After being part of the band Magna Carta for 26 years, Linda Simpson left the band and chose a new musical path. Besides performing solo, she started the ‘Mama Don’t’ project. This project promotes acoustic music and helps musicians at base level to get a foot on the music business ladder. In this interview she explains how she does this and also manages a solo career.
You have been with Magna Carta for many years, can you tell me what this band was for you and why it was time to change plans?
‘I was with the band Magna Carta for 26 years. In that time I visited many countries, made many friends, saw things that most people will never see and did things that most people will never do. No matter what happens now - no one can ever take any of those amazing experiences away from me. My life has been enriched and, personal relationships aside, I would not give back one moment of what 'Magna Carta' meant to me. I gave it everything I had and it rewarded me likewise.’
It must be a strange thing to being a solo artist after so many years being part of a band. How is this for you?
‘It is strange to play solo again, but I enjoy it. I'm also doing things that get me involved with other musicians so I'm not always playing solo. I guess I'm a dreamer and I follow my dreams. I dreamt that I had a boat called The Busker - I now live on that boat. I dreamt that I made an album called 'Sisters' - I'm now writing the songs for that album. It will happen. I don't worry too much about the future. At the moment I'm arranging a mini music festival for charity and loving every minute of it - I'll just keep doing what I love most and something will work out.’
With the Mama Don’t project you support talented musicians who are just starting out, how was your start in music and what made you decide to become a professional musician anyway?
‘For as long as I can remember all I ever wanted to do was sing. I just said 'yes' to anything that gave me the chance - that hasn't changed. My ambition was to be professional, I wanted to make a living out of what I loved doing most - that hasn't changed either! I have been influenced by everything and everyone. Music is a freedom that puts air in your lungs. You can hear someone whistle a tune and think -'that's pretty'; you can be pinned to the wall with the sheer emotion of Tchaikovsky; repelled by the anger and profanity, or delighted by the humor and insight of rap.; charmed by a simple love song, every kind of music has its place.’
‘I love the complexity of Paul Simon. the apparent simplicity of JJ Cale, the raw edges of Bonnie Raitt, the unconditional insight of Bob Dylan, the careful mastery of poetry that is Leonard Cohen, the fluidity of Joni Mitchell; the list is endless. These are the people I grew up with but I'm now back on ground level and I've come across some youngsters that are going to shake the world - it's good to know that music hasn't died despite the decline of the big record companies.’
Now about the mama don’t project, what would you like this project to be and why is this the right moment for you to start the project?
‘As Bob Dylan says, ‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose’. After the split up with Chris and Magna Carta I didn't know what to do. All I knew is that it had to be music. I had to find a new way to keep it in my life. I designed my boat so that it had an office and started to put together the things that I thought I might need. My first idea was to find 3 musicians, get them on the boat and work to make them a 'band' - but then I would only be helping 3 musicians. so I thought - 'why not help to start up new venues' - that would help more musicians. I had a go and arranged one night in a local venue - it was great - and it is still doing open mic sessions every week. It took a lot of effort for that one night and I realized that, with a little more effort, I could do something bigger - now I'm working on a 'mini festival' for lots of clubs in one area. This too has been a lot of work and has given me an even better idea ... I can't say much right now - but I'm working on it ...’
What do you see as your main role in the project and what do you expect from the musicians?
‘I'm trying to get more exposure for people who have talent. They don't have to be young. I simply try to help people to help themselves and I don't expect anything other than that they do their best, no one can ask for more. At the moment I only deal with people I come into contact with by being wherever I am, and I do whatever I can in that vicinity. I don't want people to get in touch with me or tell me that they know someone really talented - that would stop me from being able to do anything at all.’
‘I would like to have as many musicians as possible on my mailing list though - that way I can let them know of anything good that's going on - and keep them informed of anything that might be of interest. My main aim is to arrange 'events' for people playing at 'open mic' sessions or acoustic clubs. Often they are just starting out and need experience - something that is very hard to get these days. I'm trying to encourage clubs to book acts and to spread the word on 'House Concerts' - if you're having a celebration or gathering of some kind - why not get one of your local acts to come and play? It's not going to cost a fortune and you're giving someone the chance to gain some experience. It's quite easy to support the arts in this way. Charge your guests a minimal amount and your act is paid for! Any musician is 'interesting enough' if there is something I can do to help. I never try to push anyone - only to help them to do what they want to do - that way you work together and everyone is happy.’
‘Of course there are exceptional talents, I've found two here and I will watch out for other ways to help them once I've moved on. I've found two talented youngsters and I'm getting them into radio stations - they might be heard and then someone will perhaps help them a lot more than I ever could. I've met a songwriter who writes modern folk ballads and I've put him in touch with people who might be able to help him. When these people play on the festival I will ask the audience to consider booking them for a house concert ... it all helps to promote music and musicians... and it 'Makes music happen' ...’
‘This project is only really just starting so it's hard to see what direction it will eventually take. It's not always a good thing to try and force an idea to work the way you think it should. Ideas should grow and change along with circumstances. I don't have a goal in sight for the project - I will just keep on trying to make things happen and go where that takes me.’
What are your near future plans for your own solo career?
‘I'm still singing and playing myself and I have an album to make ... 'Sisters' will be for and about the women in my life. The song I'm working on at the moment is for a friend who lost her husband to cancer a couple of years ago. She has met a really nice man and is now in turmoil because she feels she is betraying her husband's memory. She introduced this man to me - he was looking at her as if she was the best thing that had ever happened to him and she was looking at me with so much doubt in her eyes.’
‘The first few lines came into my head straight away
He's looking at you
You're looking at me
What do you want me to say?
This is your day
I hope that the songs will all come together this way and I will have an album of songs about all aspects of life.’
Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Linda Simpson, (3) Elrieke (unknown).