Anna Meredith on her Hyundai Mercury Prize nomination: “It’s taken me a while to have the balls to write like this”

Watch Meredith tell us what went into making her bold and experimental album 'Fibs'

Before the winner of this year’s Hyundai Mercury Prize is announced, acclaimed Scottish composer Anna Meredith spoke to NME about what went into her nominated album ‘Fibs’. Watch our video interview above.

Famed for work as the former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as well as producing soundtrack music for titles such as the movie Eighth Grade and Netflix’s Living With Yourself, Meredith had a mainstream breakthrough this year when her bold and experimental third album ‘Fibs’ was nominated for a Mercury against the likes of Stormzy, Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Sports Team and Michael Kiwanuka.

Asked about why ‘Fibs’ had such an impact, Meredith told NME: “It’s the way I write, I guess. There are things that might make it a little unusual. The mix of instrumentals, vocals, high energy, low energy – that for me is all part of the same shenanigans that I like to do. I hope it’s bold, I hope it’s got energy and moments of repose. That’s what I like writing. Maybe it’s a statement in terms of composition.

“It’s taken me a while to have the balls to be able to write like this. I’d have had too many anxieties and insecurities to just stick an idea for upfront and centre or wallow in something so preposterous that it makes me giggle while I’m writing it.

She continued: “I don’t know if there’s a message. It’s not a concept album. It’s just my nerdy, composer, control freak brain, trying to do all the things I want to do.”

As well as “prayers to Santa” finally being answered with finally be able to appear on The One Show, Meredith spoke of how she’d enjoyed the exposure that the Mercury Prize nod had brought.

“It’s been really nice,” she said. “I don’t know if it would be different in normal years – if the legions of glamorous new pals might be more in evidence. Maybe I’m just too uncool for that sort of stuff. There have been some new people hearing the stuff for the first time and getting in touch. I’m always up for the opportunity to indulgently ramble about the album for hours, so I’ve relished all of that.”

While devastated that the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out what would have been a busy year of touring, Meredith also admitted that time off hadn’t proven too fruitful in terms of writing new material.

“I think that’s a common misconception,” she said. “People have been like, ‘Ah, this must be great for you – you can finally trot off that symphony’. I’ve been dreadful. There were various lockdown commissions that I didn’t do, because I didn’t want to just leap immediately into a piece for 18 flutes over Zoom or whatever. I haven’t panicked, and I’m glad I haven’t got into writing a piece a day or anything overly ambitious like that. It’s been busy-ish, but also a lot of self-pity and playing with jigsaws.”

She continued: “I’m definitely not leaping into writing another album. This one took a long time. This album stuff matters so much to me and I want to get it right. I couldn’t do it quickly and right now I’m not in the right headspace for it. At some point, let’s see how this continued world combustion carries on. Right now, I’m not really feeling it.”

Meredith added: “My work is commissions to write for other forces or an occasion. With an album, I’m not really looking for a new thing. I’m always trying to push myself in all these different directions and I think there’s a lot of breadth in my writing. I’m ancient and have been doing this for years, but I want to keep pushing myself and getting better at technology. I’m not looking to reinvent myself, but some of the new commissions I get outside of albums are quite weird and wonderful.”

And who does she think is most likely to win this year’s Mercury Prize?

“I obviously don’t think it’s going to be me. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve said, ‘It’s just great to be on the shortlist!’ There are loads of great albums, really varied stuff and it’s great to have so many female artists. I’m wussing out. They’re all great!”

Watch our full video interview at the top of the page, where Meredith also tells of her plans to spend the £25,000 prize money on an indulgent holiday of waterparks and tequila.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the winner of the coveted prize will be announced on The One Show on BBC One on September 24, after a week of programming that will also include a special of Later… With Jools Holland featuring performances from all nominees.

Check back at NME for more interviews with the nominated artists.

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