Published: 08/12/2012 10:43 - Updated: 07/12/2012 11:10

Horse is back in harness with bold new album

Horse and her band will be entertaining Eden Court this weekend.
Horse and her band will be entertaining Eden Court this weekend.

GOING on tour with Horse, the Fife-born singer-songwriter with the equine alias, is less like Spinal Tap and more like something from naughty grown up comic Viz.

At least that is the way that the woman otherwise known as Sheena McDonald sees it.

It seems she cannot help but find an alternative meaning in even the most innocent comments of her young backing band.

"So not only am I mentoring them musically, I’m mentoring them into the rock and roll lifestyle — but then they are all babes in arms. They are all in their mid-20s. The good thing about that is it brings the average age down!" she laughed.

"I do have say that people have been telling me that I do have a spring in my step and a little twinkle in the eye, so obviously it does work!"

The current band has actually been together for around three years, while her engineer has been with her for nine years, which is why Horse feels that her latest album Home is a bookend for her career that reflects her debut album The Same Sky back in 1990.

"They were both recorded by a group of musicians who have been together for a while," she explained.

"We create a sound and that sound is very much inherent in what the musicians bring to the table."

For Horse, this tends to involved making her songs darker and less poppy.

"I am a bit of a tunesmith and I’m very good at writing catchy pop songs, but for me they have to have an edge to them," she explained.

"If you did the first obvious thing, it’s often like a karaoke version of itself."

That attitude goes back to Careful, a song from The Same Sky that has become something of a signature tune for Horse and is a favourite of Pop Idol winner Will Young.

"I was so sure there was no way that I wanted the band playing Careful, and the producer said: ‘How about strings?’ And that’s where my love affair began with strings," she said.

"Conversely, now we have done Careful on the new album with the whole band and strings. It’s a really fab arrangement — a kind of meld of dance versions that were around a few years ago as well as the original and our take on it. If a song is good, you can do anything with it.

"You can do it in any form and for me it has to have a bit of darkness to it. As much as people like lightweight throwaway things, a lot of the songs which have longevity are ones which have a sadness, so I definitely have a lot of songs in my canon."

This seems especially true of the songs Horse wrote following the deaths of her beloved parents soon after each other,

"Some of these songs have gone on to mean a tremendous amount to other people as well as me," she continued.

"I had a very sad thing. A woman got in touch to say her daughter had terminal cancer and asked if she could have my song Heaven Can Wait played at the funeral. Well that was me! I was in floods of tears, as was my keyboard player, and I sent a message back asking if there was anything we could do, because we were all quite moved, but she said that we’d already done it.

"That to me was a huge return on all the work and effort. Far from money, I think that’s what is my success. I feel as I get older, I get more philosophical and to me it’s a gift that gives not only to me, but to other people as well. It’s a really wonderful process."

Home, whose release has been delayed after asthma problems landed Horse in hospital for a spell, does not just contain Horse’s words and music.

She revealed that over the past few years she has developed a passion for recording sounds and some of these have made it on the album.

These include the sound of the sea from the Cumbrian coast where Horse’s mother lived when she was younger and the sound of the location where her parents’ ashes are.

"You won’t necessarily hear it, but I hope you feel it," she said.

"Everything on this album does seem to have come together almost in an organic way. It does feel like coming home.

"The title track, Home, I actually started writing 30 years ago. It was quite strange — I came across these harmonic notes and I loved it. It was almost as if it had been left for me to finish just now."

There was an even stranger occurrence with the song Meet My Maker, written three years ago after Horse became seriously ill.

"I thought I was going to die, and I don’t say that lightly," she said.

"I was lying there waiting for my mother to come for me, because that was what I asked her to do before she died, and the song is about the thoughts that were going through my mind."

Once she had written the song, Horse decided to add some choral voices and opted to use the old childhood prayer "If I Die Before I Wake".

"I thought: that sounds perfect, I’ll Google it. Oh my God! I Googled it and it originated with a guy called Joseph Addison who was involved with the Kitcat Club and founded The Spectator magazine — and he was my great-great-great-grandfather," Horse said.

"I thought this was just too spooky for words.

"The whole album has a lot of very strong songs, but my guitarist Gordon Turner has become brilliant at creating soundscapes. I can’t wait for people to hear it."

• Horse is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court on Sunday 9th December at 7.30pm.

For more info on Horse and her music, gop to www.randan.org

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