Published: 15/05/2014 00:55 - Updated: 09/05/2014 16:22

Hardworking Rachel adds island festival to her tally

Rachel Sermanni
Rachel Sermanni

At just 22 years old, Rachel Sermanni has already performed at more than 500 concerts across the world and now has a particular venue in mind later this summer – the garden.

The singer songwriter has been touring regularly since the age of 17, performing across Europe, in Canada, the US and Asia, but is now looking to slow the pace.

“(Travelling) is fun. But I am pivoting priorities this year, with the hope of rooting my feet a little more. I plan to keep home as much as possible over the summer months; do some gardening.

“I am very aware of how fortunate I am to travel so far and see so many places, but I do envy the nested people.”

The last couple of years in particular have been busy for the songstress from Carrbridge, since the launch of her debut album, Under Mountains, released in 2012, which included songs she wrote while still at school.

This year she released an EP, Everything Changes, recorded in New York with producer Alex Newport, and has been touring in Canada, Germany and across the UK in recent weeks.  She has also lined up an appearance at the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival, which runs from 16th to 19th July in Stornoway in the island of Lewis.

Her hard work was revealed in a PRS for Music survey which showed her at No 8 in the ‘most appearances at festivals’ list for 2011. So what is it about these events that she likes?:  “Festivals are great fun for the fact you are submerged in music and you are jostling with musicians at every turn. Potentials for jams are rife, if you don't have to disappear soon after your performance.

“It works also because a bunch of people who may never have heard you otherwise will become aware of your music by chance.

“HebCelt, like any Scottish festival, especially up in the north, has appeal. They are guaranteed to be full of good people, great music, traditional sessions...I am expecting all that.

“I think I'll be joined by (Lewis singer songwriter) Colin MacLeod and a few other fond musical friends so should be fun.”

The HebCelt audience will hear songs from Under Mountains, Everything Changes and some material yet to be recorded. This may include a recent song, Begin, inspired, like much of Sermanni’s previous work, by her dreams, although she may have difficulty interpreting her latest one.

“My most recent dream was my brother, sister and I were in a car with no driver (auto pilot obviously) driving to a place called Findhorn. Satnav led us down the wrong track and we were informed that Bjork had created this route and we couldn't take a vehicle down it...

“I haven't responded to a dream with a song in a while, (although) I did take the image from a friend’s dream for a new song which I have called Begin.”

HebCelt will be one of a number of festivals the singer is appearing at this summer. So how does she keep things interesting for herself?

“It is always different. The audience has a huge part to play in the level of enjoyment. If they are open and attentive, I feel like I'm able to give myself most. Motivation comes in different forms. One of the sweetest is when you receive an email out of the blue or a letter from someone simply wanting to have some form of creative connection with you. I have made some wonderful friends this way.”

“When I play in the UK, these days, I feel more and more like I know more and more of the faces in the crowd. I have done the circuit so many times now, there are a lot of familiars. It makes the gig experience a little different; usually more comfortable. I met a bunch of Stornowegians during my first Loopallu experience. They hold a loving place in my heart.”

The 19th HebCelt will feature its biggest ever programme. It will be headlined by Levellers, Big Country and Donnie Munro and include performances by Cara Dillon,  Duncan Chisholm, Cajun band Magnolia Sisters, from the US, and Canadian outfit Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys.

The festival has its two main stages in the spectacular setting in front of Lews Castle in Stornoway, and this year is introducing an acoustic stage for the first time. There will also be concerts in An Lanntair arts centre and in rural parts of Lewis and Harris.

The four-day festival is expected to attract an audience of about 16,000 – double the population of Stornoway – with more than half coming from outside the Hebrides and helping to generate around £1 million for the local economy.

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