Influences: The earliest was my father ( I still have some of his 78s and 45 records. BBKing, Ray Charles, Brook Benton and of course, Elvis. It was a street party singers house growing up and all of these male singers featured hugely. I loved them and do still. Father – big singer in my life.
In my early teens in the seventies, I was very influenced by Neil young, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. (In fact my record collection from then is all singer songwriters: Kate Bush, Melanie, Al Stewart, Leonard Cohen). Political and social consciousness a big part of it. Also at this time were the 70’s big rock bands who you couldn’t miss. First single Paranoid by Black Sabbath.! The singers of the time again – Robert plant, Roger Daltry and absolutely loved to sing along with Free! So it was like softer and lyrical alongside going for it and out there. I have found many albums with Maggie Bell and do recall “Suicide Sal” album being a big influence. [And sneaking in to see her in Glasgow when I was underage). Playing by 16/7 in a folk duo (female Simon and Garfunkel and writing our own tunes)
By my late teens, I had found my own blues women and lots of other old style blues players. My records playing then and now: lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy. The folk duo were playing Danny Kyles folk clubs and there I heard lots of blues men, including a singer from Paisley called Davey Speirs. Brilliant.The women then were Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Big Mama Thornton and the outstanding voice of Aretha Franklin souled through my bedroom.
I have a wide musical taste (studied music at school and often lived with an aunt who loved classical music and sat me down to listen closely to arias from opera at a very early age.
Linda taught children music in the Pollok House “Music Room” for a time. She has brought her children and grandchildren to the gardens for many years and has a very close bond with all the different facets of the woodland area…the “Wishing Tree”, the “Crawling Monster”, The Japanese Garden, the beautiful maze like area close to the house and many more. Listening to Linda talk as we walked around the grounds gave a real sense of emotional attachment through generations. Linda is proud to be part of this historic location and talks about it as you would talk about your own garden. She showed me all the special places that I could show my own children, and my favourite moment of the day was when I was being told how to “use” the Wishing Tree. “There are loads of little nooks and crannies and holes in the tree. You write your wish on a piece of paper, roll it up and drop it into one of the spaces….” I turned round and Linda was holding out an old till receipt that she had found in her bag. “Do you have a pen?” she asked.
Quietly working to put people in places where they can get closer to fulfilling their wishes is a theme that recurred throughout the conversation…
K: One of my favourite photographers is a guy called Elliott Erwitt and his son once formally interviewed him. He asked the question: “What was the most interesting shoot or subject you ever had to photograph?” The answer was “The most interesting one is the next one…” From watching your projects over the years, I get the same feel from you Linda. Do you have a similar philosophy?
L: Sometimes the new projects are by virtue of necessity because things collapse. My ideal is to get a “family” of good musicians. I match my life in terms of the bands I’ve been in over the years. It’s like phases of my life. I never intentionally say “This has to go”. Sometimes something happens within the band: it can be a personality clash or an argument or people just not getting on….that can be quite hard.
I also think there is a wee bit of a difference being a woman in a band. I remember when I was quite young, maybe early twenties and there were some people interested in Nazereth making a single for me and I went away down to London. I found myself in those early days sitting in rooms with men discussing me in the third person.
K: What do you mean? You were sitting in the room and the conversation was around what “she” could do, as if you weren’t actually in the room?
L: Yes, or even saying “What we could do with her is….” or “We have to get her to look like this…” I don’t want this to turn into a feminist rant but I worked very hard to develop my intellect and read and worked at it and had quite a chaotic childhood which necessitated that you made yourself sharp to avoid anything that could come at you. So, I found this really offensive quite often and I’ve probably blown, what other people would have seen as, marvelous opportunities, by not playing that game.
So, my ideal, as you say, is to try to move on with my own capabilities and keep trying things I don’t know, with the mutual support of people around me that are committed to one another as musicians, as well as the music and when I’ve had that it’s been fantastic. Some people are only in it for the money and there’s a lot of ego stuff as well. People do invest a lot into a band and there are the frictions of a lot of creative people trying to work together which can cause issues as well. I think that’s what drives me forward: to try and get that bunch of people together that are growing as musicians and human beings. As I get older, I become less tolerant of people who come into the frame that make that ideal difficult.
K: People change, priorities change, situations change, it’s quite a challenge to keep harmony and a common goal.
L: The other thing is how you treat yourself. I remember I worked with Alan Thompson, Morph and Jim Drummond last year. It was singularly the best set up, maybe apart from Chico, that I have ever been in. It was fantastic. Alan Thompson would say to me “You don’t know how good you are. You’re not taking yourself seriously enough” and would always question the fee that I was asking for as it was half of what he thought I should be charging. It was really nice for them to say things like that to me because I hugely respected them, but I don’t think the money is there any more unless you’ve already really made it. To make money you have to maximise and that means singing along to backing tracks or doing the social clubs and at this stage I would rather set my hair on fire. I’ve already done that. I was the resident singer in Tiffany’s for 2-3 years. Never again!
K: What did that comprise of?
L: That was a full dance band. Five sets, five nights week.
K: Five sets?!?
L: 7.00-7.45, 8.00-8.45, 9.00-9.45….
K: Five nights a week. Heavy going?
L: It was hard graft. My children were very young at the time and it meant that I could be home with them during the day. I took them to school and picked them up and then left for work at 6.30. It wasn’t good for the personal relationship though, we never saw each other and led totally different lives and I only had a Sunday off.
Musically, I learned a massive amount from that experience. I did Higher music at school but you had to really be able sight read as we were changing the set every 2 weeks. After that experience I can now walk on to any stage and deal with whatever happens and I think it was Tiffanys’ that taught me that. I earned a fortune at that time but I would never want to go back to it. Now I write courses for Universities and try to make my money as a teacher or as a philosopher or whatever, and do some gigs here and there. I would like to minimize the pub gigs and do more theatres and festivals
K: Did any of the kids inherit any of the love for music?
L: They’re all grown up now and they are all musicians – I suppose if it was that important to the mum in the house, it must be something special. So I am so happy about how that turned out.
K: I noticed you have a gig coming up on Loch Katrine in the old steamship the “Sir Walter Scott”. A blues cruise.
L: Yes, I think it’s a 3 hour cruise. There will be 5 of us playing. It’s a bit of fun and I’m really looking forward to that.
K: Any other unusual gigs planned?
L: My favourite place to play is Applecross. I don’t know if you been there? Skye? Applecross is a small village far Northwest and across from the Island of Rona. Take the Skye road. The gig is in the flower tunnel on the campsite there. Beautiful.
K: Your influences are quite folk based but there’s a lot of Rock influence in there as well from the early days and I know you can rock it out when the occasion calls for it.
L: I loved all that stuff, I was a real child of the 70’s. The first single I bought was “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath (laughs)! I bought Deep Purple in Rock, Led Zeppelin, all of that stuff. I loved all that, absolutely loved it. The first time I saw my first husband he was playing in Doune Castle with a band called “The Bees Nees”. The singer then was Drew from Counselled Out.
He had the big long hair and the nail varnish, the eye-liner, the long boots over the knee and he had a Hammond Organ with Leslie cabs and he just stood there and did all the Rick Wakeman thing and I said to my pal, “I’m going to marry him!” and I did (laughs).
K: Would you say you were more of a “Rocker” than a “Crooner”?
L: Oh I’m not a Crooner. I remember my father telling me about singing when I was younger he always said “You’ve got to get it as soft as you can and then….give them it!”
K: You mentioned “Chico” earlier on. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
L: My second child was 9 months old and the other was 2 years and 9 months old, I was living in Paisley and I’d been singing in a band and had qualified as a teacher. I was still very young and was going through a passive and quiet phase of my life, and I thought, “I need to do something for myself”. I started looking at adverts (laughs) for bands and at that same time I saw this band, “Cado Belle” and “Chico” were playing alongside them. I then heard that Chico were looking for a singer. I remember being really nervous getting on the train. My pal watched the kids and I went into Glasgow for the audition and I never got the job. They got someone else in for a week or two and then they phoned me up and offered me the job and I remember thinking “How can I possibly do this? How can I take a job with this band, with the touring and all the rest of it?” But I did.
I remember going to a gig up at the Dial Inn and the queues were right around the building. Now at that time I never had a washing machine so I was hand-washing nappies. I remember about to start singing “White Rabbit” and l lifted the mic up and started singing “One pill makes you larger, And one pill makes you small…” and as I raised the mic up to my mouth all I could smell was these nappies…it was a great leveler!! (laughs)
I’ve always had something to level me down. I’ve never got carried away with myself…ever. I hope I haven’t anyway. I would hate to think I ever came across with that ego thing, I don’t think I’ve ever behaved like that.
K: Whenever I’ve seen you, you’ve always come across as very genuine and in fact I wanted to share an observation with you. When I’ve seen you perform you make a real effort to ensure that you are connected to your audience. When I watch some singers, they close their eyes when they sing, sometimes for the entire duration of the song, and disappear into some sort of pseudo, self-loving trance that excludes any possibility of any shared experience. When I watch you perform, you physically reach out with your hands and you walk from one part of the stage to another looking at your audience and sometimes it’s almost like you are inviting them on stage with you. There is a physical and emotional connection that appears very genuine.
L: Thank you. As a teacher and someone who is hopefully trying to nurture people, and myself, it’s very important to have that connection. I was a primary school teacher about 30 years ago and the best part of that was watching a 5 year old enlighten me….because they can. I believe you have to complete the circle and I believe that of an audience as well. It’s not about me gifting them, it’s about them gifting me back and it’s that….”circle”.
I did all the philosophy and transcendental stuff, and it all seemed very abstract but I knew why I did it. Sometimes when you are singing it goes down through the microphone, ignores the audience and comes back up through your feet. Other times it goes out and round and then comes back and that is a perfect moment of being. I’ve only had a few of those perfect experiences really in my life. I remember coming off stage once and going straight to the bathroom and banging on the door shouting “Yes!!!!” It sounds very fanciful but it was just pure love in the room!
I remember I played with a club/cabaret band once, just to get some money and I remember there was a wee man sitting at the table in a Social Club in Drongan I think it was. He was very drunk and he was sitting crying. He was probably my age now but he seemed a hundred years old at the time. And I remember moving towards him and singing directly to him “Move closer…” (Phyliss Nelson) and the bass player who was a warm but tough Clydebank boy came up behind me and said “The old guy’s asleep now Linda get back to the middle of the stage!” (laughs)
He knew that I was trying to reach out to him and trying and let him know there was somebody here. I did that a lot. Then it was an unconscious philosophy.
K: What was it that drove those things?
L: I think it’s about connection. I think it’s about hearts and about getting the best out of people and bringing the best out of yourself. I remember when my Father died, he was in a coma for weeks and I remember lying beside him and talking to him. My name, in Spanish, means beautiful, which I’m not but I remember saying to him “Dad, my name means beautiful and I’m going to be the most beautiful I can be from now on. I’m going to teach people and I’m going to talk to people and I’m going to sing my heart out, because that’s what you taught me to do”.
At my best, that’s what I try to do but sometimes, like everyone else, there are times where I just can’t manage it.
K: I know when we spoken on the phone you’ve been talking about the time you’ve been spending writing new songs. Are there any albums coming for you Linda?
L: Yes, I’ve been sitting in the house playing the piano and writing new songs. I’ve got the late Sandy Brown’s piano form when he played in the Frankie Millar Band.
L: Yes, I’ve got that Yamaha baby grand. So I’m writing an album called “Indigo Cell”. I’m not really a piano player but I can make a start and then get a good piano player in to add some passing notes and turn it into something beautiful. Michael Kelly did a wonderful job of that a few years back in the song, Refinement, which is on Soundcloud.
K: What is the meaning behind the “Indigo Cell” title?
L: I played in a band with Deke (McGhee) years ago, and we made an album called “Guilty”. It was me, Deke, Sandy Brown and Brendan Cameron, who played drums with the Average White Band for a while. After that I did a far quieter acoustic album and I called it “Not Guilty”. There was another rockier album after that which I called “Released”, so there is a theme that is being followed. And now there is the “Indigo” which relates to the Blues and the “Cell” which is staying true to the theme. I’m not sure what the theme is about, whether it’s about my culpability or not.
K: I know one of the reasons you admired Joni Mitchell was her desire to change things and the efforts she made to make people aware politically. I’ve seen that in your music as well.
L: I always say that you should try and make people feel things. I’ll make small political statements at most of my gigs. Not too much, just enough to make people think…maybe.
K: Thanks very much Linda and thanks for taking the time to show me around this beautiful place. I’ll definitely be back with the kids.
L: You’re very welcome.
Pollok House, Glasgow
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikon 24-120 f/4
Focal length: 82mm
Exposure: 1/200s @ f4.0
Time of day: 14:32
Conditions: Sunny with intermittent clouds