Anna Massie’s Key to Happiness: Bringing Smiles with Two Down

Estimated read time 5 min read

Musician, presenter and producer Anna Massie on releasing her first solo album in 20 years and how the trad music industry has changed in the last two decades.

And we pick three songs from the album for you to have a listen to…

I’ve worked on lots of albums with various bands since my first solo record in 2003, but there’s a safety in numbers with those kinds of recordings. There’s a lot more responsibility when it comes to a solo album so there is a mix of excitement and nerves releasing this album.

A lot of the music on Two Down is self-penned, and I’ve enjoyed writing more. I love telling the stories of tunes to a live audience, but there’s something about a room full of people singing together that brings such joy to a live gig, so I’ve also recorded some songs on this album. That’s something I’ve enjoyed adding to my repertoire over the past few years. The biggest aim for Two Down is to make people smile – I hope listeners get a sense of fun from this album. If folk smile when they’re listening to Two Down, I’ll be very happy indeed.

The name Two Down comes from a couple of places. It’s my second album, yes, but there is a longer story… I spent the lockdown of 2020 at home with my parents in the Black Isle, and the cryptic crossword became part of our daily routine. Dad’s always been a big fan, I was keen but not particularly capable, and mum just really wasn’t interested. But, with lots of time on our hands, dad taught us the conventions and we got steadily more into them. We’d sit in the sunny garden and work on them that summer, then when I found myself back in Glasgow and unable to travel in the winter lockdown, we began a daily crossword FaceTime to keep in touch and maintain a sense of normality. The world has opened back up again, but crosswords are still a large part of Massie family life. A lot of the music on Two Down was written around or inspired by that period, so it felt nice to include a crossword reference and I’m pondering a puzzle on the front cover of the album.

Since my last solo album the style in which I play has largely stayed the same, but I’d like to think my technical abilities have improved over time. I’ve learned a lot since making that first album, both in terms of playing, but also in terms of recording and production. I think if you listen to the two albums side by side, you can hear that a lot of my musical sensibilities are still the same.

The album’s name comes from Anna’s love of doing crosswords with her family.

I’m involved in many projects, and love playing my part in those, but it’s been over 20 years since I released something that represented my individual sound and ideas. That’s what Two Down does. This album is something I’ve been talking about doing for ages, but procrastination has always got the better of me. Last summer, I decided to apply trouser to chair and properly focus on developing some new and existing ideas. I really love the collaborative process of working with other musicians, so it was equal parts thrilling and daunting to have sole creative responsibility on Two Down.

So much of working in bands is about listening, as well as playing, and there’s so much to learn from everyone you work with as a gigging musician. That’s the joy of the job – that you’re constantly learning and picking things up from friends and colleagues – and you don’t always realise it at the time. It’s impossible to pinpoint one overall influence, but there are definite moments where I can hear the influence of particular bandmates or heroes.

It’s been really interesting to be part of the trad scene over the past 20 years and see how this genre, as well as the industry in general, has changed. I find it so encouraging and heartening to see this music enjoying a real surge period – it’s cool and young people are into it. Although it’s still vital to retain a sense of respect and interest in the traditions that have led to this, and to understand where it’s come from. For me, it’s definitely tied into a sense of identity and is a source of great pride.

I am really looking forward to taking the album on tour. I’m playing a few of my favourite places over the next few months, and really excited about that. Playing solo is such a different experience from a band gig, but I love being one-on-one with an audience, and the craic that can develop over an evening.

Listen to Big Days, Thanks for Writing and The Pioneers’ Waltz

Read more Culture stories here.

Subscribe to read the latest issue of Scottish Field.

You May Also Like

More From Author