The Scotsman Sessions #210: Stephen McLaren

Welcome to the award-winning 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, Edinburgh-based dream-pop troubadour Stephen McLaren performs the appropriately titled song Saturday Night Lockdown

Stephen McLaren is a dream-pop anomaly. He cleaves to the echo-drenched aesthetic of that Lynchian subgenre, but he’s more politically-charged than most of the artists who dwell within it. A propulsive piano man, a beacon of heart-on-sleeve intensity, his music is epic and intimate all at once.

“The power of the piano can be overwhelming when it’s used to its full sonic capacity,” he says, “and I like it that way. I love the powerful sound, it draws quite an emotional reaction from me.”

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All of which is borne out by his Scotsman Sessions performance of the timely Saturday Night Lockdown, which comes replete with unperturbed cat cameo. “I give absolutely everything that I have, because I can’t really do it any other way,” he explains. “I’ve tried to hold back and be more stylised but it just isn’t me. I wouldn’t believe in the performance. I’ve always said that about music, whether it’s performing or writing a song – if this isn’t the best that you’ve got, Stephen, if you don’t believe in this, then how can you expect anyone else to?”

Stephen McLaren
Stephen McLaren

His second album, They Don’t Put Any Money in Your Pocket, will be released in October, prior to which he’ll continue to release singles and stream live performances. As for the future of UK politics, McLaren remains hopeful.

“We prevail a little every time we speak our minds, every time a conversation takes place loaded with dissent,” he says. “Every time someone criticises people in powerful positions. Every time there’s a protest against an injustice. Every time workers are able to band together to fight for the right to be treated with dignity. Where there are good people, there is always hope. And there are good people everywhere.”

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