Great LezBritain: An interview with Horse

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“Great LezBritian” is a fortnightly stroll through the very best of British lesbo-centric entertainment and culture. Plus there will be some jolly good interviews with the top ladies who are waving the flag for gay UK.

While the UK is not quite awash with out singer-songwriters and bands, over the last couple of years there has been a definite growing number of women with mics and guitars singing about their lady loves or at least saying “Yes I am.”

A lovely turn of events, we’d all agree, but while we salute the likes of Alison Goldfrapp, Jessie J, Heather Peace and Grey Matter, we will do a whole Royal Guard change in honour of Horse McDonald.

Horse released her critically acclaimed debut album The Same Sky with her band twenty years ago and since then has been hacking through the overgrown reeds of homophobia and misogyny in the music industry so that we can all follow behind admiring the landscaped gardens.

Currently working on her ninth studio album and getting ready to set out on an anniversary tour for The Same Sky, we caught up with Horse to talk about her early experiences in the industry, advice for younger musicians and her plans for the new album.

photo by Dawn Kilner

AfterEllen.com: You’ve been out since the very beginning of your career – did that have to be a conscious decision?

Horse:
I think growing up I was trying to figure out who I was and I always knew I rejected anything feminine, indeed I didn’t really want to be female and was very androgynous looking. My early years were very miserable – I was attacked and chased by gangs. So I moved to Glasgow and in my head I needed to escape and because I had been writing songs from an early age I worked really hard on that and with my band I got signed to Capitol.

AE: Because you didn’t look like your traditional pop star at that point how did the record label try and market you?
H:
They didn’t know what to do with me because at this point there was no k.d. lang so there was real difficulty there. I did feel quite uncomfortable in some of things they asked me to wear and I felt that they thought as me as a bit of a weird creature – so let’s try and market it as such. One of the routes they took was making some flyers at one of our first gigs which had the question, “Horse, what is it, a man or a woman?” I just had to file that away somewhere. We had some success but never quite broke it big time.

AE: How did you feel when k.d. lang did come along?
H:
For most people it was enlightening but for me it was quite frustrating because for the press and media she suddenly ticked a box. So because there was one like her, they didn’t need to try with us anymore. Which I think is also quite disrespectful to her. It still frustrates me when I am compared to her because I am really nothing like her.

AE: What do you think of the situation now in the music industry with artists such as Alison Goldfrapp coming out?
H:
It makes my stomach turn to think of how it was back then. It is obviously better now that there really isn’t such a big deal made of it, though there are still not a lot of artists that are out. But I feel that no matter what I will always be asked about my sexuality first and I have to work really hard for people to talk to me about my music.

AE: The music industry needs a trailblazer like you though to stand and represent the “lesbian” – much like Sandi Toksvig does in the entertainment industry – albeit that’s not ideal for you …
H:
I don’t want to be negative but I think when I am not here anymore then people will look back and think that I did a good job. I do get a lot of letters from woman coming out who tell me I have been really important to them and the music has meant so much. It’s the strangest thing to know that my music has supported people.

When Sophie Ward came out I sent her a message telling her that it is lonely place but that I was so grateful that she did come out. It is important for people in all sorts of professions to be out and for people to realise we’re just living our lives. For instance my music isn’t songs just for lesbians, it appeals to everyone.

AE: There aren’t that many young people in the entertainment industry that are under 30 and out – do you see that as a problem?
H:
Yes, I do because people need examples of people that are like themselves. I am horrified by the attention that is paid to Lady Gaga.When Lady Gaga brings out a single called Born This Way I don’t really think she is making any brave statements.

I think it is easy to make that statement but harder to be like an Alison Goldfrapp and actually act on it. I think you can be defined by the relationship you are in.

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