HAILING from Blackpool, hotly tipped singer-songwriter Rae Morris is looking forward to seeing some very different tourist destinations when she heads for the Highlands this week.
"It’s going to be my first time in a lot of these places and I’ve heard so many incredible things about them, so I’m really, really excited," she said.
As a solo performer, the 19-year old Atlantic Records signing will be taking full advantage of her more portable status than a full band to visit Stornoway, Ullapool, Thurso, Inverness and Aviemore.
"I’m just piano and vocal when I perform," she explained.
"It’s quite nice because my brother’s my tour manager so we just pop in my car and whizz up and down. It’s the ideal situation for me. If it was a stranger, I’d be a little bit on edge. And he’s great — he puts up with me. I think at times I can be a bit of a handful."
It will not be long before Morris makes another Highland visit, having been booked for the Belladrum Festival near Kiltarlity in August.
"I’m really looking forward to that as well because I think playing a festival is always a very different experience, so it’ll be nice to do the smaller venues and then the festival," she said.
Also appearing at Bella is Morris’s friend and fellow Blackpool songwriter Karima Francis, giving her an added incentive to appear.
"It’s always nice having friends doing similar things to you," she added.
It is only a couple of years since Morris posted her first two tracks online, something that was swiftly followed by a run of live shows up and down the country, leading to her signing to Atlantic Records.
She recorded her debut EP "For You" with Charlie Fink of Noah and The Whale — who will be appearing at RockNess this weekend — and supported the band at a number of high profile venues, including the Royal Albert Hall.
Her song "Don’t Go" also featured on the last episode of the E4 series "Skins", leading to 150,000 YouTube views of the video in a matter of weeks.
"It certainly has felt things are going very fast," she acknowledged.
"I only started writing two years ago and it was in the second year of my A-levels.
"I live in Blackpool and I went to Preston to go to college, so I wrote lyrics on the bus. It was a great release for me and I didn’t think about it too much. I kind of miss those days because the more you write, the harder you are on yourself.
"I wrote my first song then immediately started doing the gigs. I’d been desperate to do it, but I never had anything to play — because I’m terrible at doing covers. I’ve got a great knack for ruining other people’s songs!
"It wasn’t until I wrote my own songs that I felt confident to get up there. I felt like I needed to take that first step as a songwriter. I don’t think I would class myself as a performer. I’d always think of myself as a songwriter."
The year since meeting her manager and signing for Atlantic has gone particularly quickly.
"Because so many things have happened within a short space of time, it’s really hard to even digest it," she said.
"Playing with Noah and The Whale at the Royal Albert Hall and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the O2 in Manchester, I can hardly even remember because it was that much of a blur. Everything’s been so incredible, but I appreciate it so much and I can hardly believe it."
Having already generated much industry interest and with a major label in Atlantic behind her, Morris agrees she feels a certain weight of expectation behind her, but feels this is healthy.
"I’m the type of person who needs a little bit of pressure. I’m quite a driven person," she said.
"I always want to be doing something. I don’t like coming home, I like to be on the road all the time and doing it. But signing to Atlantic has been really fortunate because I got to know the people I was signing to and I feel like they know me well."
Morris now plans to start work on her debut album in the autumn.
"To be honest with you, before I went into the studio to record the EP, I found it quite daunting going from playing live to putting it down on record, but working with Charlie was great because he really helped me figure out what I wanted to do," she continued.
"I am really looking forward to recording the album now. This time last year, I genuinely felt I wouldn’t be able to do that, so it is really exciting."
There seems little prospect of rest for Morris over the summer with a run of festival appearances including Hop Farm in Kent in July, headlined by Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel and featuring one of Morris’s own musical heroines Patti Smith. September brings another tour, then it will be time to knuckle down and concentrate on the album.
It is a busy schedule, but Morris has no complaints.
"I work best when I keep busy," she said.
• Rae Morris appears at Hootananny’s Ceilidh Bar, Inverness on Wednesday 13th June, Thurso’s Newmarket Bar on Thursday 14th June and the Ceilidh Place, Ullapool on Friday 15th June, the Woodlands Centre, Stornoway, on Saturday 16th June and the Insider Festival, Aviemore on Sunday 17th June.