'I do think the scene is getting better but there’s definitely more work to be done' - Marie Collins
So happy to share the interview that I recently did with Marie Collins! I have had the pleasure of knowing Marie for a couple of years now and am such a huge fan of her work! Marie both produces her own solo work and is in The Vegan Leather who won the award for 'Best Live Act' at the SAMA's in 2019! We chatted about her songwriting process, being a woman in music and what her proudest achievement in her career was so far!
Let's get into it!
I’m a huge fan of both your solo and The Vegan Leather’s music and was wondering about your songwriting process within the band as well as if you are writing for your own solo material?
Aww thank you! Writing with The Vegan Leather is a very collaborative process. We all have different ways of writing and so when coming together it’s a really vibrant, lively and fun process. Gianluca will usually have chords and instrumental parts, and I usually come in with melody and lyrics. Although that can be turned on it’s head and I’ll have a fully finished song on acoustic guitar and then Gianluca will work his magic and turn it into a swirling world of synths and beats. We don’t really have a formula for writing – sometimes we’ll spend a few hours writing and come out with a full song and think ‘How did we just do that?’ It’s like something magical just happens and you get into this creative flow of sharing ideas back and forth until you have something resembling a song. I think it’s so vital when you’re in a songwriting partnership that you have a lot of trust in the other person. It’s so important that you’re able to fling out loads of ideas including the terrible ones so you can get to the good bits. Gian and I have spent many a night writing terrible songs and go on to constructively criticise each other, but that’s how you get to the good stuff. Writing solo is a whole different thing. Writing collaboratively is all about sharing, letting go, being accountable and opening up. Writing solo is sometimes harder because you can be your own worst critic. It’s sometimes hard to maintain self-motivation, but I find it a really cathartic process where you can explore all your inner thoughts and feelings. Writing solo is quite personal, whereas writing with TVL allows for a bit more of a support system around you.
I know that you have been involved within Renfrewshire’s music scene for a number of years and was wondering how the scene has changed over time in regards to the number of and treatment of women in the local community? Do you think that we are heading in a positive direction?
I started off performing at open mics at Create Paisley when I was about 15 and always felt so grateful that there was such an inclusive place where I was able to share all my angsty teenage songs. Once I got a bit older, I started playing regularly at the Paisley Songwriters Guild at The Bungalow which was always really supportive to local talent. When I started playing bigger venues, festivals and going on tour, I noticed more sexism within the industry. It would just be really small things – the vast majority of bands, managers, bookers, sound engineers were predominantly men. As a young woman this was sometimes a bit intimidating. There’s some subtle stuff that always springs to mind – like sound engineers asking the guys in your band about your tech set-up because they didn’t think you were capable of working your own pedal board for example. I do think the scene is getting better but there’s definitely more work to be done.
How did you first get involved in music? Were there any specific influences that inspired you to start playing and writing?
I started guitar lessons when I was 10. I always wanted to play drums, but I remember my mum saying that if I could play guitar, I would always be a hit at parties haha! I started off playing more classical guitar, and then I watched ‘School of Rock’ and was like “I WANT TO BE IN A BAND!” When I was in high school I used to listen artists like Kate Nash and Regina Spektor who would sing about ‘real life’ things and it really inspired me to start writing my own songs, in my own accent and of my own stories as a young working class woman growing up in Paisley.
Is there a moment within your career that you would say was your most rewarding experience or something that you are significantly proud of out of all your achievements?
Recording and releasing TVL’s debut album has definitely been a highlight of my career so far. I had always dreamed of having my own vinyl and I remember totally freaking out when we received the first test pressings of the album. It was a really cool moment to be able to hold the record for the first time. It was so surreal to have all those years of work condensed into a tangible thing. Touring those songs was such an insane feeling. Going from writing songs in each other’s bedrooms to playing them in big venues was just an incredible thing.
Is there a way that you think that as a society and a community that we can work towards creating a more equal and diverse environment within the Scottish music industries?
I think we’re on the right track! Having blogs like Braw Gals in Music where we can openly discuss things is amazing! The more open we are, and the more that we can come together and share our experiences, then the more inclusive the scene will become. I think Scottish Women Inventing Music has also been a total game changer. Having an organisation that actively promotes diversity and inclusion within the music industry is so important and it feels like a really positive step for change.
I loved both of The Vegan Leather’s recent releases ‘Gloaming’ and ‘Sanctum Sound’, could you tell me a little about the tracks and how they came to be?
Gloaming and Sanctum Sound were two songs that we wrote and recorded through lockdown. It was an interesting process because we had to do everything remotely. We would go on zoom chats and send an FM radio signal to each other so we could hear what we were recording in ‘real time’. It was so different than being in a room with each other. I think having limitations made us more creative though. Sometimes it’s good to be limited as having endless possibilities can be quite scary. For Gloaming we were also able to collaborate with an incredibly talented Paisley artist ‘Bovine’ who created an animated video for us. Creating stuff during lockdown opened up a lot of new opportunities/collaborations that we might not have considered beforehand.
In terms of what the songs are about, ‘Gloaming’ was inspired by Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, drawing parallels to the misty moors within the novel. The song captures a similar eerie atmosphere to the book and the idea of being led away from your comfort and thrust into chaos.
For Sanctum Sound, there’s a lot of religious symbolism in the song which comes from the word ‘Sanctum’ meaning a kind of sacred place. I think a lot of people can relate to that right now in terms of having to stay in your own bubble. It made sense to write about that during times of isolation and reoccurring lockdowns
Lastly, I was wondering what female or non-binary Scottish artists are you most excited about right now?
Ahhh there’s so many to choose from! Here’s who I’m listening to just now:
There you have it! Thanks so much to Marie for chatting to me and answering all of my burning questions!
Make sure to go and show her and The Vegan Leather some love on her social media!
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TheVeganLeather/
Marie's twitter - https://twitter.com/cariemollins
TVL Twitter - https://twitter.com/TheVeganLeather
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/theveganleather/