On the heels of her Mercury Prize-nominated “Ballad of the Broken Seas,” a collaboration with former Screaming Trees principle Mark Lanegan, Scottish singer/songwriter Isobel Campbell will on Nov. 7 release her second V2 album of 2006, “Milkwhite Sheets.”
The new project is a departure from the Serge Gainsbourg-influenced throwback pop of “Ballad” and instead draws on traditional folk as the inspiration. “The music of Shirley Collins, Jean Ritchie and Anne Briggs was of huge inspiration,” Campbell tells Billboard.com. “I absolutely love the fact that they were all so pure of voice. Ethereal and plaintive, often sounding like choirboys.”
Campbell admits to working on the album “intermittently” and explains that it was up in the air if it would ever be released. “After ‘Ballad’ was released, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to release ‘Milkwhite Sheets’ because it was something I was making more for myself than for commercial reasons,” she says.
Former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha inspired the Nick Drake-inspired instrumental “James,” which Campbell wrote after Iha showed her some open guitar tunings. “The next day I woke and wrote this guitar part with the melody on top,” she says. “It kind of seemed right for it to be an instrumental for some reason, and I could hear violins playing the melody.”
Away from the studio, Iha also helped push Campbell into the 21st century. “One of James’ people knew one of my people at the time. So James called me up,” she recalls. “He’d heard some of the records I did under the name of the Gentle Waves and he said he really liked them. We emailed a bit too. In fact, James, because I’m a bit computer-phobic, was the first person I ever emailed.”
As for now, Campbell’s only live dates are this week in the United Kingdom supporting Badly Drawn Boy. Still, she keeps plugging away. “I’ve been working a little with Howe Gelb, which is a lot of fun but next I really need to find someone I can trust to take care of the business side of work for me — someone to make a good plan. Otherwise I think there’s a danger that I could get all chewed up and spat out.”