Growing up with a blues guitarist father, music was only an inevitability for Mary Erskine/ Me For Queen.
Growing up in Scotland, songwriting provided her a passion from the age of 13. After years of honing her classy, intricate songwriting ability, she really launched into the musical spectrum late last year. Her stunning single “Jessica” was picked up by BBC Radio Scotland, BBC 6Music and BBC Wales. The track also landed on Spotify’s influential playlist “The Most Beautiful Songs in The World”.
Now looking towards a debut album in 2018, we chatted to the rising songwriter on her process and what’s next..
- For anyone who isn’t familiar with your backstory, tell us about life growing up in Fife and how the songwriting career came about.
I started writing songs when I was about 13. They were pretty awful and luckily, because I didn’t think my voice was strong enough, I didn’t sing any of them in public… Then I got into singing more through open mics etc at uni, singing covers and my own stuff, building some confidence and slowly got into recording and gigging more…
- Who were your main musical influences growing up, and how much have they made an impact on your own sound?
At home my Dad would listen to and play lots of blues stuff like Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy… but there was a real mix – through learning classical piano and cello I listened to a real range of things, my parents were great at taking us out to see live music as much as possible. My brother introduced me to Bjork and Jeff Buckley in my late teens, and they have really stayed with me… Also I remember a friend from orchestra camp (yes I was extremely cool) playing me the Lauryn Hill album when I was 13 and I was totally captivated. That led me onto people like Aaliyah, Jill Scott/ a more “R and B” tip.
- You had great success last year with ‘Jessica’ – did you ever expect it to get the recognition that it received from such high-profile tastemakers? I can’t see that one dropping out of the set list any time soon…
I really didn’t expect anything from Jessica. I felt so proud of it as a song when I eventually finished writing it – it took months and really bugged me for a long time… I knew from playing it at shows early on it was connecting with people but you never know how a song is going to do once it’s out there in the world. I actually didn’t feel great about the recording – I can still hear all the little niggly bits in my guitar playing… it’s also quite long and the instrumentation is so sparse – I had no real expectations… I find it’s better to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised!
- Tell us a little bit about the story and the songwriting process behind ‘Loose End’ and why you decided to launch it as a single.
Loose End was a song I wrote having thought I’d finished the album! I was messing around on the guitar then started singing the chorus then about half an hour later had finished it. I tried not to overthink it really. Then once I’d made a rough demo at home with drums/some backing I really felt good about it and was singing it over and over again… so sent it on to Jim, my producer, then we booked in another day to track it! Lyrically it really seemed to pull together a load of things on the album as well, really satisfyingly, so I suddenly realised maybe I had an album title in there too…
- On ‘Loose End’ you’ve experimented with a sound which is sonically different to your previous material – how did that change come about?
I tend not to think about it too much. The chorus felt so poppy, I said to Jim (producer, also drummer) that I didn’t want to let myself get in the way of letting it just be fun, bright and poppy, whatever it feels like it wants to be. I really feel strongly that you need to let the song do its own thing – the production should just support the song, in my opinion. It’s different to Jessica, but then Jessica was different to everything that came before her! I’d never released a guitar-led track (as I couldn’t play the guitar before …!)
- Is the new single a reflection on how the new album will sound? What can fans expect from your next full-length project?
Yes, this album reflects a new process for me, where I build up demos at home on Logic then bring them into the studio, hence me taking a co- producer credit (I like to call it sous-chef!). I’ve been writing as much on the guitar as on the piano in this past year as well as my lovely Juno keyboard – so sonically that has had an impact too.
Jim (Wallis) is such fantastic musician (drummer and guitarist) as well as a producer and he has brought so much to the project. I’m excited to get it out into the world now!
- Where can people go and watch you over the summer?
I’ve just finished a German tour, which was brilliant. This summer I have a lovely London show on the 30th July supporting Tusks at the Camden Assembly, then I’ll be announcing a UK tour for September shortly…..