NEWS: Air In The Lungs release first single ahead of debut album next year


The first time I saw Deborah Arnott on stage, it was in the role of Varya in Anton Chekhov’s 1903 play The Cherry Orchard (a great performance). Fast forward a few years and she had formed Blueflint with Clare Neilson, a fantastic folk duo, who have released three albums so far – most recently 2015’s Stories From Home. Now she’s released her first single under the moniker Air In The Lungs entitled ‘Sweet Is The Dream.’ Ahead of the release of the self-titled debut album (due out April 2023) I called her at home in Edinburgh to find out what she’s been up to.

So how are you?

I’m doing good,’ she tells me cheerfully, and flattered when I tell her just how good the forthcoming album is. ‘It’s a wee bit different from before, maybe, I’m not quite sure what folk will make of it but we’ll see.’

It has been a few years since the most recent Blueflint album, so I start by asking her what she’s been up to. ‘I suppose it’s just been a bit of life, you know, Ed, raising kids and paying the bills, and all that kind of stuff. The last Blueflint album we released was 2015 and and then we toured after that, so kind of naturally after that, myself and Clare had a wee bit of time where it wasn’t as full on. It’s a lot to put together, booking tours, getting posters and flyers done, travelodges, motorways, vans and it had been a busy time, so kind of naturally we just focused on our families and just life. We see each other often as friends, but naturally had a bit of a creative break. For a wee while, Clare and I were doing duo gigs, just to keep our hand in.’

I ask her when she started work on Air In The Lungs, which sees her playing the electric guitar for the first time on recordings. ‘I had a few bereavements and they all seemed to come one after the other. I just wasn’t drawn to the banjo at all. After a passage of time, when I felt ready to play music it was on the guitar. I was never a great guitar player, ‘ she adds modestly, ‘but I just started to play tunes and classical tunes, trying to understand the instrument a bit better. Then my husband had an old electric guitar which we got done up for my daughter’s Christmas, and I was like – can I have a shot at your guitar!‘ she laughs. ‘Then I wrote these songs, a few songs over a period of time, quite a lot of them are quite close to the bone. And then I put them in a folder, because I wasn’t even kind of contemplating doing anything with them. It was actually my husband who said ‘You’ve got to do something with these songs!” ‘

Her husband is Pat McGarvey, a multi-instrumentalist who has played with a number of acts, currently Southern Tenant, and previously The Arlenes and Coal Porters. She explains how he started putting synthesizers on her songs. ‘ He’d put a bit on and I’d be: ‘I’m not sure about that!’ and then another bit and I’d be like ‘Ooh, I love that!‘ She put them in the folder again, and then a few months later he encouraged her to get the songs out there. She approached Creative Scotland who granted her funding to get the album made.

When the funding came through ‘Which was just brilliant!’ they got together with drummer Rich Kass, who she describes as an incredible force on the drums with so much sensitivity and imagination. She ended up working with producer Paul Savage, the Delgados‘ drummer, who co-founded the legendary Chemikal Underground label as well as producing a number of Scottish acts over the last twenty-five years. The album was all recorded at the legendary Chem 19 studios in Blantyre, where a huge range of acts as diverse as Mogwai and Deacon Blue have recorded.

She considers herself lucky to have had these people wanting to be involved with the album. ‘Paul had produced the last Blueflint album and he was just so brilliant to work with – even before we got the funding I asked if I could put him on the application.’

Now of course there’s the matter of getting the new album out there. ‘Since we released the last Blueflint album, it’s so different now. I’ve had to learn a lot about how things are released now. Before you just used to release your album, but now it’s like a drip-drip effect. So you release a single, and then a few months later another single…‘ These are coming out on Last Night From Glasgow Cartel who are releasing the album with herself, and there will be two more singles to follow before the album is released in April.

The album will be released on vinyl, something which hasn’t happened for the Blueflint albums (so far). ‘Again, that’s another change,’ she reflects. ‘When we were doing the Blueflint albums it was all CDs, vinyl hadn’t really kicked back in at that point as it has now, which is great. But there’s such a long time to order vinyl, there’s such a queue, so you’ve got to be really prepared. I recorded the album in the summer, but I wanted to give the album the best chance with a record company. There’s so many brilliant bands out there, and it’s so difficult. That’s one thing I’ve learned with being in Blueflint, it’s so hard to make a living being a musician. It’s so hard to break even from touring because you’ve got your van hire cost, travel lodges, the petrol…’

She also points out the importance of public relations and the whole cogs of the machinery of getting an album out. ‘When you release an album the PR is so important, so I thought I’m going to get some representation to help me with this. Thankfully, Last Night From Glasgow are helping me with this, they’re doing some, I’m doing some and I’m so glad to have that support.’ The vinyl is eco-vinyl, which she explains has a marble effect on it, so whilst pre-orders won’t know exactly what design they are getting, everyone will look different. ‘I’ve seen them and it looks great,’ she says, happily. I ask her about a return to playing live. There will be some live dates around the album launch, although she seems unlikely to do a long tour in support of the album.

Thinking back to the first time I saw her on stage, I ask about acting. ‘It’s that kind of profession that it comes and goes. A couple of weeks ago I was doing a development at the Lyceum [ one of Edinburgh’s theatres] with David Greig. Because of COVID it went really quiet, but there’s a few bits and bobs coming up. I love the theatre and I’ve worked as an actor for thirty years and that was my first art job before music came along. I know the industry’s picking up now so hopefully something will come up soon.’ I tell her about seeing her in The Cherry Orchard -‘Oh my God! she gasps. ‘That’s going back. Bloody hell!’

Whichever stage she’s on, she’ll be compelling.

NEWS: Air In The Lungs release first single ahead of debut album next year

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.