Emma Pollock: The former Delgado on going solo

The mum, label boss and former indie band member tells Elisa Bray about being in charge

Emma Pollock is a mother, a co-founder of the record label Chemikal Underground and is also a solo musician in her own right. It's a lot to have on the go, but "Adrenaline" – one of the songs on her debut solo album Watch The Fireworks – says it all.

Pollock thrives on being busy.

"To not have something to work towards can be a dreadfully depressing thing. I just need that purpose otherwise I begin to go off the rails, which is probably why we started Chemikal Underground and a band all at the same time – which most people would realise is completely insane, but of course we persisted with that state for 10 years, being busier than I ever thought possible."

Back in the mid-Nineties, Pollock was one of the four members of indie band The Delgados who set up Chemikal Underground, and pioneered a new Glasgow scene discovering bands including Mogwai, Arab Strap and even the Brooklyn-based Interpol, whose first EP they released in 2000. While running what became one of the most successful indie labels, The Delgados went on to release five critically acclaimed albums in 10 years, including the Mercury Prize-nominated The Great Eastern. The band were at the peak of their career playing 2,000-capacity venues when they split in 2005. Then, three months later, Pollock had signed to 4AD Records who have the Pixies and Scott Walker on their roster. You might think that with the clout of The Delgados and their dedicated fanbase behind her, she could almost step into where she had left off. But it's not that easy, Pollock explains as we meet the night after she played her album launch at The Social, a tiny London venue of the kind she played with The Delgados at the start of their career.

"I basically had to say to myself I'm going to have to start again. You'd be surprised at how much you still have to re-establish yourself. It's not as if anybody was that familiar with any of the names in the band."

It might also come as a surprise that Pollock chose not to release it on Chemikal Underground, but the decision represented another step towards establishing herself as a solo artist.

"I would have had to ask my friends to put out my record and we would have been having that conversation a month after the split and that was going to be too hard for me and them," she reflects. "I really needed to take a step away from what I had known for over a decade and I needed to have new people involved to make it feel fresh from every perspective."

Signing to 4AD also means that she has been able to retain her involvement in the running of Chemikal Underground. When she is not taking five-year-old Ben to school and when she's not in the studio recording, you are likely to find Emma Pollock working in the Glasgow Chem19 office. It's that "Adrenaline" theme again, but it also shows that after 10 years of being one of two vocalists in a band, perhaps being in the spotlight has a new and uncomfortable intensity.

"The thing is, if this was the only thing I did I think I would find it a little uncomfortable – it's a bit like looking in the mirror all day. It's just too much. With The Delgados it was all about four people, and now it's me personally, so it's difficult to see the wood from the trees.

"It's a different make -up now because it's not a band and I'm not sharing with other people. It's different and I'm adjusting."

It is undoubtedly an exciting time of change and rebirth for Pollock. But it also comes at the end of an era for Chemikal Underground who have made it through their first generation of bands. Since The Delgados split in 2005, last year we saw Arab Strap – one of the label's earliest signings – call it a day, and the label's latest split was Aereogramme this year.

Pollock looks on the label's end of an era with philosophical optimism: "It is really sad, but at the same time sometimes things come to a natural end. I don't think all bands can continue forever. There are bands out there who put out classic albums and it's good they stopped when they did. It's really hard to continue making consistently good records with the same fresh perspective that an artist is capable of when they started their career. It's partly why it's exciting for me to do something like this now because it does create this very fresh way of looking at things."

It is another reason why having the input of Victor van Vugt (Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Beth Orton) when he produced the album was so positive.

Pollock admits to a tendency for being negative, reflecting on her song "The Optimist" as being a response to the "dark difficult time" when the band were adjusting to splitting up. "You can take a situation and paint it black or you can take a situation and say there has to be something good in this somewhere. I do find it difficult sometimes to see the bright side which is one of my greatest failings", she says. But there is no such negativity in Pollock today. She looks forward, radiating a contagious buzz of excitement about the new work. Pollock is a huge fan of Dusty Springfield and Sixties pop. You can hear her love of the production of the time: strings, elaborate arrangements and the importance of melody all shine in Watch the Fireworks. She oozes enthusiasm for "If Silence Means That Much to You", a tune that encapsulates all that she loves in a song. "It just sounded to me like it could be from a Sixties film soundtrack and the melody just sounded like it could comfortably appear on the Dr Zhivago soundtrack." She talks excitedly about how they dug a Sixties hammer dulcimer out from their cupboards for the chorus.

While the songs retain similarities to The Delgados (their eclecticism and the changing tempos) it is this eccentricity that keeps the music fresh.

"I wanted to make it as eclectic as possible because I knew there was going to be only one vocalist. And that was already ironically a bit of a concern because I thought there's always been Alan and I – there's always been that contrast so I wanted to make sure the record wasn't too samey. And so one of the ways I could combat that was to write lots of different types of song – some with a full band, some stripped down."

Next Pollock will be touring her new album in America, something she's excited about, but she dreads being separated from her son. It was another factor in the decision that her husband, the former Delgados drummer Paul Savage, would leave the new band so the couple's son will have a parent with him.

Having been part of a pioneering music scene in Glasgow, Pollock's focus is now pure song craftsmanship, she says. "I wouldn't pretend I'm breaking any musical boundaries here – but there is still a lot to be said for simply being able to write a great song and that's what I want to be able to do.

"I'd rather write a timeless record than a record which is trying to capture a zeitgeist.

"I'll do it for as long as it and as long as I have the opportunity."

'Watch the Fireworks' is out now on 4AD Records

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015