LIKE many musicians working in the Scottish tradition, Emily Smith’s professional year begins with the Celtic Connections Festival.
This year’s event was even more special for the award-winning singer, giving her a chance not just to catch up with her friends from the folk world, but bring at least some of the international team of musicians who helped create her new album Echoes together on one stage.
They included Ross-shire multi-instrumentalist Matheu Watson, Smith’s husband New Zealand fiddler Jamie McClennan, former Wolfstone bassist Ross Hamilton, Icelandic percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir, and US roots stars guitarist Jerry Douglas and Aoife O’Donovan, frontwoman of bluegrass band Crooked Still.
"With Celtic Connections, a lot of people are in town for a week or so and it’s a good chance to catch up and it was so special to have the line-up from the new album. We were so lucky that Jerry and Aoife were over from the States and available," Smith said.
Echoes, Smith’s fifth full length studio album, marks something of a departure for Smith.
"Every album is almost a snapshot of time as to where you are, but this one was done over a year, so there was no deadline and it was nice to be able to make use of people who were coming over to Scotland," she said.
The lengthy recording process was the result of force of circumstance. Smith was pregnant at the time and recorded as much as she could until she "ran out of puff", with the final vocal tracks having to wait to be added later.
"I’d be quite happy to take that long to make an album again because it gave you time to think," she added.
"I have done albums in the past where they have to be recorded in a certain period of time and that’s not necessarily the best way of working."
What also sets Echoes apart is that, after a run of albums with the focus on Smith’s own songwriting, the new album finds her rediscovering her love of traditional songs.
"Again with having that gap, it gave me time to think about the songs and what I found was that rather than writing stuff, there were a lot of trad songs that were at the back of my mind that I always meant to revisit when I had the time," she explained.
"I was able to go back to these songs and listen to them again and think: I could do something with that.
"Even if it’s traditional material and other people have recorded it before, I always try to present it in a new way that’s relevant to me. I love that about traditional music, that you can present it in a new way."
Thursday’s Eden Court show is the first in Smith’s month long tour that takes her almost the length of the UK, but with a new and very small addition to the team, it is a tour that has taken on additional complications.
"Logistically, it has taken quite a bit of planning," she laughed.
"Baby is coming on the road and hopefully he’s going to enjoy it. We’re taking a dedicated nanny who will look after him while we’re on stage. We’ve learnt, just from the few trips we’ve done here and there, just how much luggage you need when you have a baby with you — it’s quite staggering!"
• Emily Smith and her band are at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, on Thursday 6th March at 8pm.
New album Echoes is on release now.