Speaking about her second solo album Pieces with enthusiasm and excitement, it’s clear things are going well for Michele Stodart.
As bass player for The Magic Numbers she found success early with their debut long player, released in 2005. They followed their eponymous debut with another three albums over a period of ten years before taking time out for their own individual pursuits. Providing the beating pulse to their classic indie pop sound, Stodart left the main vocal duties and frontman position to brother Romeo. However now flying solo she’s found praise from fans and critics alike and it’s clear that as a songwriter she has more than just four strings to her bow. “It’s good to be on album number two, it’s a place I didn’t at one point think I’d find myself in,” she comments. Supported by a new band, with their task set on contributing to the songs as well as complimenting them, she always set out to continue a collaborative approach. “I didn’t want to want play all the instruments on this album, I really wanted to play with other musicians, and catch the mood in the studio and of the take. It’s nice sometimes to just remove yourself from every element, and simply enjoy what else others can add to it.”
Pieces is an album that flows effortlessly; it’s personal and engaging, coloured by a cinematic backdrop which turns a group of songs into a collective. “Sonically from the start I wanted to create a mood and atmosphere to surround the songs. With this album far more than the first I had an idea of what I wanted to put down. I wanted those ‘pin drop’ moments to be caught, and I think we managed it.”
Sonically from the start I wanted to create a mood and atmosphere to surround the songs
Curious as to how the album came together and the final selection of the songs was decided upon, I wondered how personal the individual lyrics were to Michelle? Were the songs written with an individual person or situation in mind or just independent compositions sitting comfortably in each other’s company? “I think they are individual pieces really. Looking back at the writing behind the record it’s funny they’re not about an individual or a particular relationship. It’s an album that’s sort of half and half in character, it’s not only myself it’s also written about friends and the stories surrounding their lives.”
There are touchingly poignant memories on Pieces; Once In A While, which reflects on a homeless man who caught her attention at a tube station, is obviously close to heart. “I was very moved by him, and just felt completely useless that I couldn’t do anything to help him. He stuck with me, and the memory of someone in his situation kind of haunted me for a while and stayed in my thoughts. It worked its way back out eventually and turned into the inspiration for a song.”
Turning the dial to up-tempo, Foolish Love is a live foot stomper and one she enjoys taking to the audience, offsetting some of the more sombre moments on the record. Live, Michele likes to keep things unpredictable, with old and new material alike peppering her set, she’s also added a brand new country hoedown-esque song at the end of her set, which shows fine potential for album number three.
Continuing to ride her wave of creativity she’s now also back in the tour van, and finds herself returning to the North East to play a handful of gigs over the coming weeks, including The Studio in Hartlepool on Friday 9th September and Newcastle’s Cluny the following evening.
With previous brotherly support and long-term friends making up the other parts of The Magic Numbers, I wondered how it now feels to be taking the front of the stage. Is it a big jump out of the comfort zone to find yourself in the centre rather than stage left? “I love playing the songs live, I really enjoy that and I’m getting used to doing a lot more talking in-between them, which although I’m not sure I’m very good at has been nice. I feel like I’m also building my own little following away from the band. It’s nice that people are focusing on my solo stuff and getting what I’m about as an individual, that’s very very cool.”