Published: 28/05/2014 15:57 - Updated: 20/06/2014 13:56

goNORTH: Siobhan Wilson

Siobhan Wilson plays Mad Hatters, Inverness, next Thursday (June 5)
Siobhan Wilson plays Mad Hatters, Inverness, next Thursday (June 5)

 

by Margaret Chrystall

FOR most people catching singer songwriter Siobhan Wilson’s packed yet pin-drop quiet gig at Brew At The Bog earlier this month, there will be one outstanding snapshot instagrammed onto their brains.

It’s Siobhan singing her song All Dressed Up wearing a set of rainbow-flashing sunshades lent by a fan from the crowd.

The truth is that Siobhan’s future here in May 2014 looks every bit as bright as those shades.

And with her appearance next week at goNORTH’s showcase gigs – with a support slot for Lau next month at Strathpeffer Pavilion – and a sell-out acoustic set in her childhood hometown of Elgin last month, the advice is catch as many of her appearances ... while you can.

Talking on the eve of her return to Inverness, Siobhan said: "It’s nice getting to come up North so much this year."

From the start of this year, it’s been Siobhan's own music and performances that have been winning her rave reviews.

As well as supporting Irish singer songwriter James Vincent McMorrow at Celtic Connections in January, Siobhan impressed as part of Roddy Hart’s Roaming Roots Revue night when musicians covered songs by the great performers who lived in California’s Laurel Canyon in the early 70s, such as Joni Mitchell and James Taylor.

Accompanied by her friend Tommy Reilly on keyboards, Siobhan offered her own cover of Mitchell’s classic song A Case Of You up to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall audience.

With such an iconic song, it might have been a risky move – but Siobhan’s version earned her a lot of praise as she gave the classic her own stamp.

Siobhan laughs now: "Everyone says that when they heard I was going to do that song they were really scared in case I messed it up.

"She is quite untouchable as an artist.

"But I’ve been listening to her since I was 13 and it’s taken this long for me to dare to touch one of her songs after years of hardcore listening.

"That particular song I used to listen to with my schoolfriends in Edinburgh – I went to St Mary’s music school in Edinburgh for a couple of years in my teens.

"And when I was 16 and 17, we used to go down to the river, the Water of Leith and have these little jams at the weekends when it was sunny.

"We’d sing that song and then my friend died, it was really sad. She was 21 and I couldn’t listen to it for years.

 

"But for the concert I had to do a a Californian-style song and HAD to do a Joni Mitchell song and just thought ‘I’m going to sing that one because if it means so much to me and if it is so important to me, I’m sure that will transport across to the audience’.

"At first I thought I was going to be really emotional and total hoped that worked, but I think it did.

"I think people could feel I was really emotional when I sang it and that’s maybe why it worked out so well.

"It’s not the kind of thing you can do with every song, every day.

"But that’s why I chose to sing that one.

Sorry, that is a bit sad, but I try and make everything I do a little bit meaningful. To be as sincere and genuine as possible.

"But it’s also good to have a laugh," Siobhan said drily.

Having learned cello and piano and had singing lessons as a young girl in Elgin, Siobhan moved to music school St Mary’s in Edinburgh when she was 15.

"I did fifth and sixth year there – I got some sort of scholarship, I can’t remember exactly," said Siobhan.

"It was fantastic. I worked very hard for two years on my Highers and on my instruments, piano and cello and played in string quartets and it was then I also started songwriting.

"When I was 18 I travelled to Paris and it became apparent that I was meant to sing.

"I’d spent my whole childhood doing cello and piano, but I was always too shy to sing and open up about personal things.

"When I moved to a different country, I built up that confidence and learned to know what I wanted to do – and to do it. It sounds easy now, but it’s difficult, isn’t it?

"I was meant to study at Manchester University, I had a place and everything, but I just packed it all in and went to Paris, worked in shops and bars and wrote songs. It sounds very bohemian and I think it was quite romantic.

"At that time in my life, that was what I wanted to do. I really wanted to talk French.

"But I’m happier back in Scotland now especially at this kind of time with the referendum and all that going on."

While over there, Siobhan released her debut album Songs.

But since returning to Scotland she has made a cottage industry out of making hand-made CD EPs to send out online as well as selling them at gigs.

She said: "It was almost two years ago that I started making them and sitting, literally cutting them out with a sort of Stanley knife from cardboard and buying recycled cardboard sleeves on eBay and stick them together .

"I used to handpaint them, but now I get the front bits of the cardboard laser cut and write stuff on them. It still takes a lot of time, but it’s quite therapeutic and I feel proud of them."

Her latest seven-tracker Glorious Demons was recorded with her friend, musician Gordon Skene, now of Frightened Rabbit but also a one-time member of former Lochaber band Carson.

Being busy with gigs means Siobhan’s production line has its own pressures – and the sharp knife part sounds a bit scary for a musician who plays cello, piano and guitar ... with her fingers.

Siobhan laughed: "My flatmates have been helping me because I have been selling more and more of them. So they are always on the lookout for me!"

When you ask Siobhan how aware she is about the buzz surrounding her music and performances, you can hear a modest cringe.

"It makes me happy to hear, but I try to stay as grounded as possible.

"I’ve been working so hard this year and also last year too, but this year especially. And I hoped it would pay off."

The punishing round of live performances is continuing with Bannockburn Live and the Cambridge Folk Festival coming up, as well as her appearance at goNORTH next week – and two newly-added dates at Swedish festivals this autumn.

"I’m really looking forward to goNORTH because it seems like they are working so hard to try to create new opportunities for musicians. It’s nice to know there are people doing that."

If you need the help ...

For more about her music, go to Siobhan’s wesbsite: www.siobhan-wilson.com To buy your hand-made copy of Glorious Demons, head for: siobhanwilson.bandcamp.com Follow her on Twitter: @SiobhanWilson You can like her on: www.facebook.com/siobhanwilsonmusic

 

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