The Scotsman Sessions #98: Adam Stafford

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, singer-songwriter Adam Stafford performs History of Longest Days, taken from his new album Diamonds of a Horse Famine

To describe singer-songwriter Adam Stafford’s new record Diamonds of a Horse Famine as accidental is to do a disservice to his creative efforts, yet only the unexpected events of 2020 forced it into being. “I was going to record an album of brand-new songs which I’ve been writing for the past two years,” he tells us. “But I’d envisaged so much instrumentation that it became a bit of a technical nightmare, to be honest. I’m really bad with technology – I basically realised I was out of my depth, so I parked it.”

Without being able to work with his regular producer Robbie Lesiuk during lockdown, Stafford instead turned to the most technically simple acoustic project he could accomplish by himself; the album that became Diamonds of a Horse Famine. “Most of the songs were from a notebook I’d forgotten about,” he says. “I’d written them sporadically over the past 15 or 20 years; just stragglers, really, songs that didn’t fit on other albums, so I started reinvestigating and restructuring them.”

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Despite the fragmentary nature of their writing, he seems pleased with the way they’ve come together. “They’re all narrative-based songs,” he says. “They’re about characters that might be at the end of their tether, or are living lives that haven’t panned out the way they would have expected. Almost like short stories, all bound by these blackly comic scenarios. It’s important to stress the dark comedy within some of the narratives, because this isn’t a party album, it’s fairly bleak in tone.”

Adam Stafford

Recorded in his daughter’s bedroom, as the shed where he recorded most of his vocal tracks is currently full of binbags bound for the charity shop, his Scotsman Sessions song History of Longest Days is the most recently written of the album’s songs. “It’s about being on the periphery, about living hand to mouth,” he says. “An artist’s existence – not in a romantic sense, but kind of making peace with it.”

Stafford is happy that these songs will finally see the light of day, although since lockdown has ended he and Lesiuk have almost finished 2020’s planned album Trophic Asynchrony (a reference to the unseasonality of climate change). It may be released next year; he doesn’t want to oversaturate the market, but at times like these, any working musician could do with the money.

Adam Stafford’s new album Diamonds of a Horse Famine will be released on 16th October on Song, By Toad. See www.adamstafford.bandcamp.com, www.songbytoadrecords.bandcamp.com, www.adam-stafford.tumblr.com

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