MY INSPIRATION: KARI MACLEOD | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Captivating North East folk artist Kari Macleod reveals her brand new single, You Don’t Know Me. Coming nearly nine years after her debut solo album The Fugitive, the track features elements of roots, folk and Americana, which weave around Kari’s beguiling vocals, making for a powerful and empowering listen. Here, she talks about her inspiration behind the track…

I am constantly inspired by the resilience of people that have gone through difficult situations and their ability and sheer determination to come out on the other side fighting and manage to create a more fulfilling life for themselves. You Don’t Know Me is an amalgamation of stories like these, as well as having aspects of my own in there. 

It’s a bit of an ambiguous title really as it can be understood in as literal a sense as it sounds if you’ve never come across me before. But how I wrote it is from the perspective of someone who is speaking to a person or people from their past. Throughout the song, they are reflecting back on a time when they had come to terms with the realisation that their life was not turning out how they hoped it would, and why they had to contemplate leaving it all behind and start over. 

I wanted the lyrics in the first verse to set the scene right off the bat so the opening line “Greetings from the past, I have returned from my time as a lone outcast” I wrote as way of suggesting that I’m here and ready to tell you the story about this isolating, lonely time in my life. And then the journey unfolds from there. 

I wanted to try and express the feelings of liberation that can come if you are able to remove some of the detrimental and toxic influences that negatively impact the choices you want to make for your life

I had the lyrics for the chorus long before the rest and it was actually a completely different sounding song a couple of years ago where it started out as a more light-hearted, upbeat song with a tongue in cheek kind of tone. Because the lyrics sound so personal, I thought that if I dress them up in a way that doesn’t take itself so seriously, it might not be interpreted as being that deep and therefore, it wouldn’t feel as exposing or vulnerable. It morphed into having the more moody, emotive sound it has today when ironically, I took my own advice from the song and decided to not let the intrusive thoughts hold me back from creating something I felt was a more honest representation of the type of music I enjoy writing and creating now.

I’ve always enjoyed mixing in elements of Americana and country into the more traditional styles of folk music I’ve played in the past and this song definitely leans heavily into the more Americana sound than anything I’ve done previously. I was listening to Lera Lynn’s album Plays Well With Others and in particular, her cover of TV On The Radio’s song Wolf Like Me a lot during this time, as well my all time favourite singer-songwriter Patty Griffin’s song Faithful Son.

While writing You Don’t Know Me, I wanted to try and express the feelings of liberation that can come if you are able to remove some of the detrimental and toxic influences that negatively impact the choices you want to make for your life. I think that comes across in the last chorus in particular as by the time we got to recording it in the studio, I really opened up vocally and just went for it. I’ve never felt so free in a studio setting to experiment with ways we could layer up the harmonies and backing vocals and create the bright, full sound that we’ve ended up with in the final chorus. That was very much down to my amazing producer Bevan Morris who made me feel so relaxed and comfortable enough to try out new things.

My band are always a huge source of inspiration for me because they have the ability to instinctively know where I want to go with a new song. I love collaborating with them and they give life to the music that I sit by myself writing at my kitchen table. As well as producing this track, Bevan also plays double bass on it, along with Tom Kimber on mandolin and Memphis Gerald bringing the country and blues on his steel and electric guitars.

The lyrics “I’m less satisfying, I’m a lot less obliging, I’m less agreeable to your understanding of how you think you know me like I was before” probably sums up the entire message of the song in one line. It’s my favourite part of song because vocally, it’s a really nice passage to sing but also, it’s empowering in that you feel like “yeah, I’m going to start owning this statement now!”.

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