The Scotsman Sessions #326: Monica Queen with Johnny Smillie and Rory McGregor

Welcome to the Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts sector still impacted by the pandemic, 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, Monica Queen performs a cover of Orange Juice’s Dying Day, taken from her new album Stop That Girl

For her first Scotsman Session under her own name, sometime Thrum singer Monica Queen has chosen a version of one of the covers from her imminent new album Stop That Girl: Orange Juice’s Dying Day, as originally performed by Edwyn Collins. “I love singing it, so it was an easy choice to make,” she explains.

The inspiration for this particular live take, which was recorded in Queen’s living room with her partner Johnny Smillie on guitar and Rory McGregor on bass, was the Frets live music night in Strathaven, run by Douglas MacIntyre of the Creeping Bent label and the band the Sexual Objects. When he asked Queen to play it earlier this year, she and Smillie performed without a band, giving a different texture to these most recent songs.

“The one that came out and surprised a number of folk was Dying Day,” says Queen. “We worked that one up to try and make it into something a bit different. On the record it's quite true to the original Orange Juice song, but when it comes to doing something live I try and not go down the karaoke road. I like to move things along, change it, just try to make each song my own – to transform it into something I feel inhabits me. I approach each song in a way I think will come across as believable.”

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    From left to right: Rory McGregor, Monica Queen and Johnny Smillie

    Although there are a bunch of originals on the album, Dying Day isn’t the only cover on what was initially a collaborative record between Queen and MacIntyre; it also features I Gave You Love by Scottish post-punks Bourgie Bourgie and Too Much Time by Captain Beefheart.

    “It was Douglas that brought the tracks to me and asked me to have a listen and see if we could do something with them,” says Queen. “Then we got Jonny involved on guitar, he came in and brought his own take on things to lift it.” Around this trio of musicians, a floating supporting cast emerged, who counted among their combined history groups including Aztec Camera, the Blue Nile and Jazzateers.

    All of this was done before Queen’s Frets and Celtic Connections shows earlier this year, where many of the new songs and versions were tried out. There was no advance theme to Stop That Girl, but Queen has noticed one in hindsight. “The songs are mainly written by men,” she says, “so having a female coming in brings a different tone to songs that people in Glasgow and further afield know as being sung by men.

    “Me singing them the way I do, I think, will bring a different colour and texture, a different mood… who knows? The record is done, so now everybody else can listen to it and make up their own minds.” There will be a launch show in support of Stop That Girl in Glasgow in September, and then Queen imagines she and Smillie will return to their next album together as Tenement and Temple.

    “Once this is done, I'll move on with the next thing,” she says. “I don’t hang around.” Catch her while you can.

    Monica Queen’s new album Stop That Girl will be released on 5 August on Last Night From Glasgow and Creeping Bent, with a launch party at CCA, Glasgow, on 10 September, see www.shop.lastnightfromglasgow.com and twitter.com/monicaqueen4

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