Tommy McAteer is a Glaswegian singer-songwriter whose recent singles Pygmalion and Black Eyed Dog signal the start of a promotional push for his debut album, entitled ‘Down Goes the Sun’. The album is conceptual and told from the viewpoints of several characters in a narrative thread which is linked to the central concept of the changes night-time brings. I asked him more about ‘Down Goes the Sun’, his life as both a musician and actor and his character-based songwriting.
SP – You have a strong focus on characters and storytelling in your music. What stories in songs have inspired you over the years?
TM – There are so many different stories that have grabbed and inspired me over the years, but someone who especially influenced me was Andy Shauf. His albums either have one singular concept that ties all the tracks together, or he’ll spread stories over a few songs, something I’ve attempted to emulate a bit for the album, creating an arc for little characters.
SP – You’re an actor as well as a musician. How do you find balancing the two?
TM – For me, they’re inseparable! The majority of my songs, especially ones on this album, are very character-based so my acting background informs it, turning some of the songs into monologues set to music, in a way.
SP – How does your upcoming album compare with your previous work? Are there thematic or musical similarities?
TM – I’ve definitely noticed a few similarities! ‘Down Goes The Sun’ feels like the next step after ‘Easier With Time’, with things feeling a bit more developed as I’m starting to find my “sound” and push my own boundaries a bit. ‘EWT’ was done in a studio with a great engineer and funding from YoungScot, whereas ‘DGTS’ is just me in my bedroom doing everything on the album on my own time with my own money, so everything you hear in the album’s come straight from me! It’s been nice to produce something that’s 100% me, though I have been difficult to work with at times!
SP – Your album, ‘Down Goes the Sun’ is a concept album. Can you describe the idea behind the concept and what led you to write about this?
TM – All the tracks are linked by mentions of sunsets and night-time, and how feelings and your mental health can almost change at night. Some of the tracks mention it superficially, whereas some are more tied to the feeling of locking yourself away at night, being in your own wee world for a while.
SP – You have released a double A-side single from the album already. Did the choice of single(s) come naturally or was there a lot of deliberation?
TM – I wish it was a more romantic answer, but they were just the first two I had done! I did them on my phone in my flat in Bristol. I hadn’t released anything in almost two years after ‘EWT’, so I wanted to put them out to show I was still going and that there would be more to come soon after.
SP – You have cited Nick Drake, Andy Shauf, José González and Laura Marling as influences on your music. How have these artists made an impression on you and affected your music?
TM – They’ve all influenced me in separate ways, but I’d have to say Nick Drake and Andy Shauf made the biggest impact on me. ‘Black Eyed Dog’ is named after the Nick Drake song, and is my own little tribute to him, as ‘Pink Moon’ was the biggest influence on the album in its earliest stages. The evolution that Laura Marling’s music has gone through too was quite inspiring, and helped me to try and not limit myself, to keep pushing forward looking for new sounds and stories.
SP – Are there any other contemporary artists who have been on your heavy rotation recently?
TM – I’m a huge Ben Howard fan, so I’ve been listening to him loads! There’s also been a lot of Rejjie Snow, Parcels, The Staves, Raleigh Ritchie, SZA, and Caroline Polachek to name a few. There’s just something about all of their music that just has me crawling back time and time again to listen!
SP – You are currently working with Heather Fletcher for your release artwork. How has the experience of working with her been?
TM – It’s been great! Heather’s a fantastic graphic designer, and as soon as I first saw some of her work that she’d shown me months ago, I knew that I’d want her to do the art even before I’d had the album properly created! I explained the concept to her and showed her some mood boards, and she came back with that stunning cover, it felt like she’d read my mind! Having the cover done meant I was able to visualise it when making the album which was a huge help, as it gave me something to use to glue the tracks together in a way.
SP – How is life after lockdown looking for you? Do you have many live performances planned?
TM – Once the album’s out I’m back to Bristol for the rest of this year’s training for my course, so I might take a little break from the music for a month or two, but I’ve got a feeling I’ll keep writing during that time. My favourite guitar’s still in my flat so I’ve not seen it for 5 months, so it’ll be getting played plenty once I’m back!
SP – Where would you like to see your music career take you in the future?
TM – I would love to get to a point where I have enough financial stability, etc. that I’d be able to take risks with my music and be more experimental and see where that takes me. Overall, I’d just love to keep sharing my songs with people and knowing that the songs have made a connection with people. That’s what it’s all about really.
Pygmalian/Black Eyed Dog is available to download and stream now, with the debut album ‘Down Goes the Sun’ to follow.
Tommy McAteer online: