Shetland Folk Festival

I’m just back from a fantastic weekend at the Shetland Folk Festival playing with Fara and now straight on with rehearsals and recording for my project ‘Out of My Own Light,’ in time for the Orkney Folk Festival on the 21st May!

Here is a wee rough clip of some of the music I will be recording. I’m really excited to have Mike Vass on fiddle/guitar, Su-a Lee on cello, Jen Austin on piano, Duncan Lyall on double bass and Signy Jakobsdottir on percussion for this, with Angus Lyon in the engineer/producers seat, at Watercolour Studio in Ardgour.

You can pre-order a signed copy or a digital download of the music and help me out greatly at the same time, by donating to my Crowdfunding project. I am raising money to take up my place at Berklee College of Music in Boston, please have a look here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/study-at-berklee-college-of-music/x/6333096#/story

Thanks to Ewan Coltherd for making the wee clip of Meb sound way better!


Long awaited update…

Shamefully, I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time! I tend to concentrate on my tumblr blog and Facebook page and forget to update this; I will rectify this!

I have been mainly working on my Canadian project, now named ‘Out of My Own Light’ and have an exhibition at the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney opening on the 25th April, which is very exciting. The photographic book is being printed as I type and I have been working hard at writing and arranging music for the album. We head into the studio in a few weeks to record, so I’m very excited about that. I have Mike Vass joining me on fiddle and guitar, Jen Austin on piano, Su-a Lee on cello, Duncan Lyall on double bass and Signy Jacobsdottir on percussion. Angus Lyon will be engineering and producing the album, which we will record at Watercolour studio near Fort William. I will be performing with the full band at the Orkney Folk Festival on the 21st May, tickets will be on sale here very soon: www.orkneyfolkfestival.com

Read more about the project here: mstait.tumblr.com

Besides the project, I have had a busy year with many musical trips, concerts and so on, including a return trip to Valley of the Moon fiddle camp in August 2014, after playing at Milwaukee Irish Festival with Gria, and Fara recorded our EP, available here: faramusic.bandcamp.com We have an exciting summer ahead with Shetland, Orkney and Cambridge Folk Festivals and one more yet to announce!


Travels

I’m currently in Victoria, BC, having spent some time with my cousins finding out more about my family history and my Grandmother’s trip to Canada in 1950. It has been wonderful getting to know my Canadian cousins and I’m looking forward to meeting more on my way across the country to Cape Breton.

Alice and I had a great time playing a house concert in Victoria with Bruce and Nolan, the Whisky Minstrels
and since Alice left for home last week, I’ve also played another wee set at the Deep Cove Folk Music Society near Sidney, BC. Many thanks to Tark Hamilton for the invitation to play there. Tark also wrote some incredibly kind and encouraging words to me:

“Your sense of composition and willingness to learn and share the best of the new traditional tunes sets you in the top ranks of living fiddlers. When you play sweetly and slowly, emotions carry to the crowd and they can feel it in that deep innate place. Your straight time reels and jigs are perky and toe tappers. Your wicked crooked timing tunes are teasingly complex and expertly presented. Keep up all the great things you are doing!”

While I’m in North America I am writing a fortnightly blog piece for the Orcadian newspaper. The first of these is below, or read more here.

For more information, photos and blog posts about my trip, keep up to date on Facebook and Tumblr.


Valley of the Moon

For the past week or so, I’ve been in Northern California at Alister Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp in Boulder Creek, along with my cousin Alice Tait. It was an incredible week; I met so many wonderful people, learned so much, played and sang lots and took a lot of photos. The week finished with a concert in Santa Cruz, with around 150-200 musicians on stage, all playing together, and at the end of the concert we all played through the crowd and out onto the street; the best ending to a gig yet! On saturday we went along to the Scottish Highland Games in Pleasanton and played with some of the musicians from Valley of the Moon and the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers and even bumped into another Orcadian! We’ve been spending a few days seeing the sights in the San Francisco Bay area before heading to Canada, to play a house concert in Victoria, BC, with Bruce Coughland and Nolan Murray of Tiller’s Folley. We then head to stay with family in the Comox Valley and I shall begin work on my project, hopefully finding out lots about Granny’s trip to Canada in 1950!

Below is a video I filmed and edited for the Orkney Folk Festival, take a peek:



Summer 2013

I’ve had an incredibly busy summer of music and photography; I played with Gria at Heb Celt Festival in Stornoway, Insider Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe and Lorient Interceltique Festival, I photographed three lovely weddings, took photos and videos of Glasgow based band Fat Suit, and played lots of great ceilidhs with Whisky Kiss and Dalamist. I also had a short holiday in Orkney with the wonderful Elly Lucas, a fellow photographer and musician who I seem to have a massive amount in common with. We met for the first time at Celtic Connections in January and instantly ‘clicked,’ Elly is a wonderfully talented and super lovely lady. We had a mini ‘photo-day’ together in Orkney, see some of the photos below.


Fat Suit teaser video, edited by Gus Stirrat, shot by myself:

I’m now preparing to head to Canada and America for two months, leaving this week. Firstly Valley of the Moon fiddle camp in California (with many thanks to them for a scholarship towards the course fees!) before heading to BC to visit family, then working my across Canada and America to eventually end up in Cape Breton in October during Celtic Colours International Festival. I’m going to be working on a photography, film and music based project looking at the links between Scotland and Canada, concentrating firstly on my family links and then the historical, cultural and musical links with Cape Breton. In 1950 my grandmother Margaret Sarah Tait travelled to Canada to stay with relatives and to mull over two marriage proposals (thankfully she eventually came home and married my grandfather!) I want to find out more and tell her story through my elderly Canadian cousins. I’m also very interested in the way Scottish music has developed in Scotland compared to in Canada and in the people who brought that music over and passed it on. I’m very excited to meet new people, learn new music, possibly to collaborate and maybe do some gigs while I’m over. Any suggestions/advice/contacts would be very much appreciated! My cousin Alice Tait will be joining me for the first couple of weeks at the camp and visiting relatives too… double trouble! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m very excited that I’ve finally managed to make it happen. I see this as a long term project which I very much hope will lead to future projects and travels. I shall be blogging and updating my Facebook page and my tumblr as I go for anyone who is interested.


Gria

Last weekend I played at the Orkney Folk Festival with Gria and the Orkney and Shetland Gathering. It was a fantastic weekend, with Gria I played for Primary School children in Dounby, at the Festival Club, the Sunday Supplement concert and the Farewell Concert as well as playing in the pub sessions. We had glorious sunshine for the weekend! We’ll be back in Orkney again to play at the St Magnus Festival on the 20th June, before heading to Aviemore for the Insider Festival (one of my absolute favourites!) I’ll also be joining the Hidden Lane Choir for a few songs, which I’m looking forward to! 

I’m really excited to be heading out to California to Valley of the Moon fiddle camp in August, and I’m really grateful to them for awarding me with a scholarship for the course! I’m applying for funding at the moment which would then allow me to spend two months in Canada working on a photography and music related project, looking at the links between Canada and Scotland. I’ll be concentrating on my own family links, looking at my Grandmother, Margaret Sarah Tait’s trip to visit her cousins in Canada in 1950, as well as looking at the musical links between Scotland and Cape Breton. This is something I’m really excited about and I can’t wait to meet lots of new people and learn/play/share lots of music!

Until then I’ll be all over the country playing at various festivals and ceilidhs, taking photos at three weddings, and a wee trip to France with Gria for Lorient Festival!


Winter

I’ve had a busy start to 2013: I played on BBC TV for the Hogmany Live Show with Rachel Sermanni to see in the New Year, we played as part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations on the 1st and then I played my last show with Rachel and the girls, a birthday party in the style of Glastonbury Festival at the beautiful Union Chapel in Islington, London.

My new band Gria won an award at the Danny Kyle Open Stage at Celtic Connections in January. We have been busy arranging and recording some music and have a few exciting bookings to announce shortly. We had some photos taken by the absolutely wonderful Elly Lucas, a fellow photographer, fiddle player and singer who is based in Sheffield. Elly and I then went to the launch of Blair Dunlop’s album (artwork by Elly) at the Mackintosh Willow Tearooms and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and had a great time!

I also played as part of the Orkney Folk Festival’s Gathering concert during Celtic Connections. Here is a video I took during the soundcheck at the Old Fruitmarket.

I spent a few days in Germany in January taking photos of folk band Nua, whose fiddle player Catriona Price hails from Orkney. I’m now working on an album cover design for them.

I’m currently trying to get funding, visas etc organised to take a trip across the pond later on this year. I hope to spend a couple of months in America and Canada playing music, meeting people and take photos for a couple of projects I want to work on.

I have plenty of ceilidhs and a few wedding photography bookings to keep me busy over summer and I will be working alongside my mum during the St Magnus Festival in Orkney, keeping things running smoothly at the Festival Club.


Video shoot

A week or so I had my first go at shooting video, for clothing brand By Sea By Land; have a look here. Huge thanks to director Tom Duncan for getting me involved!

I’ve just finished working on an album cover design for Kris Drever and Éamonn Coyne and I’m about to get my teeth stuck into one for Orkney folk group No Soond. We had a great album shoot in Orkney, earlier in the summer, before most of the group left to start University in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. The Glasgow pub sessions have been full of Orcadian’s and good tunes lately!

I’ve had a couple of great rehearsals with a new band I’m involved in; really looking forward to getting things going with that. I have a few photo shoots lined up for this month and this weekend will be my first official job as a Wedding photographer.. for an Orcadian wedding in Grantown-on-Spey! I’m excited/nervous!


Norway

Another busy month; just back from playing a few gigs in Norway with Rachel and the girls. We were in Arendal and Farsund (a few hours from Oslo) playing at BAKGÅRDEN and Nordsjofestivalen. Thankyou to everyone who looked after us, especially Frank and Espen. We also played on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading Festival. I have been taking lots of photos for musicians including Kris Drever and Eamonn Coyne, Bella Hardy, Tom Gibbs, Jessica Burton and Orkney folk group No Soond, who I will be designing an album cover for.

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