Singer-songwriter MADDY CARTY tells Len Phelan where’s she’s at, musically and politically
ANYONE who’s been fortunate to see Maddy Carty perform knows that she’s blessed with a belting voice and self-penned songs that belie their infectious pop hooks with subtle takes on how the personal and the political intertwine.
But she’s at pains to avoid pigeonholing. “I don’t really see myself as a political or protest singer,” she tells me. “I just write what I know and feel and naturally sometimes politics are involved. I don’t know if I ever have an intended message as such, it’s more that I want people to feel something and know that it’s coming from an honest place.”
She references her song No Shoes in the Summer, written about her Irish grandparents. “It was quite personal to me and my family but the reason I started writing it was because we were hearing so much of the ‘all these immigrants coming over here’ rhetoric and, like so many other people in Britain, it struck a nerve with me.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for immigrants and neither would most of my friends. I think my songs are just a social commentary on things I’m seeing and a lot of the time things that make me angry!”
Raised in south London, she’s from “a very socialist, left-wing family” and brought up to believe that social injustice is unacceptable.
“We have to look at history as well as the present to learn from people’s experiences and mistakes,” she says.
“The International Brigades are an amazing example of people not just caring about their own but wanting to help their fellow man. It’s something we could all learn from.”
Carty’s musical influences range through pop and soul to reggae and ska — she provided backing vocals to Keety General’s tremendous Take the Stage, one of the anthems of the JC4PM tour, and her house-infused single Got No Love with Sezwez is getting a lot of airplays.
She puts that variety down to her mum’s “very eclectic” taste. “I do seem to be a bit all over the place musically!” she laughs. “Got No Love is pretty different to what you’ve heard from me. Usually, I’m more pop/soul but happened to use a couple of reggae samples on my last album that people seemed to pick up on.
“But I’m a songwriter first and foremost so I can write a song and it can ultimately be produced in any style.
“I’ve always admired the ‘real’ songwriters like Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan and India Arie. I love lyrics so if I hear something poetic or clever I’m hooked.”
Like many musicians, the election campaign has been a shot in the arm for Carty. “It’s been amazing to see how Jeremy Corbyn and his different type of politics has had such an effect on young people and artists coming forward and actually taking an interest politically. I think that probably for the first time in our generation, we have someone who is actually saying things that we want to hear and that we can believe in.
“I hope we can keep it up and that people continue to support him and fight for change, for the many. We just need to get rid of the Tories!”
On July 8, Carty’s appearing with radical Turkish singer Canan Sagar and spoken word supremo Tim Wells at the latest in what are proving to be hugely popular fundraising gigs for the Morning Star at the Constitution pub in London’s Camden Town — an opportunity, if ever there was one, to celebrate the seismic political events of recent weeks.
“The Morning Star has always supported my music which I really appreciate,” she says, “and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know a few of the staff through gigs and campaigns and clearly we have a lot of the same views.
“The fact that the paper is so widely available and covers so many issues from different perspectives like the arts is great. “It’s important to have an alternative to the mainstream media who are ridiculously biased the majority of the time. You guys are fighting the good fight.”
Not only staff on this paper — Carty’s doing her bit too.
Maddy Carty plays the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival on July 16, tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk and Got No Love is available on iTunes, Spotify, Deezer and other download sites. Tickets (£10/£5 concessions) for the Morning Star fundraiser at the Constitution pub, 42 St Pancras Way, London NW1 OQT, are available by phone (020) 8510-0815 or from mstar.link/constitution2