A soul-fulfilling tour in Scotland
The gift of music has taken me to many remote and unique villages, towns and cities, and I’m sure, if you too are a music lover, you have also explored parts of the world (and parts of yourself) you never knew existed. This universal language of ours can, in one way or another, express all the feels. Ultimately, music is souls touching souls. Wouldn’t you agree? Sometimes I forget about how profound this gift really is. When I’m fastening melody to lyrics, singing and composing – much like my heart beating or my blood pulsing – these acts seem normal in a way, when, in actual fact, they are small miracles! Just like those sound waves of music finding their way into you. Yet, we forget. We take such acts for granted until we are reminded somehow, some way.
Recently, I was reminded over and over again how this gift of music can affect others and, in turn, myself. Touring does that. It brings out all the feels, reminders, strengths and weaknesses. Full house performances, or the opposite: near empty ones, it is most certainly a roller coaster out there in the wild abyss of what we call “The Road” – a roller coaster to which I may never be fully accustomed, what with all those surprise ups and downs. But that joy of feeling the wind in your hair won’t be lost to me.
I am going to share with you a part of my most recent journey. We are going to go up to the north seas of the Atlantic Ocean and over to the Isle of Lewis, into the quaint and colourful seaside town of Stornoway, Scotland.
But first, nothing good comes over night, and this story started with a Christmas dram of Scotch, a Scottish piper named Dougal, and the snowy skies of Wakefield, Que.
Dreaming of and describing his home, Dougal sparked my imagination when it came to my never-before-traveled-to ancestral home. The seed to travel to Scotland was planted. It would be my first tour up through and around the U.K. (Definitely not my last!)
I quickly set to work booking the tour. As an independent artist, contacts are pretty much your best option, plus a little bit of research on live music venues in certain towns you might like to play in (i.e. Edinburgh, which I had no luck with after hours of research and sending out emails. All hope was not lost, however. We toured the Edinburgh Castle which was epic!)
One of my favourite replies was from the music director of the HebCelt Folk Festival, Caroline MacLennan, which said “yes.”
Fast forward a few months and a few more yesses, and we set sail from Switzerland – a place I call home, when I am not in Canada – in a ‘96 Mitsubishi L300, complete with bed, cooker, cooler, guitar, solar panels and a certain zest for life. We were on our way.
I won’t go into detail about every fantastic or less than fantastic spot we played or the difficulties of sleeping, camping and living in a van for 45 nights – to say nothing of driving on the wrong side of the road and navigating insane roundabouts, wrong turns, sketchy internet, diesel costs and more – but the HebCelt Festival in Stornoway, Scotland is worth the mention. (Side note: there are plenty of wild camping areas and fresh water lakes for showers and laundry! You can find beautiful camp grounds to do both at at a cost of around 20£ a night, but “free” on the road is a waaaaaay better option!)
Scotland, which is where we spent about 80 per cent of our time, is magnificent. The highlands are wonderful, and the scenery is ever-changing! Go, if you ever have the chance. I can barely count on all my fingers how many castles we visited or swam to or how many standing stones we saw. I like to call them Fairy Circles. I even heard a song in one!
Set on the grounds of Lews Castle in the Outer Hebrides, Hebridean Celtic Festival, or HebCelt, is three days long and 22 years running. On the eve of the first night, we parked in the town and wandered through the streets being piped in by a pipe band in full kilt garb! The whole town seemed to meander through the streets with us, walking to the festival grounds. My excitement welled up in and fell from my eyes, what a gorgeous thing to be a part of, the opening “ceremony” to Heb Celt!
Oh and the music, the fiddles, the harmonies, the voices soaring, the dancing, the face paint, the beer, the food stands, the rubber boots (yes it was a wet one!) the harbour, the castle view, the children, the laughing, the festival! It was a sweet one indeed. Some musical highlights for me would have to include TRIP, a six-piece traditional band out of Glasgow, and Skipinnish. They brought out pipers, and wow, just WOW, that instrument has a lot of ghosts attached to it! Amazing. Moving on to Eddie Reader, I never knew I knew her, but on listening to her voice soaring, I recognized some of her music. Niteworks were pretty awesome too, a mix of trad. and electronica. What a combo! Deacon Blue reminded me of the 80s. I just love being taken back to childhood! Their female singer, Lorraine McIntosh, stole the show. I was always waiting for her to open up and let her musical spirit fly.
There was a lot of spirit flying, actually. Scotland is a mystical, ethereal place filled with so much history and beauty, it is hard to contain oneself without bursting at the views and feels around every corner. Whether trying to chase the moon on a single lane road, searching for an old oak tree to park under for the evening, or waking to the colours of the sunrise over the sea, this soul-fulfilling journey will not be forgotten.
Courage is a big part of any tour. Friendship and connection are assets! I look forward to the day when I can sing for you. Thank you for reading!