Just weeks after being rushed to hospital in London, Horse McDonald is glad to report an upturn in her fortunes.
The Fife-born singer had to put live dates on hold last month due to the effects of a hiatal hernia.
Now, following five weeks of “probably the worst collection of disasters and illnesses in 40 years,” she’s set to play on familiar ground at Dundee Rep on Wednesday.
“I was taken to hospital in Charing Cross in the early hours,” says Horse.
All kinds of disasters
“The hernia had gone up into my chest and it’s like you’re having a heart-attack – the same signs – but it also affects your voice.
“I had all sorts of tests and we cancelled two shows, carried on, then our sound man went down with Covid.
“My bass player ended up with gout in her foot and my keyboard player had shingles. I had to go to hospital several times while we were on the road. We came home and had a short break and we all had Covid.”
The gay icon, who is a longtime asthma sufferer, says embarking on a UK tour to belatedly mark 30 years of her debut album The Same Sky put serious demands on her already vulnerable vocal cords following the pandemic-enforced lay-off from live duties.
Baptism of fire
“I’ve struggled a lot with my voice, and travelling about doing a lot of shows and singing properly for the first time in over two years, obviously was quite a strain. But I got through,” she explains.
“The last two shows we did I was back on form – it feels like I’ve just had to have a baptism of fire vocally.
“My band was expecting to get up to full speed immediately but none of us were mentally or physically able. It’s been quite a learning curve.
“What makes up for it is the joy in people’s faces. I put up some footage from our Stirling show of us running about on stage and dancing.
“I was actually pogoing, so I think I can definitely say my health is coming back!
Horse as Joan of Arc
“Coming up to Dundee it’s like, ‘Yes! You’d better be ready for us, because we’re on fire!’ Now we’re relaxed and enjoying ourselves, so it’s going to be a celebration.”
Following a lengthy crisis of confidence, Horse recently released her first new material for the best part of a decade in the shape of the rousing “F-you-song” Leaving.
It has a Joan of Arc-themed video that sees Horse donning chain mail and armour borrowed from the National Theatre.
“It’s about empowerment,” she declares.
“You have to learn to say no and move on to be happy. I can blame all the people in previous relationships who were not especially pleasant or kind to me, but why did I put up with that?
“If you speak your own truth I think it resonates with other people.”
Eighth studio album
The plan is to release her eighth studio LP by the end of the year on her Randan label. “I’ve got at least seven or eight songs done and I’ve got four I’m waiting to record,” adds Horse, 63.
“A lot of it was written through last year after me not being able to feel creative, so it was like a burst of fresh energy and excitement.
“I feel really lucky because I know a lot of people like me who struggle to be creative and it’s horrible because it’s a real outlet. I wasn’t able to sing or do anything.”
Full band plus a string section
The songsmith will bring her full band plus a string section to Dundee, where another new song could find its way into her set.
“I might try to do The Moon And I, which was one of the last things I recorded in Argyll for the album.
Just piano, cello, and me
“It’s just piano, cello and my voice – very exposed and fragile.
“As we were creating it I’d be walking back to where we were staying in the middle of nowhere – a tiny place at the back of an old church – and the moon was always there.
“It reminded me that the moon governs the tides – life’s ebb and flow – so I’m having a conversation with it in my head.
“I’ve also been writing my autobiography and I’m aware that I’m in the last quarter of my life, so the song’s like a parting shot.”
- Tickets for Horse live on May 25 are at dundeerep.co.uk