SINCE his days learning traditional music with Fèis Rois, Strathpeffer musician Matheau Watson has become one of the busiest figures on the Scottish folk scene.
Named Best Up And Coming Artist at the 2010 MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards, at the age of just 22 Watson has contributed to more than 20 album recordings as an instrumentalist, composer or producer and featured as key soloist on the Disney/Pixar blockbuster Brave.
Although he has performed with an impressive array of leading traditional artists, among them Julie Fowlis, Dougie MacLean, Heidi Talbot, Cara Dillon and Duncan Chisholm, his second album, the newly released Dunrobin Place, is performed by Watson himself on a range of instruments but also involved a trip to one of British music’s most hallowed studios, The Beatles’ old stomping ground of Abbey Road, where the album was remastered.
As he prepares to embark on a Scotland wide tour with piper Fred Morrison, Watson took time to answer a few questions about himself and the new album.
You’ve played with a lot of great musicians over the last few years, so you must have a pretty good contacts list. Why did you opt to make the new album an entirely solo affair?
Dunrobin Place was recorded on the odd day off between touring/recording commitments during the past summer; just a casual record made when I had the odd hour or two free.
My last record had a great cast with some real heroes on it, so this time I figured I would put it all on myself. Writing and playing as before but also recording and production the project myself too this time.
I recorded the album at my own studio and then went down to Abbey Road to finish it off. The whole experience was a real blast!
You are known as a multi-instrumentalist, but if push came to shove, what would be your main/favourite instrument?
My first love changes daily when it comes to instruments. I have been working a lot on my electric guitar sounds recently and my banjo playing. I also own a little collection of vintage organs and harmoniums which I have been really enjoying.
The fiddle and guitar and my staples and I love playing them both all of the time. I buy new albums every week and often my favourite sound of the moment will be in some way influenced by the music I am listening to. This can vary a lot — this week’s albums included Jackson Browne, Emma Sweeney, Skrillex, Sequentia and Mogwai!
By now millions around the world will have heard you playing on the soundtrack to Brave. How did you get involved with the film?
Scottish Composer and producer Jim Sutherland put me in the frame for Brave. He was looking for someone to fill a role on the film; he is a musical giant and a real inspiration to me and many of my generation.
Mainstream pictures which include indigenous music or folk and roots are essential in minting an international musical diversity within the mainstream conscious as well as potentially contributing brilliantly to a film’s narrative.
Having received an important part of your musical education via Fèis Rois, how important is it to give something back as a teacher?
My work as a teacher is essential to me and my select teaching at Lews Castle College Benbecula and for Feisean Nan Gaidheall not only gives me a chance to give back to the communities that have given me so much but on a personal level gives me an energy and stimulation that I don’t find in other situation.
Sometimes you can be discussing something essential to your own playing but completely new to someone else and watching that other person "discover" something new really helps to give your own thoughts a views a freshen up. I will be undertaking a very exciting role regarding this next year... more to follow!
What was it like to find yourself working on one of your own albums on the hallowed ground of Abbey Road?
Working in Abbey Road was brilliant. My album was mastered on the same desk and using the same gear used by everyone from The Who, Jimi Hendrox, Queen etc as well as countless soundtracks for film.
I met Andrew Dudman from Abbey Road whilst working on Brave and he hooked me up with the mastering session.
I was asked to do a recording session at Abbey Road on the same day that I mastered my album; it was embarrassing to say that I had to turn down the recording as I was upstairs that day already mastering my own album — still sounds ridiculous today coming from a 22 year old folkie!
Where can people get copies of the album?
The album is available on iTunes, from Proper Music Distribution and at local music outlets. It is also available from ww.matheuwatson.com where you can find out all about the making of the album and the stories behind each of the tracks. It has been on the radio recently and I am really happy with the feedback it’s been having — very happy that Mike Harding (BBC Radio 2) described it as "Full of swing and verse, a shear delight to listen to". I really hope you all enjoy it!
• Matheau Watson’s album Dunrobin Place is available now through Seer Records.
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