Musical Discoveries: Can you tell us a bit more about your background, including musical training, leading up to the formation of Crannog?
I originally trained in piano, guitar and singing which led on to me wanting to perform. For a couple of years I played round the North of Scotland accompanied by a fiddler. To start with I played mainly covers but as I started to write more I wanted to play with a more original band.
I joined Crannog when they advertised for a replacement singer back in 1997. This suited my style of Celtic/Folk based songs but was on a bigger and louder scale.
And who have been some of your musical influences--who do you find yourself listening to all the time?
I adore Celtic music, both traditional and more modern. But really I listen to every type of music. I like melody and good lyrics. A few of the artists I find myself always going back to are Capercaillie, Mary Black, U2, REM and Enya.
What were the Crannog releases?
In Crannog we seemed to spend most of our time traveling farther and farther a field to play live. As a result Crannog released only two CDs. They were The Deepest Pool (1997), recorded at The Mill studios, Aberdeenshire and Elegant Disguise (1999), recorded at The Brill Building, Glasgow. Both these were EPs.
So what happened to Crannog?
The years spent with Crannog were absolutely fantastic. We were lucky enough to play in some great places, including the USA, Europe and Scotland's biggest music festival: T in the Park. More and more of Crannog's songs were becoming acoustically based and the arrangements were becoming more and more sparse. This just seemed to suit my singing style.
Crannog underwent a few line up changes, became Keeba for a while, until eventually everyone agreed it was time to call it a day in late 2002. It was sad but the right thing to do. To cut a long story short, a girl can only take being locked in a smelly white van with five men for so long!
And what led to the things you are doing now?
More of the songs were becoming acoustic based and I guess that was the style I was most comfortable writing and performing. Some of the older material has found its way back and sounds fresh again in a simpler form. These days I really try to keep the songs as interesting as I can and try to get some real dynamics into them. I think to make a song work as a solo player you have to look at it in a bit more detail.
So how would you characterise the music?
I guess I am a singer-songwriter with a Celtic twist! The style has recently been compared to Enya and Kate Bush and the poppier songs have been compared to The Beautiful South. One reviewer even called The Fool a "country barrelhouse number." So I guess I lie somewhere between all that.
Tell us all about the making of the "Second Hand Charm" EP.
"Second Hand Charm" was recorded in the summer of 2004 at Blue Productions, Glasgow. I was determined to make a recording that centered on the voice. I wanted to find a producer who could help arrange the songs in this way and make my first solo effort something I could be proud of. My search led me to a Glasgow producer called Alan Scobie. He seemed to have an instant empathy with what I wanted to do and, without going into detail, the way he set about the recording was just perfect for me.
And what were you trying to achieve?
I wanted to have a mix of styles on the CD--upbeat, slower, poppier etc and would have loved to record more but, such was the demand for Alan's talents we had to leave it at four songs.
Various other musicians, including guitarist Buddy Arbuckle, joined me on the recordings. Buddy very sadly passed away the day after the recording was finished. He was a lovely guy who will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him.
What do you have in mind for a full-length album?
I am really looking forward to the next recording session. Hopefully this will be around Easter next year. A further set of recordings in the summer will give me enough recorded material for a full-length album. Some of the songs on "Second Hand Charm" will probably find their way onto it together with plenty of new songs.
What's it like for you performing live out in front of the crowd?
Playing live is the best bit. All the practicing and shaping of songs pays off here. Sometimes it's hard to capture the emotion of a song when it's recorded but live it's a chance to let people hear it the way you want. When I am playing solo it's the voice that is the most important instrument and I see myself as a singer--that's what I enjoy. To manage to convey to an audience what you wanted a song to say is very rewarding.
What would people say that it's like to see you perform on stage?
People say that my live performance is quite intense. I do tend to go for it on stage! I am flattered when people say that they can identify with a certain song. Whether it's a serious or a silly song I am delighted.
How do they react to your onstage persona?
I like to think that my on stage persona is friendly. I like to meet different people when off stage. They talk about the songs and take the micky out of my Scottish accent--it's not that bad! Some people like to tell me about their distant Scottish relativesl; everyone has them!
To see people listening to the songs, I hope, means that my voice is welcoming--if that's the right way of putting it.
Do you think the Internet has had any effect on your musical career?
The Internet does give independent artists access to a wider audience and contacts. The battle is always for exposure. With the release of "Second Hand Charm" and the ability to sell it on my website I have managed to sell CDs to people as far a field as the US and Australia.
Organisations such as CDBaby, TAXI and of course yourselves offer sales, song placement and publicity opportunities around the world. When a CD form a new artist sits on the shelf of a record shop the buyer is of the reluctant to buy without hearing it first. On the Internet they can listen to a sample and if they like what they hear can hear some more.
Do you think the web will play a role in the future development, promotion or delivery of your music?
It plays a role in finding the contacts you need. The Internet helped me find the producer I used for "Second Hand Charm." Submission of songs to publishers via the likes of TAXI is getting easier all the time. There's no doubt that I will keep using the Internet for these and many other reasons.
When you dream about the future, where do you see your music going?
I basically want to carve out a long lasting career doing what I love--singing! I don't long to be the most hip act, the best guitarist or sit at the top of the charts. I want to be known for producing music that is identifiable with me. I want to write and sing like me.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell Musical Discoveries readers?
When Musical Discoveries reviewed a Crannog CD way back, people got to hear about the band. You offer a rare opportunity for exposure. All the experiences I have had with my music have brought me to where I am now--writing and singing with a passion about things I have done, things I would like to do and the feelings I have. For me music is a passion that will keep on driving me and giving me so much pleasure. I hope a bit of the pleasure rubs off on the listener.
Thanks Russ and all at Musical Discoveries,