This week we caught up with Ailsa aka Ailsa and the Seahorses to discuss her musical influences, being part of both the Berlin and Edinburgh music scene and of course her brand new single, That Old Moon which is her first record to feature a full band! Check it out below…
How did Ailsa and the Seahorses start? I guess Ailsa and the Seahorses actually began a long time ago, when I was 15 writing my first songs and making super lo-fi Garageband recordings with the built-in microphone on my laptop. Back then I thought my songwriting was on par with Bob Dylan and that I was going to be famous overnight from my Soundcloud recordings… At this point I never even performed live; I hadn’t really found my voice yet and thought I couldn’t sing. When I was 20 I finally felt inspired and determined enough to start giving my first performances at Edinburgh open mics. It was at this point I started playing under the name Ailsa and the Seahorses (the name just kind of made sense in my head). Everything felt like it happened naturally. Since then, there have been other musicians who have come on board, but even as a solo artist I always played under this name.
Who were your musical influences growing up and what drew you to them? As a teenager I went through my “only Morrissey understands me” phase… I loved the Smiths, I loved the honesty and humour in the lyrics and I think Johnny Marr has a really distinct style of playing guitar. I also went through my phase of listening to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ about 3 times a day every day for a while… I think it’s quite a diverse album, and I think I was drawn towards Jeff because of how vulnerable he made himself baring his soul like that. His music was my best friend for a while. At some point in my late teens I also started listening to more dreamy shoegazey stuff, which probably helped define my sound now – I love all things dreamy and chill.
Your latest release, ‘That Old Moon’ was released yesterday, what’s been the initial reaction from fans? The song seems to have been received well! I guess it’s always hard to know what people really think, but the feedback has been all positive so far, so that’s great to hear!
Is there a particular influence or message that you wanted to represent from That Old Moon? Releasing this song kind of feels like everything coming full circle for me. I wrote this song 2 years ago during a strange time in my life – I was trying to find my way out of a depression and the song was kind of optimistic, maybe like seeing the first rays of light flooding in, but also accepting that happiness may take a while and in the meantime life goes on around you. The last year and a half has been a crazy journey. I went through some weird times and went on some pretty amazing adventures, eventually ending up here in Berlin where I feel I have finally found happiness again. The video shows parts of this journey – there is footage in there from my hometown Edinburgh, from Canada, London and Berlin. It was basically a healing journey. It’s like I wrote the song about looking for happiness and now, having found it, I can release this piece of work and it’s a celebration of joy and success.
That Old Moon is your first release with a full band, how did that come about and is it something you would continue with future releases? Well not many people know this, but That Old Moon actually began as part of Andri’s coursework for university. We met at an open mic and he was looking for an artist to record some tracks for his school work and he liked my tunes. Because the pandemic happened shortly after we began work, the other musicians (friends of Andri) recorded their parts remotely and I actually hadn’t even met them when I heard the finished tracks. They did a great job and I have since met Julian and Vicente and we are working on some recording together now, so that’s really cool. I actually still haven’t met Bo who did the bass! But hopefully we will meet, and possibly get him onboard with this project too.
You are from Edinburgh but have recently moved to Berlin – how would you compare Germany and Scotland’s music scenes? I would say the Berlin music scene is a lot different to Edinburgh, or even Scotland as a whole. I don’t want to bash Edinburgh too much – I love it dearly – but I find that there is a lot more excitement here in Berlin. And just generally more creative opportunities and things going on; Edinburgh is so small in comparison. I would say Berlin is tough though – there are a lot of big egos and it can be competitive. You have to work very hard here, but it’s very inspiring to be around people who take music seriously.
Who are your favourite Scottish local bands? I love synth pop duo Maranta – they fill my heart with joy. If I wanna go out dancing, The Blueswater or Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters always play a banging show. I also love the mystical folk of Burnt Paw and the experimental grooves of The Positive Experience.
Do you have a particular song writing process or is it something that comes naturally? I like to sit and play dreamy chords on guitar and the melodies seem to form themselves. I begin with a sort of stream of consciousness thing with the lyrics which then take a solid form, and the rest is just filling in the blanks.
Do you have a particular song writing process or is it something that comes naturally? Well it’s hard work! There is a lot more to music than just the music… A lot of time is spent on promotion, networking etc. and these are separate skills you have to learn. But my advice would be to stay authentic and true to yourself, work hard and believe in yourself, even when other people don’t. Also, particularly if you are a woman, you will probably learn some important life skills on how to deal with some seriously creepy people – don’t let these people put you off, be strong and don’t be afraid to tell people to f*ck off.
What are your aims and ambitions as a musician for the future? What I really want now is to release a full album with a full band set up. And then, once all the madness is over, I would love to continue exploring the world and travel and take my music to new places. I hope I can spread a positive message and connect with people through my music, far and wide.
Keep up to date with Ailsa’s music by following her social media pages below…