IT’S been a while. The last time anyone heard from Snowgoose, David Cameron was still Prime Minister and in coalition with the Lib Dems, One Direction were still a going concern and everyone was looking forward to the Olympic games in London.

Eight years on and the world is in a very different place, but Snowgoose, aka former Soup Dragon Jim McCulloch and English singer Anna Sheard, in conjunction with a supporting cast of musicians from the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, The Bluebells, Camera Obscura and The Pearlfishers, are still dabbling in a time stream where Laurel Canyon harmonies intermingle with 1960s folk.

I’ve always had a great love of west coast American sixties music and Anna likes that as well,” McCulloch says, summing up the Snowgoose sound. “Fairport Convention used to do covers of Bob Dylan songs and there was a cross-fertilisation of English folk and Scottish folk and west coast American. And it just became something else. That’s the same kind of thing we’re doing. It’s all about the songs and the voice basically.”

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The band made their debut in 2012 with the album Harmony Springs. Ian Rankin named it one of his albums of the year. Now, McCulloch and Sheard return with a new record, The Making of You, which, if anything, sees them double down on their timelessness. It takes the building blocks of their sound and adds depth and lushness.

The result is a summery blast of sound that has a deep, dark undertow (Paul Giovanni’s soundtrack to The Wicker Man has been cited as an influence), powered by McCulloch’s musicianship and Sheard’s beautifully English folk voice. The Single Who Will You Choose, in particular, sounds like some long-lost collaboration between Sandy Denny and David Crosby.

When we speak, McCulloch is in lockdown in Anniesland with his wife and sons. He and his eldest have already had the virus, but they have both recovered and McCulloch can once again concentrate on promoting the new album.

First question, Jim. Why has it taken so long? “A combination of everything. I went back to uni and I got a Masters [in music and songwriting at the University of the West of Scotland] and Anna started a young family. Real life gets in the way. We eventually got all our ducks lined up again and said, ‘Right, we need to get on with this otherwise we’ll never do it.’”

“Looking back, it’s hard to believe it is that long,” agrees Sheard who, after 16 years in Glasgow, returned home to the West Country a few years ago. “But we know why. It’s absolutely life. Both Jim and I have been busy. Trying to juggle all that has been complicated. Plus, in the middle of all that, I had a child. So, lots going on really.”

The wait has been worth it, though. The Making of You is a confident, vibrant album. It was much more of a collaboration than Harmony Springs.

“The first time round I had the songs all ready to go,” McCulloch points out. “I had written them as a vehicle for Anna to sing because I’d fallen in love with her voice and we agreed that we wanted to work together.

“Anna is a creative person in her own right. She’d been to art school and I knew she was bursting to contribute, so I thought, ‘Next album let’s work together on this.’”

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And so on the new album Sheard was fully involved in the writing process. “It felt like you would always hope a record would be written this time around” she says. “I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights when I first met Jim and was handed all these beautiful songs for Harmony Springs. To then have a dialogue with him and an agreement that we would move forward together was just wonderful really.”

What’s obvious from even the most cursory listen is the power and character in Sheard’s voice. All the more remarkable then to realise that she wasn’t sure about her voice when she first met McCulloch.

“It’s bizarre,” agrees McCulloch. “I think she’d sung in the school choir. She moved up to Glasgow to study and it wasn’t really on her radar apart from in and around the house. But she had something special.

“My friend Dave [sometime member of Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian, Dave McGowan] knew I was looking for singers for a different project [Green Peppers] and he said, ‘Why don’t you listen to Anna?’ They were sharing a flat together. He sent me a home demo recording of the Neil Young song Only Love Can Break Your Heart and it was like someone wrapped up this gift and handed it to me.”

“Within a couple of days Jim had written the two tracks,” Sheard says, picking up the story. “He wanted me to come to the studio and that was my first experience of a studio, which was unbelievably exciting.

But you must have known you could sing, Anna? “I had moved to Glasgow thinking it would be easy to get into a band. I worked in Sleazy’s, hopeful that would happen and soon realised most bands need a bassist or a drummer, which I wasn’t. So, I just had no confidence at all.”

And now, when suddenly you are mentioned in the same breath as Sandy Denny, how does that feel? “Just totally blown away. It’s a huge, huge compliment. I do recognise that my voice sounds naturally very English and very folk. That’s just how it comes out.

“The confidence thing is really something I’ve had to work with and it’s lovely the compliments I get. It’s taken me a while to believe them. It’s been a really slow journey which is why I think at the age of 40 I’m like, ‘Why has it taken me so long?’”

McCulloch, who has a few more years on the clock, was, by contrast, an early starter. Originally from Motherwell, he started off busking in Glasgow as a teenager, which is where he met up with the other musicians who would go on to form The Soup Dragons. What were you playing back then, Jim?

“We were playing big band stuff, Glen Miller and a bit of Gilberto. We were quite the sophisticates. And then we met with the Bellshill boys, Norman and Duglas and Sean and they were playing Talking Heads, that kind of thing. That combination of music became our palette. It was a musical cross-fertilisation that worked for us.”

Those buskers would go on to be at the heart of the Bellshill scene; forming the BMX Bandits, Teenage Fanclub and The Soup Dragons. McCulloch looks so young in the early pictures of the band. “I was still getting a half fare on the buses going to our first rehearsals. I can’t deny it.”

With a matter of years, the band was playing Madison Square Gardens. “Who would have thought that? Turning up to play support to INXS. I had my stage gear in a plastic bag slung over my shoulder. You’re not thinking, ‘This is life-changing.’ You just get on and you do it. We had a three-month tour with INXS and played two nights at the Gardens.”

What plastic bag was it, do you remember? “It was probably a Haddows one I brought in my case from Glasgow, or something.”

After The Soup Dragons, McCulloch went on to work with Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and formed Green Peppers, which ultimately led to his first meeting with Sheard and his latest incarnation in Snowgoose.

The Making of You was recorded live, McCulloch points out. “We knew that Anna’s got the chops to do that.”

“I guess you either hit it or you don’t,” Sheard says of the experience. “We were having such a lovely time doing it and we had done the work before going there. It just flowed.”

Best moment? “We recorded Who Will You Choose and it just had a spooky feel to it,” McCulloch suggests. “The drums locked in with the bass, the bass locked in with the guitars, and Anna started singing, and it was just one of those moments. It just clicked so well.”

This is not the easiest time to be making music, of course. It hasn’t been for a while now. McCulloch knows that better than most.

“With the Soup Dragons I dropped out of college to go straight on tour, basically. That was for about five or six years. That was a living for us. But as time goes on, the music industry changed, and the business models all changed because of digital, and it becomes much more challenging.

“You’ve got to look at what you can offer and what you’ve got. It’s like a portfolio thing. I can do a bit of teaching, I can do a bit of session work and a bit of writing. You have to develop all your musicianly skills and try to adapt to this brave new world. Digital completely changed things for everybody. No doubt about it.”

The pandemic doesn’t help either. “That’s your income stream right there shut with a bang.”

One of the frustrations surrounding the new album has been the fact that the duo can’t share it with a live audience. “There’s been such a big gap between records,” Sheard says, “so to then feel, ‘Oh no, it’s only going to half-happen.’ It’s been really disappointing.”

At least they managed to record a Quay session for the BBC in February before lockdown which gives a flavour of what we’re missing.

There’s a track on the album called The Optimist. Despite everything, do you feel optimistic, Jim?

“I’m pretty optimistic in general. The redeeming power of music really does get you out of a funk. I think it can help you see past whatever’s in front of you. If you switch off the telly and listen to music for a wee while, I think it can energise you. I think it’s a spiritual thing.”

As for Sheard, she’s looking ahead to making another Snowgoose album already.

“We’ve started to lay some ideas down. It can’t be another eight years. I’ll say that much.”

The Making of You is out now. Snowgoose’s Quay session is available on the BBC iPlayer.