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Introducing: Magpie Blue


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19-year-old Millie Hanlon Cole, alias Magpie Blue, is an Edinburgh Napier student sparking growing interest in her native Scottish Borders, as well as building up a following on the gig circuit in the capital. The National Student spoke to the rising songstress ahead of the release of her debut single ‘Just in Time’.

Image courtesy of Magpie Blue via CharmFactory

We descend below street level into a sparsely populated coffee shop in Newington where the rather anti-social ‘Colossus’ – the opener to IDLES’ Joy as an Act of Resistance - is blasting overhead and pass comment on Fat White Family's beef with them, one of Cole’s favourite bands. She begins by describing the recording process for ‘Just in Time’, which was completed last year in August with the help of Rod Jones of Idlewild. The track captures the intensity of a band playing together, but Millie informs me that “People are quite surprised when I tell them that we did all the instruments individually”.

As well as an appreciation for Serfs Up! Cole professes her love for Anna Calvi, whom she recently caught performing at St Luke’s in Glasgow. PJ Harvey is another important influence on her style alongside “strong female voices and guitar playing” in general.

Cole currently performs with a loop pedal live in order to build her expansive soundscapes but would like to get an all-female band together in future. At the moment she’s struggling to fill in the drummer slot. Meanwhile, she’s just come from a rehearsal to take on the role of substitute guitarist for Edinburgh punk outfit, Spine: “I knew the singer and the bass player from the Edinburgh scene and they asked me if I wanted to have a jam with them and see what happens,” she says.

Getting a head start with the help of Sound Cycle – an organisation promoting new music talent in the Borders – Cole was able to land support gigs with Sam Evian and Sam Brookes. Magpie Blue plays her first headline slot at the Borders Book Festival on 14th June and will open for The Proclaimers on 15th. Cole says she’s ordinarily rather introverted, “but then I’ve got this blue suit I put on and when I go on stage it's almost like I have a different persona, or at least some part of my personality comes out that has no inhibitions or shyness”.

Magpie Blue was no stranger to gigging when she moved to Edinburgh for her studies and has been performing live since she was 14. She enjoys being part of a scene and finds that the city is friendlier and more accessible compared to Glasgow’s cliques. Goodnight Louisa, whose first release ‘Hollow God’ came out in May, is an artist she especially sings the praises of, and she also plays the guitar on her debut single.

‘Just In Time’ is a stand-alone release and one of two songs Magpie Blue has already committed to tape. Cole says of the track’s subject matter, “It's basically about when someone who’s got an emotional hold on you […] it’s finally getting over that. When I wrote it was like I’d just met someone, and I've gotten over that last thing just in time to enjoy that again or delve myself into it fully”.

The song is ambitious in scope and builds from a wonderfully rich isolated vocal with a powerful vibrato over gritty guitar into a multi-layered full band performance. Cole lends her gorgeous alto to the line “the bruise has faded” as she leads the listener along into a new chapter of her life.

With a compelling sound that stands out from the crowd, Magpie Blue is certainly one to watch. Her new single ‘Just In Time’ is out now on Seahorse Music.

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