Today see’s another 2 new interviews with Annie Lennox, 1 from Canada and 1 from Scotland.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Annie Lennox’s world.
“I have already started buying a few Christmas presents for people,” admits the former Eurythmics vocalist. “And there will be a few Christmas Cornucopias given out, that’s for sure.”
No, Lennox isn’t spending her weekends stuffing horns o’plenty with fruits and veggies. She’s giving the gift of music this year. A Christmas Cornucopia is the title of her new holiday album, a collection of classics and carols rendered with traditional orchestrations, contemporary sonics and an African children’s choir, led by her rich, warm contralto. For the woman who sang Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) — and who was born on Christmas Day 1954 in Scotland — it’s both a labour of love and the realization of a longtime dream.
In this exclusive Canadian newspaper interview, the 55-year-old singer-songwriter discussed her love of spontaneity, her holiday memories and who cooks the turkey at the Lennox house.
So, are you sick of talking about Christmas yet?
Just about. (Laughs) But we can have this one conversation. I think I can hack it. And I really love my album, so I’m happy to talk about that.
I’m surprised you didn’t make a Christmas album years ago, since it’s your birthday.
Yes. But really, I made this because I wasn’t under contract and had carte blanche. It was like, ‘OK, I can do anything I like. What would I like to do?’ And I have always wanted to do this, you’re quite right. I love these carols so much and I sang them as a child. They’re very personal. So I suddenly realized that this was the perfect moment.
So many people have made Christmas albums. Were you concerned about going into an area that’s so well-travelled?
To be quite frank with you, and it might sound naive on my part, I wasn’t aware there were so many Christmas albums. There really is a plethora, as I’ve discovered. On Amazon, they’ve got a category just for Christmas music. I didn’t even know. So no, I didn’t even think about it. An artist is someone who has their individual voice and style. And I have my own interpretive ways. So I never think about what other people have done. There’s no point. It’s about your own artistic challenge and your own journey. I just wanted to record this beautiful music for posterity.
Did you have a plan beyond that?
I didn’t really have a strategem. I didn’t even have a list of songs to record. I would go into the studio and just pick a song from my head at random, because I know so many of them. Then I would experiment a little bit with the chord progressions and go on from there. Probably each track took about two days — if that — to record. I worked very quickly. It was such a joy, such a pleasure. They’re such beautiful, timeless pieces of music. And it was interesting to revisit them as an adult when I’d sung them as a child.
ANNIE AND THE CHILD WITHIN Source
It’s called A Christmas Cornucopia, but scrape aside the glitter and the sepia swirls on the sleeve of Annie Lennox’s new album, push away the holly and ivy that clings to its edges, look under the picture of Lennox herself posing on a landscape of storybook snow, and you’ll realise the album isn’t really, at its heart, about Christmas at all.
It’s about childhood, and specifically Annie Lennox’s childhood.
It’s the last track on the album, Universal Child, that homes in on this theme more than any other, and also on how Lennox feels about the world as a whole. At the start of the single she sings “I’m gonna try to find a way to keep you safe from harm”, and it’s clear she’s singing not just about children, but about victims too, the innocents, the underdogs.
Talking just before the release of the album this week, Lennox tells me that she’s always been like this: empathising with the underdog. “I always have,” she says. “It was written down in one of my school reports actually.” And then she remembers a vivid detail from her childhood in Aberdeen that illustrates this perfectly: it’s a memory of a bird’s nest near the tenement where she lived, a broken egg and a dead baby bird. “That would affect me,” she says. “I could see life has a wonderfully shiny outside but it’s also got this parallel universe – the light and the dark.”
Lennox, who’s 55 now, remembers the Christmases she spent in that flat in Aberdeen as warm and happy and her affection for those times is obvious in the new songs on the album, which are mostly reinterpretations of old carols. As she speaks about that childhood home though, there are dark flashes of other moments that were not so easy.
“I had a real affection for the place at the time,” she says. “There were lots of bombed-out sites that were just left and somebody would dump an old car and we would play in those places. When I think about it, it’s quite visceral. I lived quite close to a slaughterhouse and used to see the cattle cantering down the street and we knew they were going to be killed. It was odd, it was dark, they were cantering as if they were going to something.”
When she wasn’t playing in those streets, the former Eurthymics singer was famously discovering music by singing in a choir where she learned the carols she’s re-tuned for the new album. The emotions that rose up as she sang those songs have stayed with her, she says, and the album was a way of going back and feeling them again, but moving them on too, rebooting them.
“The album is a sweet meeting point between my adult self singing these carols and the seven year old who was singing them in choirs. I had this feeling I’d love to reinterpret them and give them my own flavour.”