HAVING swapped Caledonia for California, singer Rebecca Connelly is heading home to show Scotland what she has been up to with her band Dolalay.
Now based in the southern California resort city of La Quinta, Connelly is making a return visit to her homeland for Dolalay’s first Scottish tour.
Joined by bass player Ernie Escalera, lead guitarist Martin Barerra, Todd Fowler on percussion and stand-in drummer Doug Johnson, Connelly can be seen and heard at Inverness’s Hootananny’s Ceilidh Bar on Sunday, as well as gigs in Edinburgh, Stirling and, in a personal high point, her home town of Arbroath.
What are you looking forward most to introducing your American bandmates to on their first Scottish visit?
The scenery, the people and the pubs. It’s all so different from where they come from in the US. I’m very proud to be Scottish so just really looking forward to showing them our culture.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss my family loads. I still get quite home sick when I’m in the USA. I miss the weather too — sounds a bit mad considering how crazy the weather is here, but in the States I live in a desert, so I’m really glad to be home experiencing rain and snow.
I gather you had an unusual stimulus for your music career. Could you tell us about that?
I’d always been playing guitar and singing and writing, but could never really decide between music and a "proper job". I’d studied geography at Strathclyde Uni, but left after my third year and moved home to be with family.
Then one evening my mum and auntie and I went to a medium night in Arbroath. A woman said she had a man whistling and was being drawn towards us. It was Grandad — he was always whistling, singing and telling stories as I grew up. She said to me that my Grandad really liked it when I played my music. I’d never met her before and she had no idea I was a musician.
That was kind of a turning point for me. I decided to pursue music professionally and make it "my job". I started playing almost every weekend in my home town for that summer before I moved to America. When I got to the States, it was so hard not performing as much as I had been, so I did what I could and played coffee shops, pubs — wherever I could, really.
Is there a culture difference between the music scene in Scotland and California, especially in how audiences react?
It’s been so long since I’ve played in the music scene in Scotland I’m honestly not sure. In California, where the local bands play, the audience do pay attention and for the most part take notice. I would say in Scotland, though, I feel like I have more support from friends and family. But it might be better to answer this question after the tour!
You used to play in cover bands when you first moved to the US. What sort of stuff did you play, and did you ever find yourself singing something you didn’t like?
Oh yeah, I used to play songs I wasn’t too fond of all the time — "crowd pleasers"! "Margaritaville"... I hate that song! I love the (Van Morrison) song "Brown Eyed Girl", but when you’ve played it a million times, it’s no longer a good song to you anymore and you play it through muscle memory, not really even thinking about it.
The bands I was in were mostly classic rock cover bands. We did songs like "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns ’n’ Roses, Pat Benatar, Heart, Devo, Bon Jovi... a lot of ’80s hair band music. It was fun for a while, but I really missed writing and performing my original music, so I quit the cover band and recorded a solo album.
But you now have your first Dolalay EP under your belt too...
The EP was started in May of last year and had to go on hold due to funding, but we finally finished it in January. The title song "Days Like This" is pretty much a love song which is really unusual for me — I maybe write a love song once in a blue moon. But it’s sort of talking about a brilliant day I had and also my love of the rain. It never rains where we live, so it’s a little tribute to dark rainy days. The rest of the songs on the EP are more about changes I’ve gone through, realising that I can be a stronger person and let my darker naughty side step out once in a while. I think that’s why I called the band Dolalay because I had this other side of me in my writing that I wanted to explore. I’m really proud of the EP and so excited to be bringing it to Scotland.
We are planning on touring California in the autumn hopefully gaining new fans along the way.
• Dolalay appear at Hootananny’s Ceilidh Cafe Bar, Inverness, on Sunday and Arainn Fhinn, Portree, Isle of Skye on Tuesday.