Michael Rattray is a Scottish composer, singer and artist based in Perth in Scotland.
He has played with Belle and Sebastian, Idlewild, The Vaselines and in May 2011 supported Edwyn Collins at Perth Theatre. He's played at T in the park, toured the UK as support for Sam Brown and worked with her on his album "Smile at who you need to". He is also an exhibiting artist.
He writes music in all different genres from punk to folk to disco.
His album "Human life" is more acoustic folk and due to health adversity is a more serious affair which has drawn on local musicians contributions including cello, violin, accordian, double bass, flute, and a full live choir.
How would you describe "Human life" to potential listeners?
“I would describe Human Life as a very personal collection of heartfelt, natural, acoustic- folk based songs. Some have described it similar to Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, The Indigo Girls and Elbow.”
What does the album mean to you? What life experiences aided this creation?
“The album to me is mostly what I expressed during a very difficult period in my life. Not all of the songs are melancholy, but even most of the happy ones came from a dark place. The album was a reaction to the struggles I was going through; I didn’t have much energy while I was recording and it took over five years to complete. When I was very ill, I didn’t think I would ever do music again, so most of the songs were just pure expression with no thought of an audience or future release. They are pure in that sense, which makes them special to me. I hope others can feel that when they listen.”
What inspired the title track (‘Human Life’) and naming of the album?
“This is difficult to put into words. The title came from seeing the world in a very intense, analytical, and often uncomfortable way. I found myself utterly overwhelmed and bewildered with existence, human evolution, development, growth, and interaction within our environment. The song and title of the album is about that feeling, about looking around, and looking at yourself. It’s terrifying at times. and there’s a sadness and despair in that track, but also a beauty and sense of wonder. I wrote it on my old piano when I was staying with my parents. I was so depressed I just couldn’t function or be alone. It just popped out in five minutes; all the best ones do.”
Does “Human Life” have a storyline of itself as a whole collection of songs?
“I didnt think it did at the time, but now it makes sense. Many of the songs have come from a dark place; from the first line “Hello Universe” to the closing phrase “Life Without Love”, there are definitely themes. What surprised me most are the religious themes. I was raised a Catholic and I think during the album you can hear me letting go of those beliefs, breaking free almost. I sing the word “Lord” in the last song, but I’m not singing to God specifically. I’m just looking upwards, outwards for help from something, anything.
Listening to it myself, I find it really intense compared to other albums I’ve done. Usually I glaze things over and add humor in my songs to hide behind them; this album is more direct. Apart from ‘Big Black Dog’, my lyrics are so honest and direct, I feel almost embarrassed by them but realise I had to get it all out. I’m proud of it and have personally let it go now; I finished writing the album a few years ago and have written loads of new stuff.
The new material is less serious and my humour is coming back a little creatively. I’ve still had only little bits of energy each day, but still write all the time; I’m accepting things more now. If my mood crashes, I try and deal with it the best I can.
Depression and M.E. are very misunderstood and difficult conditions to manage, but they haven’t stopped me from creating. The next album is already written and will be less intense. I’ll be glad when “Human Life” is out so I can move on and let go.
I want to share the pain, joy, struggle, and triumph with other people. Everyone feels these things; isn't that what makes us human?”