How did you get involved in Scottish music?
There’s a strong ceilidh culture on Lismore and growing up here has meant being surrounded by that. I think my love for music started with ceilidh dancing and local dances, that’s one of the main reasons I asked my parents to take me to music lessons. We always sang at the Mod in primary school, in a choir and solo, when I did well my Granny used to give me pocket money which was very exciting. Most of the island children that go to Oban High School have to board through the week and when I was in my second year there I started accordion lessons with Sileas Sinclair. She was a brilliant teacher and very encouraging, I found being away from home quite difficult to begin with and practicing music for hours definitely helped me deal with it.
Why did you enter BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award?
I love playing music and I’ve seen so many people through the years go through the Young Trad and get lots of opportunities to play from it. It’s quite good for me having something to aim for too, that helps me focus and I enjoy it more. I’m really happy that I entered now as I’ve already met a lot of nice players and people and that means more music again!
What do you hope to gain from the experience?
I’ve already gained a lot I think but the exposure is one thing that will be great. It’s started to make me think of music as a viable career and I’d love that. Meeting even more people I suppose and more playing!
Do you have any particular musical highlights?
One that sticks out in my mind is playing in the Royal Albert Hall when we were at college in Benbecula on Anna-Wendy Stevenson’s course. Robbie who’s also in the final and a few of our friends and I started this band called ‘Room 5’, not a wonderfully exciting story behind the name, room five was our practice room. The band was actually formed for the purpose of playing at the ‘Music For Youth’ festival which holds a kind of school proms in London each year. We played at a few of their events in Scotland and then got asked down to London, I haven’t had such a buzz since then, the crowd were great! Another one that’s quite different for me is an annual ceilidh I’ve done in Erbil, Iraq for the last couple of years. It’s a fund raising dance for an orphanage out there, we’ve been in doing music workshops with the kids there too, hearing some of their life stories was quite difficult for me but worthwhile, if all goes to plan I’ll be heading back out shortly after the final.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m not great at sticking to my plans, they change very often! I’m learning French at the moment so I plan to be fluent at that soon. Going to keep on learning languages, I’ve a big list of those. Just keep learning in general, try to enjoy myself, that’ll probably mean playing lots of music…
Why not buy a ticket to hear Murray Willis or any other of the finalists at the Grand Finals on Sunday February 1st at 5pm. The finals are part of Celtic Connections festival. If you can’t make it along the event will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland between 5 & 8pm and on the iPlayer afterwards.
Catch BBC Music at Celtic Connections http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p039tgwn
and visit their Young Trad 2016 page