?

I’m doing really well thanks. Whereabouts are you at the moment?

I’m on the tour bus, driving to Manchester. We’re playing at Manchester Cathedral tonight.

That should be very nice.

Yeah I’m looking forward to it.

Are you touring around much at the moment, or is this a one off show for you guys?

We played at the Lancaster Library last night. We started from Belgium on the 8th July. And then I fly back to LA on the 16th July, and we have 9 nights before flying to Sydney.

It’s going to be a long flight, we’re looking forward to having you down here. Have you been down here before, I imagine you have?

I’ve never ever, ever been so … I’m excited.

It’s taken us so long to get you down here, what’s been the hold up?

(laughs) I’ve had a lot of really terrible managers. So my career has been one big mess (laughs). And I don’t know yet, so it might be the only time you will see me.

We hope that’s not the case, but you’re bringing Mark along with you and obviously Hawk came out almost a year ago now.

By the time I get to Australia, it will be a year. I think it came out at the end of August 2010, so almost a year. To me it feels like a decade.

I imagine you haven’t really stopped since then?

Yeah I always think, if someone was to get an electric chainsaw and put it right through me... You know when you chop through a tree and you see all the lines and see what age it is. It is like all the words... I think it will have all my song lyrics in them. Producing them or mixing them, it gets so engrained in me.

Well you do produce the material. With Hawk, how did your collaboration with Mark compare to the previous two records you did with him?

I think of it as like a trilogy. I’m really fond of them all and each one of them is different. Maybe I have more confidence on the musicians on the record. I don’t know, it is really hard to make them. I did try out many guitar players on songs, to get the perfect guitar solo. I write songs and produce it and hope that someone likes it and they seem to, so that’s good enough for me.

And Mark as been down to Australia quite a few times, I think most recently was last year. What has he told you about the country?

He hasn’t spent too much time there. When he was at one of the travelling festivals in Australia, he said he saw a bit more of it, he said it’s nice. I think he’s looking forward to it, especially for me as it’s my first time.

Yes, definitely. And what are you working on at the moment? It’s been a while since you’ve released your own solo album. Since Milk White Sheets, you’ve worked with Mark. Are we going to seeing some solo work from you in the future?

I hope so. I’m working on that and making a record for Victoria Williams. I think I’ve got lots of different things to do, always excited to do new things as well.

Well it shouldn’t be the last time we see you down here then we hope.

Might be (laughs). I have a weird track record with managers . It seems like Spinal Tap or something. (laughs) it could be.

Well, speaking of Spinal Tap, what can we expect from your live shows?

Well people seem to be enjoying it more than ever. We might be a bit jetlagged but we’ll be having lots of fun.

Well you’ve got a couple of side shows and of course you’re playing the Splendour In The Grass festival with Pulp and Coldplay and all those guys. So it should be a good time for you guys down here.

Yeah sounds really good.

And I understand you played a set at the ATP last year. How did those shows go? I know it was curated by Belle & Sebastian. It’s like everything comes full circle.

It was the anniversary of the first ever in ATP that we played. I thought we played really well and Nick who plays trumpet and Chris who play keyboard said it was the best time they had in the festival so I was really happy. We couldn’t stay long to hang out with everyone as we were flying out to Greece the following day, so I didn’t get to see a lot of my old friends. But it was still fun.

And I have to ask, working with Mark Lanegan, he’s someone who, like you, has had quite a few projects over the years. Where did you first hear about him? What got Mark on your radar?

Well he was not on my radar at all. But it was in 2002, I was looking for a singer with a low voice, and my boyfriend at the time, he said listen to this guy, I really love his voice. This guy played me one song. I didn’t know Mark and I hadn’t heard of his music, but thought his voice was really interesting. So I thought maybe I won’t ever hear anything but I sent him a song and he'd been a fan I think of Belle & Sebastian, so he contacted my manager back then, and called me up. And that was the first time I spoke to him. He was going to be in Glasgow touring with QOTSA and he invited me to the show and I went to see him and so we kept in touch. When we met up he said we should make a record and really that’s how it all started.

And the rest as they say, is all history.

Yeah. That was … nine years ago. It’s hard to believe it was 9 years ago.

That was the first time I saw Mark as well, when he toured with Queens Of The Stone Age. I’ve been listening to him ever since.

He was guest vocalist for a few songs I think. When I went to see, I was like, where is he he’s not there, but then he came on for a few songs.

What instruments will we see you play down in Australia?

Me personally? Cello is all I play on stage.

Oh good, I was just making sure I will get to see you play the cello.

(laughs) I did think about not bringing it as we get charged so much excess baggage, but I’ll have my cello.

Oh good that was what I wanted to hear, well thank you for taking the time to talk to us and we’ll see you in a couple of week.

Thank you. See you soon.


Friday 29th July - The Factory Theatre, Sydney
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Saturday 30th July - SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS FESTIVAL, Woodford
Tickets available NOW through

Monday 1st August - The National Theatre, Melbourne
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Wednesday 3rd August - The Fly By Night, Perth
Tickets available through