Three young Australian folk musicians, Anita Hillman (cello, bass and vocals) and sisters Maggie Rigby (banjo, ukulele, guitar, marimba and vocals) and Elsie Rigby (fiddle, ukulele and vocals) have been touring far from their home area of Melbourne and started off at Celtic Connections in Glasgow as part of Showcase Scotland, then London, over to MIDEM music conference in Cannes and then over to America to Kansas City and Folk Alliance International in February come to the Highlands this week.They started playing music together late in 2011. All three the trio write their own songs and these are arranged to suit the group’s diverse instrumental talents and love of three part vocal harmony. Here they answer some of Margaret Chrystall's questions...
1 How did you all meet and first start to play together back in Melbourne? Is the folk scene big out there for younger people?
Elsie: When Maggie and I started playing songs together I think Anita’s initial appeal was the fact that she played instruments that could play below middle C in an otherwise very toppy girl band. When we realised she could hold an entire bass and rhythm section on her own and simultaneously sing harmonies we decided she was a keeper. I would say the folk scene back home is reasonably small, but in the lives of those who look for it it’s huge!
2 I know that your trip overseas has been literally that! You started off at Celtic Connections in Glasgow as part of Showcase Scotland, then London, over to MIDEM in Cannes and then across to America to Kansas City and Folk Alliance International in February. And now you are coming to the Highlands. What snapshots from some of those trips and gigs are in your eternal scrapbook of memories - good, funny or maybe weird!
Anita: It has been incredible to think of the places we have been in the last six months. Our first trip overseas in January/Febuary had so many life changing moments. One of the experiences that I will never forget was playing at the International Burns Night concert as part of Celtic Connections in the Hydro in Glasgow. Somehow we found ourselves playing alongside some musicians who we had only ever followed on youtube before and there we were singing in the same concert as them while being accompanied by a full symphonic orchestra! Another of the strangest and most incredible gigs we found ourselves playing was a concert in a tiny hotel room in Kansas City. There were three floors of crammed hotel rooms with filled with amazing musicians, double bases and banjos all playing at the same time.
3 Your album Housewarming was produced by Luke Plumb of Shooglenifty - and out last August. I just wondered how Luke (from a Scottish, but internationally-known band) came to be the one to be your chosen producer?
Elsie: Luke offered to produce our band before recording an album was something we’d really thought about. Once the seed was planted in our minds we were itching to record and the project grew from there, but Luke was central to the album from the very beginning. It was exciting to work with someone whose musical experience is so different to our own and also deeply embedded in the UK - we have been slightly obsessed with the UK music scene ever since working with Luke!
4 Tell us about one of your songs that you will be playing in Inverness and Aviemore at the weekend and next week. Maybe the story in the words or how you came to write the song.
5 Anita, do you draw the short straw and have to share your plane/ferry/train seats with your cello?!
Anita: At times I do wish I played the flute or ukulele purely for the convenience of carrying it around and fitting it into car boots! However, ever since I bought my cello a space-age looking wizz bang case earlier this year I luckily do not have to share a seat with it anymore because I know it will be safe in luggage areas on planes/trains etc.
6 What have you most enjoyed about playing out of Australia so far?
Elsie: It has been such a wonderful experience to take our music overseas. I find it an exhilarating and slightly addictive feeling to sing songs I’ve written at home in Castlemaine to new faces and places I never could have imagined they would end up.
The Mae Trio play Hootanannys, Inverness, on Saturday, the Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore, on Tuesday and the Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, on Wednesday.