TWO of the Highlands’ top instrumentalists, Mairearad Green from Achiltibuie and Anna Massie from Fortrose, are revisiting some of their favourite haunts, along with breaking new ground, as they embark on their latest tour.
The 24 dates take them from Lerwick to Taunton, but true to their roots, it also includes north dates in Ullapool, Gairloch, Skye and Inverness.
After over a decade playing together, the duo have recently added songs to their sets and were nominated as Live Act of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards.
Their second album, Doubling, is out now on Shouty Records.
Go on, be brutally honest — what’s the most annoying or mind boggling thing about touring with your opposite number?
Anna: I’ve got a bit of a Twitter fixation, but Mairearad isn’t that into it, which I find pretty mind boggling! She’s got a pretty amazing habit of trying to sing along with songs she’s never heard before too. What?!
Mairearad: Anna twiddles her thumbs all the time as a passenger when I’m driving....so annoying!....Maybe that’s a nervous thing as a result of my driving!
And, for balance, what’s the best?
Anna: We’ve been working together for such a long time now, it’s very relaxed. We can both totally be ourselves, and it’s very easy to spend lots of time together — Mairearad is excellent company. Playing with someone you know so well, both personally and musically, makes for really enjoyable gigs.
Mairearad: We always have a good laugh!
You’ve obviously toured with bigger bands (Anna — Blazin’ Fiddles, the Bella Hardy Band; Mairearad — Box Club, The Poozies) so what are the pros and cons of touring as a duo?
Anna: Pro — There are fewer people to organise and everything fits in one car very easily!
Con — Although it fits in one car, there’s still an awful lot for just two of us to carry! Flying can be very tricky, as the minimum number of instruments we travel with is four — we’re well versed with excess baggage rules, and costs by now!
Mairearad: It is an exciting challenge to arrange new sets as a duo as you are limited in terms of how many instruments you can play at any one time but it does make you think more about how you can achieve the same results as a bigger band with just the two of us. We fit in one car very easily and the logistics of touring tend to be easier in a duo than in a big band.
Any particularly memorable gig experiences?
Anna: We’ve played a couple of house concerts in the past few years, which is something that seems to be on the increase. The warmth and hospitality of these folk who just love music and open their homes to friends and strangers alike is a really lovely thing.
As for most surprising; we played a gig on the Northern Belle train last summer, for folk who had been at the Scottish open. We made our way up and down the carriages to perform for the guests. That in itself was fairly tricky in narrow train walkways, but they were also being served a four course dinner at the same time! We had to do some pretty surprising moves whilst playing to negotiate waiting staff!
Mairearad: Most of my favourite gig experiences usually involve good food, good music and lovely people.
Any unlikely musical heroes? And does that choice cause friction in the tour van?
Anna: After seeing her gig at Glastonbury a few years ago, Beyonce is a regular feature on the stereo! We agree on that, so no friction! There’s a fair amount of pop in the car actually. More so than folk music anyway. I also love Bon Iver and John Mayer.
Mairearad: We both love cheesy pop and generally agree on day to day playlists. Beyonce is an absolute favourite in the duo car!
You are both daughters of mandolin players; how big an influence have the family been?
Anna: My family have been a huge influence — from dad teaching me guitar when I was wee, to taking me to play ceilidhs with him as a teenager (we still manage the occasional gig together when our diaries allow) he’s been a big influence. Mum did a lot of taxiing and came to just about every gig within reasonable driving distance (and some outwith that!)
Both my parents have been tremendously supportive of my career, which has made a massive difference.
Mairearad: Both our families are so supportive of our music. My Dad’s mandolin playing in only the key of G has not been a big musical influence but my parents have always been big music fans and their enthusiasm is very inspiring.
And finally: if you had to pick one tune or set to sum up the sound of Mairearad and Anna, what would it be?
Anna: I think I’d say T-Shirts in March, the opening track from Doubling — it’s got a bit of almost everything on it, and I think it feels like good fun — that’s what we hope to do at our gigs!
Mairearad: Tatties and Ham set from our first album. It’s guitar and accordion swapping roles in true M & A style and it’s cheeky and fun!
• Mairearad Green and Anna Massie can be seen at Gairloch Community Hall on Wednesday 16th April; The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, on Thursday 17th April; The Red Roof Cafe Gallery, Glendale, Skye, on Friday 18th April; The MacRobert Hall, Tarland, Aberdeenshire, on Saturday 19th April; and The OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, on Sunday 20th April.