Biography by Paul Sexton
Roseanne Reid's world has changed in some dramatic ways since she released her hugely acclaimed first album Trails, and not just because of what she calls the “weird dream” of the lockdown years. But those changes have only helped to inform its delightful follow-up, as the widely admired Scottish singer-songwriter invites us to Lawside.
Last summer, Roseanne and her wife became the proud parents of a baby boy, who has, of course, reshaped their lives in the most joyful (and exhausting) ways. Much of the new record was written before he came along, but the maturity and confidence in her song craft and delivery is there for all to hear, from the infectious, horn-laden opening single “Call It Love” to beautiful and tender pieces such as “All I Need”, "Shine On” and “Made Just For You.”
“This album just sounds much more self-assured throughout,” she says. “I've been a bit bolder with the vocals. With Trails, they were blended a bit more, and this time they're front and centre. I'd say Trails was perfect for where I was at the time, but with this record, I feel that bit more confident with my voice. It's gotten stronger over time, and I thought 'Let's push that right up front.'”
The album is named after a residential district of Dundee, near where the family lives. “Someone said to me the other day that Lawside almost sounds like a country and western title,” jokes Roseanne. “Most of the songs were written here, and it just felt right to mark that, and group them together for where they were written.”
There was another tangible change in the way she created the record. Whereas Trails was made in Brooklyn with producer Teddy Thompson in a lightning five-day burst, Lawside was closer to home in every sense. It was recorded in Perth, just south of Dundee, with producer, musician and fellow Scot David Macfarlane, and in a way that very much suited Reid's new life.
“Dave owns the studio in Perth, so he's the engineer there as well,” she explains. “He's just a multi-talented guy, and a multi-instrumentalist, so he played on the album as well. It's fantastic to have someone like that just down the road.
“We started it at the tail end of that time when people were still unsure about being in the same room together, and masks were still a thing. So we did it in segments. I've been in the studio a dozen times over the past few months, just layering instruments, and vocals and guitar. All my stuff was done at the very start, to build a foundation.
“It's been a much more prolonged process, but that's worked well for me, especially with the wee one. It's meant I've not had to be away for the whole week. I can commit to a half day here and a half day there, so it's more manageable for family life.” She adds with a laugh: “I just think to myself every day, 'Where did the day go?! What did I do with my time before I had a kid?'”
What she did, as we know, was build a reputation as one of the most sensitive and original young artists on the roots music scene. Born in Leith and raised in Edinburgh, Roseanne grew up in music, the eldest daughter of the Proclaimers' Craig Reid, and was taking her own first artistic steps by the age of 12, when she learned guitar, moving on to early performances at local folk clubs and open mic nights.
“My mum taught me my first three chords, and it went from there,” she recalls. “It was a very smooth transition from the initial thinking of 'This is cool and I enjoy doing it' to 'This is what I want to dedicate myself to.'”
She took inspiration variously from Bob Dylan, Martha Wainwright and Peter, Paul and Mary, pursuing a folk path that led her, in 2014, to New York's Catskill Mountains, and Camp Copperhead, the songwriting workshop run by another of her guiding lights, Steve Earle. On open mic night, she overcame her nervousness to perform her song “Amy” in front of him, and all the aspiring writers present.
Such is the strength of Earle's endorsement and enthusiasm for her talent that he readily agreed to duet with Roseanne on another highlight of the Trails album, “Sweet Annie.” That beguiling track has gone on to amass three quarters of a million streams on Spotify alone.
Trails arrived, after two highly promising EPs, in the spring of 2019, and was greeted with wall-to-wall praise. “Roseanne's voice is sweet yet simple but in the most soothing and beautiful way that makes you want to listen to her over and over again,” enthused Building Our Own Nashville, while Folk Radio wrote that she “has quietly taken her place in the Scottish music scene and by no accident finds herself sitting at the top table.”
Reid supported the album with festival appearances and her own concerts, and further EPs and singles, including the delicate “Hallucinate” at the top of this year, have heightened anticipation for Lawside. It's an album that reiterates the sparse authenticity of her songwriting style, but with new depths and layers.
“'Call It Love' was the natural choice as the lead track,” she says, “but I'd love to put 'Mona Lisa' out as a single. It's got that Celtic singalong feel to it, with the fiddle and accordion and bodhrán drum, instead of a full drum kit. I started writing it about four years ago, and I went months without finishing it. I really liked the first verse and I said to my wife that I wanted to get it done, so we set aside a day to finish it. So it's co-written with my wife, which is totally unique in itself.”
“All I Need” opens the album with atmospheric harmonies from longtime friend and Edinburgh musician Rory Butler. Roseanne is especially proud of the lyrics of “What Constitutes A Sin,” while she was moved to write “Shine On” after the sad passing of television presenter Caroline Flack. “A lot of the songs were around before our baby was born,” she adds, “but 'Made Just For You' was definitely written with him in mind.”
Soon will come the challenge of combining family life with hitting the road, but she will achieve that with her usual warm-hearted serenity, and the opportunity to see her perform these new songs live will be something to seize. Lawside is a place that Roseanne Reid's countless admirers will be visiting again and again.