Mark W. Georgsson Interview: “I love the Scandinavian outlook on life”

mark w georgsson
Photo by Andy Laing.

Debut album Faces And Places out via Last Night From Glasgow.

There are two big reasons we are excited about this interview. Firstly, it is with the wonderful indie folk singer/songwriter Mark W. Georgsson. He recently released his debut album, Faces and Places, which is a delicate, emotional, and beautiful exploration of delicate rhythms and exquisite melodies. Secondly, the record came out on Last Night From Glasgow, which is right up there as one of our favourite record labels out there at the moment. They’re a Scottish not for profit record label who do not draw a salary or share in the profits. They’re all about the artists.

We spoke to Mark, and to video director/photographer Brian Sweeney, about Faces and Places, working with Last Night From Glasgow, and the influence of Iceland on the music.

Questions for Mark W. Georgsson:

Overblown: Tell us about the development of this album? How did you go about choosing the songs that are on it? (I believe the some songs are several years old whilst others are new)

Mark: The band I was in, The Velveteen Saints, were in the process of breaking up and I simply wanted to write and record an acoustic/folky/country record. So, I decided to go through some old songs and demos that I had and started from there. I picked a few older songs that I thought still really stood up and picked a few demos that I wanted to work on and together with the newer stuff I was writing, changed up some of the old songs and demos to fit the newer ideas. I wanted to make a full album, not just record a bunch of songs. I wanted the album to flow and sound like a complete thing.

That’s when I decided to contact Rod Jones of Idlewild to ask if he would like to work on my ideas and produce the album. I’ve always been a big fan of Idlewild, and it was when Idlewild started taking an acoustic/folky approach on their album ‘Warnings/Promises’ that I started to take an interest and really listen to country and bluegrass music, even Scottish folk music too after Roddy Woomble released his debut solo record, ‘My Secret Is My Silence’. I sent Rod the rough demos, he seemed to be diggin’ it and it went pretty quickly from there.

We then met up and discussed the production. I love the way those early Neil Young and early Rod Stewart albums sound… A live vibe, lots of panning, quiet even, but bursting with raw energy at the same time. Rod took that on board and added his ideas too. Some of the songs then took on a different direction and sound in the studio as lots of friends and musicians were popping in every day as and when they could to lay down parts. We just took live takes of everything to capture a that vibe and feel. It was a very laid back recording session. I think I finished the lyrics to ‘A Banjo Lament’ on the last afternoon of recording.

O: You introduced yourself to the world with ‘Ballad of a Nearly Man’ which is easily the most gentle moment on the record. Was this a deliberate choice and if so why?

Mark: No, that was by sheer coincidence that that song was released first. I’d not long finished recording the album and I bumped into Murray Easton in the pub before one of The Charlatans gigs in Edinburgh. Murray had previously been to a few Velveteen Saints gigs and he asked how I was doing and what I’d been up too. I told him about the record and he said be interested in hearing some of the songs. I also mentioned that I’d had a song (The Ballad Of The Nearly Man) translated and sung in Icelandic by some of my friends over in Iceland. He seemed really intrigued and keen to hear it. So, I sent him some of the songs.

Not long after, Murray contacted me and asked if I’d like to come and meet himself and Ian Smith for a coffee. Together they had decided they were going to start a Not For Profit indie record label and they thought it might be interesting to release ‘The Ballad Of The Nearly Man’ and the Icelandic version of the song as a AA-side 7″ vinyl as the labels and my first release. I was totally up for it.

O: I think this album carries a pretty strong sense of place and belonging, both Scottish and the Iceland connection. Is that something you try to achieve or is it just what comes out naturally? Can you explain the Icelandic connection?

Mark: Eh, I’d say that it’s came about quite naturally. A lot of the songs and ideas on the album are about people that I know or have met, in the various places that I’ve been or situations that they or I have been in. Be that in Coatbridge, Glasgow or Reykjavik.

As for the Icelandic connection, I just think it’s a great country. I’ve been over loads of times and have friends over there. I love the Icelandic and whole Scandinavian outlook on life in general. As chance would have it, I met Brian Sweeney who done the artwork for the album, for the first time when he was doing a photo shoot for my old band. He mentioned to me that he used to stay in Iceland. That day a former Icelandic student of his was with him too, Þormar. Myself and Þormar stayed in touch and it was him that introduced me to Arnar Guðjónsson and Sigríður Thorlacius who both sing the Icelandic version of my song.

O: It’s been a while since this record was recorded. What’s the feeling now that it’s finally being released? Huge Excitement? Or perhaps you’re already done with this record and want to move onto the next thing?

Mark: It has been, but the whole album only got mastered at the very start of last year. I’ve just took my time with it and made sure that I’m 100% happy with the recordings, the artwork, how it’s being released, even the gigs that I’ve played and plan to play, I’m only picking gigs that totally interest me. That said, I’m over the moon that it’s finally coming out and on limited 12″ vinyl too, I’m really happy with it. I’ve also got an idea of what I’d like to move onto next as well. So, it’s all good.

O: How have you found working with LNFG?

Mark: Working with the guys from Last Night From Glasgow has been an absolute pleasure. The time and effort the guys put in, and their attention to detail, especially Ian and Murray’s is just incredible.

Bearing in mind, it’s a Not For Profit label, and they all do it in their spare time! They make everything very relaxed, sociable and artist friendly coming up with lots of great ideas, but always leaving you with the final say. It’s basically a bunch of pals who all have a mutual love for music and just want to help to get new music out there. It’s an amazing ethos and I’m grateful just to be a part of it.

O: What’s the ambition for this record and beyond? What do you think success would look like?

Mark: The ambition for this record was honestly just to make a record that I truly wanted to make and was fully happy with. Beyond that… Just to continue with that mindset I suppose. As for success… Eh, I don’t know. Finally getting the record out there and being happy with it is success enough for me. Hopefully some people will like the record too.

O: (In advance of some chat from acclaimed photographer / video director. Brian Sweeney) What’s your thoughts on the artwork?

Mark: Well when the idea of the AA-side came about last year, my first thought was to go to Sweeney. We’ve been friends ever since that first photo shoot. We’re both into our football and we’re both massive supporters of the underdog (that’s why we go and watch Albion Rovers quite regularly). He’d previously done an exhibition called ‘Great Stadiums of Iceland’ and had just finished doing another exhibit called ‘Great Stadiums Of The North’ around the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The shots are in stunning rural locations and sometimes harsh landscapes and I thought it would be a cool idea to have one of his Icelandic and Scottish shots for each side of the 7″ which Brian very kindly allowed me to do. When it came to the album, I kind of wanted to keep that continuity somehow. But, I just wasn’t quite sure how. Sweeney had a think about it, he then came up with an idea which I totally got. So, we went away and he shot the album artwork on location in an afternoon in the Autumn.

I think fits the music, it’s very me too. I love it.

Brian Sweeney

O: Talk us through the creative thinking behind this record.

Thommo played me a song and told me he got Arni from The Leaves to produce a double a side… So I looked at maps and thought about how would a shoot like this happen before mobile phones, it took one week before the harbour master from Reykjavik posted me his maps with a note saying “Sweeney the ocean is a cunt tonight”.

O: How important do you think it is for music to have an accompanying visual aesthetic?

I think young people in bands are stupid with their visuals. I’ve had a pair of Gap pants for 4 years. I’ve seen 450 shit filters in the pants years.

O: You’ve put in a lot of work with LNFG. What is it about what they’re doing that’s grabbed your interest so much?

The label are great because they put out records on the artists terms and they support them too. TOO RYE AYE COMRADE.

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