The Roxy Sessions With Angela McCluskey

From her time with LA 90s indie folk sensations Wild Colonials and on through her subsequent solo career, Glasgow-born singer-songwriter Angela McCluskey (who actor Norman Reedus has said has “the mesmerizing voice of an angel”) has made good work of spontaneity. It has resulted in collaborations with everyone from Cyndi Lauper to Telepopmusik to Robbie Robertson, and more recently Kendrick Lamar and Azealia Banks; it’s also made for a distinctly unconventional musical life.

To wit, 2016 saw her hole up in The Roxy Hotel with a makeshift studio, to write and record her new album; the result, The Roxy Sessions, will be released on September 9th. She describes it as, “a record that celebrates coming through it all – the success, the failure, the heartache and despair – and finding yourself being a little less dramatic about love, and intent on being thankful for what you’ve got.”

As she prepared for an album release party and show at The Django at The Roxy on Wednesday, July 27th, we caught up with her for a chat about strange and wonderful friends, and life away from home.

The Roxy: How did your Roxy Sessions come about?

Angela McCluskey: I approached them about having Pam Hogg DJ and then heard Lydia Lunch was in town; and I thought what a great combination of NYC and London. And of course [legendary promoter] Liz Vap is brilliant at making these things all happen; so I asked and she waved her wand.

You lived at the hotel and wrote songs?

We played a few shows last year, Liz helped me do a pop up show, and l fell madly in love with the place. The Django is such a spectacular room, and every detail is perfection. It feels exactly like a Parisian boite from the 50s. Anyway, I went back and did a night called Timewarp, and I felt suddenly overcome with a feeling of creativity. I literally started singing melodies like Let’s Get Lost into my iPhone. I asked them to let me set up a studio in one of the rooms and write my new record, and the rest is history.

Is there something about the comings and goings of hotels that you think inspires creativity? After all, even the likes of Hemingway and Nabokov lived and wrote in hotels.

I’ve always been obsessed with the transience of hotel life. Different faces every day, and the excitement of being away from home. If I weren’t a musician I would be a travel writer. The Roxy has a history too, so I wanted to bring a little bit of the old NYC up to the forefront. I invited Pam and Lydia to stay, and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see these two strut through that lobby, and the looks from guests. It was fantastic! The guests got to have that NYC feeling of, ‘Oh look…’ Some nights it would be Mick Rock and Debbie Harry with them, and on others all the downtown kids were dressed to kill whilst Pam DJ’d.

And that acted as inspiration for the album?

My vision was to do more than make a record; it was to create a space where everyone would organically just be drawn to mingling with a more artistic crowd. Yes this place has got something, let’s add more something to it. The staff were all super into it and management were literally telling me to just go for it, which you won’t have happen in the corporate world of luxury hotels. So big high five to them for thinking way outside of the lobby!

You’ve got your record release show at the hotel on the 27th. Who are some of the special guests that tend to pop up at your shows?

In the last few years I’ve had anyone from Alan Cumming to Courtney Love to Karen Elson to Lydia to Jim Keltner. The whole point of special guests is they usually pop up the day before a show, and in that sense it’s very spontaneous.

Are there particular sorts of New York City inspirations you draw upon?

I love to walk by the water – it literally inspires me more than anything. But NYC is a constantly changing experience with the seasons. So much to find magic in.

And, finally, are you planning to trash your hotel room before checking out?

I’m a complete neat freak, as is Lydia! I did bring some fairy lights and plastic flowers. I’m famous on tour for transforming hotel rooms.

Angela McCluskey will perform again at The Django on August 8th. Reservations are encouraged.

Words by Ken Scrudato