Before you even yell at me, I know that I'm late to this party.
Most lesbians I talk to know exactly who Glasgow musician Horse McDonald is. Having never traveled outside the U.S. until three years ago or listened to much outside of the American Top 40, I was unaware of her music until just this past summer. I was asked to compare (a "posh" word for emcee) at L-Fest, one of the UK's largest Lesbian Camping Music Arts Comedy Festival and I found myself blown away by the soaring vocals and stellar presence of the festival’s headliner Horse.
Horse, who has been singing for over two decades and having opened for Tina Turner and B.B. King among others, says she knows she has a big voice, that she can sing a whisper, or a yell, and either way, she says "It's cathartic to get all of it out.” “Exhaling those emotions out, is a very cathartic thing for me,” she says.
A 20-year career comes with its ups and downs, but Horse maintains she's only realized recently, that people identify with sad songs. She says that the raw emotion of her songs has often derived from personal experience having endured a really rough time when her mother died of cancer and her father passed away just six weeks later.
In the aftermath of that devastating time Horse turned to her music to sing away the pain. "Most people connect with it in an empathetic way,” she says. “When I wrote the songs on Coming Up for Air (the album she released in 2009) -- the feelings and emotions that I wrote about were real,” and those feelings don't go away, she says. One of the songs is “Careful,” a simple love song she wrote for her mother shortly before her passing, and a simple love song that still has the ability to devastate when she’s performing. "Every once in a while, when performing it, it catches me on stage,” she says.
Horse began to hit her stride right around the time k.d. lang burst onto the scene. Regarding her persona the Scotland native was never in the closet, but says she was never really sure of how to present herself. “Record labels never really knew what to do with me," Horse says. “Maybe the world wasn't ready for yet another androgynous lesbian crooner at that time."
If, back in the 1990 when Horse released her debut album The Same Sky, the public wasn’t ready for another lesbian crooner, they’ve certainly come around to it as evidenced by Horse’s devoted fan base Horse is comfortable with herself and more importantly, her music.
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Beyond her raw, natural talent for soaring vocals, Horse pays attention to detail from the various instruments she chooses for each tune to the order in which she places the tracks on the album. “I want to take listeners on a journey," she says. And that journey is not limited to the aural. It extends to the visual elements of a Horse production as well, including the cover art.
Horse’s unparalleled live performances showcase, not only her vocal range and the unique texture and tone that is virtually missing from today’s music, but also her relationship to her fans. At a live show at Bush Hall in London this past Thanksgiving Horse’s appreciation of her work and gratitude to her fans was palpable.
After an emotional few years and some serious illnesses of her own, Horse is happy again. Among the reasons she has to be happy these days is that she's engaged to marry her love Alannah, for whom she wrote “Alannah's Waltz.” Candid and frank with her fans, Horse talks about where she’s at on stage touching on being happy and in the place she's supposed to be in her career and in her love and life.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Horse’s 1993 release "God's Home Movie", and the powerhouse shows no signs of stopping. She's just completed a U.K. winter tour, and her newest single "Solider of Love" is available now, the first release off of her newest CD "Home," due out early this year. Horse will also be performing with The Scottish Chamber Orchestra this March in Glasgow.