She may be a big name on Perth’s music scene through years of promoting, hosting, educating and playing in various bands but only now has Ali Pibworth released her own album.
Lockdown, which began in March 2020, detached Ali, 41, from her music-centred lifestyle so she went back to basics and wrote songs of her own.
These have now come together to form her first album, Pibworth Hates You, which she will perform in Perth on Saturday, October 23.
“I can’t believe I have got to my 40s and only now pushing out my own music,” Ali says.
“I am usually representing someone else, playing the piano or doing the backing vocals so I am really, really terrified.”
‘Instruments are not considered important any more’
Ali says she has had “a life steeped in music”.
Her father’s job at British Gas meant she did a lot of travelling at a young age.
But she still had a solid education and at the age of five, while living in Thetford, Norfolk, she was inspired by the hands-on methods of music teacher Mrs Mayhew to pick up a recorder.
“She was great. Teaching kids to play and read music at that age as a classroom teacher is awesome – we should do more of this here,” Ali says.
“But then, back in the day a lot of teachers could read music and play instruments, which is not considered important any more.
“Maybe that’s an effect of councils decreasing creative arts budgets for schools over decades.”
Out to impress ‘a guy in a band’
The family settled in Almondbank and the Pitcairn Primary School pupil began piano lessons when she was eight.
She was taught by Bill Gordon above the former Wilkies Music House on Canal Crescent.
The lessons continued for nine years, right up until she was 17.
“I wasn’t always the best student,” Ali says. “But the older I got the more I loved playing and weirdly it was mostly classical music we played – Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin – and it was a good foundation for everything else.”
At the age of 15, while at Perth High School, she started playing a guitar to “impress a guy in a band in the sixth year” and also began writing songs.
Two years later, inspired by the Britpop era, she moved to London to pursue a career in music.
‘Unprintable’ rock ‘n’ roll moments
Ali lived in Camden – at that point one of the capital’s ‘happening’ areas for music – and set up website virtualfestivals.com with her boyfriend.
“We used to do write-ups on festivals and interviews with musicians,” she says. “We were early into the dotcom world and it was a brush with journalism.”
“I got to meet John Squire, guitarist with The Stone Roses, which was cool.
“I also used to know Mani from Primal Scream.
“There were some rock ‘n’ roll moments but possibly not anything you would want to print!”
‘I performed Spice Girls songs with touring opera’
By 2001, after four years away, London had “lost its shine” so Ali returned to Perth.
Ali took a break from music to give birth to daughter Tennessee in 2003, returning to the scene three years later to become resident piano player at The Bothy, which closed in June 2021.
“I was there every week,” she says. “One night, after the English Touring Opera had been performing at the theatre, I ended up with them performing Spice Girls songs.”
Once Tennessee started school Ali went to Perth College to study a music degree.
Real-world experience ‘instead of being in a bubble’
For the next six years she brought together a group of tutors – including John Mackenzie, guitarist for The Holy Ghosts, who guided about 100 young people between the ages of eight and 18.
“We would get a bunch of kids, who may or may not have met each other, and turn them into bands,” Ali says.
“They had real-world experience of making music while forming their own music communities, instead of being in a protective bubble.”
Children were typically given a five-day course during the week before putting their skills to the practice at Twa Tams on the Saturday.
“We also did school holidays and weekends,” she adds.
“Every year they would play at the Southern Fried Festival.
“Dundee is known for its blues scene while Perth has always been more of an American country music. It’s good to see the new generation continuing that.
“We have had a pile of kids who have gone on to do well.
“One of my kids just graduated from the Leeds School of Jazz; another from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which I was very proud of.”
‘The album reflects a timeline of people I hate’
In 2018 Ali was part of a group of six people who took over The Green Room in Perth, but this venture lasted less than two years before the pub and music venue closed.
“It was a very stressful time,” she says.
Ali had planned to restart the DIY Rock Shop but this notion was scuppered by the arrival of lockdown.
Instead, she worked on her own album which has now been released.
Its title, Pibworth Hates You, sums up the bleakness of the lyrics.
“I have released six songs and there are some more that haven’t gone out yet.
“The album reflects a timeline of people I hate!
“The nicest song on the album is Queen of Silence, which is an anthem for Tennessee.”
‘First time I have been the lead singer on my own’
She will perform the six released tracks as well as another six songs and “a secret cover or two”.
“Singing is always something I did and it started when I began playing the guitar in my teens.
“Alongside Katie Whittaker I shared lead vocals for the First Ladies Of Country in 2018 but this is the first time I have been the lead singer on my own.”
Video shows Ali on the piano with Katie Whittaker on the vocals
‘I have definitely followed my passion’
With the easing of lockdown restrictions she has continued to teach piano lessons and has recently started hosting the Notorious Open Mic at St Andrews Brewing Co in Dundee.
“It’s brilliant to be able to connect with musicians in Dundee,” she says.
“I am in a band called The Kingfishers, who have a residency at Twa Tams, and of course I have been working on an album.
“They call this a portfolio career.
“I have definitely followed my passion and have had the opportunity to work on some awesome music and meet some cool people.
“I can’t complain, but it’s not always been plain sailing!”
Pibworth Hates You – album review
By Andrew Welsh
Perth singer-songwriter Ali Pibworth is celebrating the completion of her solo studio debut.
The well-known figure on the Fair City’s music scene teamed up with the likes of leading session guitarist Stuart Nisbet and Belle And Sebastian producer Brian McNeill to record the six-track opus, which has the suitably spiky title Pibworth Hates You.
Ali previously led the Perth DIY Rock Shop initiative which offers youthful musicians a chance to hone their skills in professional surrounds, and she also plays in classic Nashville homage First Ladies Of Country and the jazz-led Sibellas.
Her debut mini-album most definitely falls into country-pop territory, with tracks such as Queen Of Silence and I Don’t Need Him Anymore testimony to the influence of the likes of Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette.
Nisbet’s excellent guitar work – or it is Pibworth’s? – gives Redemption Day a Southern rock edge, and the Jon Fratelli, Proclaimers and Justin Currie collaborator provides topnotch arrangement throughout, plus a spacious production style that helps Ali’s endearing vocals to really shine.
It’s also a work that packs a lyrical punch, reeking as it does of bitter partings and brutal dalliances. Every scathing put-down comes over loud and clear in a compelling mix overseen by McNeill.
Valuable contributions are also made by keys duo Alan Sutherland and Andy May, Gavin Fenton – Ali’s perfect vocal foil on the album’s opening duet Rambling Rose – and bass players Ben Nicholls and Pete Honeyman.