For more than 20 years, Scottish singer Angela McCluskey has managed to keep a low profile while scoring #1 hits and Grammy nods and touring the world with some of the biggest bands in the world. But the release of her latest project this week could change everything.
The Roxy Sessions, recorded in a suite at New York’s Roxy Hotel, is a gorgeously produced collection of moody swing and bouncy dance pop, just a bit of a departure from her work with French electronic group Telepopmusik and the live/electronic duo Big Gigantic, and light years from her days leading the 90s alt-rock band Wild Colonials.
“It’s a very different record to everything else that I’ve done,” says McCluskey, basking in the heat, and privacy, of her NYC garden. “It moves from, like, dub reggae into ‘20s electro-swing into ‘60s pop into even a bit of sultry, sexy guitar music, like Nick Cave vibe.”
McCluskey co-wrote the album with producer Kiran Shahani over the past nine years, finishing the last four songs in one afternoon earlier this summer. First came “What About.” “It started out quite Bond-y,” she remembers, as in James Bond, for whom she hopes to write a theme song one day. Then came two smooth 1960s French-influenced songs. And later, two swinging fireballs inspired by a song she performed for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
“The little album that could,” she calls it. “It’s been nine years in the making. Finally, you know, you bring it out at the right time.”
McCluskey produced the album without label support, and is hoping her ongoing residency at the Roxy Hotel’s Django, an underground jazz venue, will bring in new fans.
“It’s an absolutely amazing experience,” says McCluskey of her live show. The lighting, the décor, the dancers decked out in sequins and feathers — “It’s literally like walking into a supper club in the 1930s.” She also likes to bring in surprise guests to join her onstage. Long-time friend/actor Alan Cumming helped her cover The Proclaimers’ ”Sunshine on Leith,” Courtney Love popped in for some Bob Dylan, and Karen Elson brought the country. “You’re screaming inside with joy, it’s so much fun,” she says.
In the weeks before the record’s release, McCluskey slowly rolled out her own promo machine – sitting for radio interviews, singing live on-air, and asking famous friends to tweet their support. (The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus tweeted his love for McCluskey, sending thousands of new fans her way.) But once the album drops, life for the reluctant rock star could change dramatically. If it blows up, McCluskey will sign with a label for wider distribution and have the funds for a large-scale tour. She’s excited about the opportunity to take her thematic stage show on the road. But, always the artist at work, she’s already planning a new concept for when time allows.
“I’ve got one of those talents that basically you’re supposed to show off and you’re supposed to want others’ attention,” she says. “I think maybe I’m just healthy enough I don’t really feel I need it. I have a really nice life and I don’t want to change.”
— Stephanie Wargin