June News: An award winning song, “Down The Railway Line” update and more

June news

It’s been a while since my list update when my Crowdfunder campaign went live. I’ve been a busy wee bee since then, so here’s a wee update on what’s been going in my world. Here’s my June news!

An award winning song

Photos from efcphotos.co.uk

Singing the winning song. Photo from http://efcphotos.co.uk/

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a new song called “Busy Little Worker”. This song literally buzzed into existence while I was getting a new kitchen.  It’s probably the quickest I’ve ever written a song.

It’s all about bees. Bees and wasps used to terrify me when I was wee. It’s only in recent years I’ve been more aware of just how important they are to our existence. This awareness only intensified since taking an interest in gardening.  Now I try to encourage more bees to visit my garden.

“Busy Little Worker” is an upbeat song with a bit of a buzz about it. So much so that last week it won the audience vote at Edinburgh Folk Club songwriting competition! I am thrilled one of my songs won a prize. You can see some photos from the event here.

You can listen to “Busy Little Worker” on YouTube.

“Down The Railway Line” update

My Crowdfunder campaign ended on a few weeks ago and the target was exceed! Thank you everyone who made a pledge. Without you, “Down The Railway Line” would not be mastered and CDs would not be produced.

All 11 songs have been recorded and mixed and are now in the hands of Hillfoots Mastering. I’ve had a few listens across various devices and I must say “Down The Railway Line” is sounding braw! There’s a good dollop of emotion and feeling in there, and some lively songs and catchy lines sure to have you singing along.

“Down The Railway Line” will be released on CD and most major digital providers on 1st August 2018.

“Here & Now” with Katee Kross

A little over a week ago I made a trip to Glasgow to have a bit of a blether and play some of my new songs on Katee Kross’ show “Here & Now” on Broadcasting Scotland. It was a lot of fun.  It was also great to chat about music and songwriting my new album.

The show should be available to watch online within the next few weeks. It’s worth watching especially for my panic during the quick fire questions as well as for listening to 3 new songs!

“Down The Railway Line” preorder now live!

My album “Down The Railway Line” is now available to pre-order through my campaign on Crowdfunder.

I am looking to raise £400 to cover the costs of mastering my new album “Down The Railway Line” and having CDs produced.  You can help by making a pledge on Crowdfunder.  You can choose from 5 different reward packages:

  • Pledge £10 or more – limited edition CD
  • Pledge £15 or more – limited edition CD and A5 lyrics and stories booklet
  • Pledge £25 or more – the above, plus your name in the booklet
  • Pledge £40 or more – the above, plus your photo in the booklet
  • Pledge £100 or more – the above, plus I will write a song for you

You can find out much more about “Down The Railway Line” and also make a pledge by clicking the button below.

Find out more

Please feel free to share this exciting news with any friends who you feel would also like to be part of this.

Thank you for your support, and I look forward to sharing my new music with you soon!

Album progress and new promo shots

Spring is here and with it comes a wee update on my new album and other news…

Album title revealed!

I can reveal the title of my new album – “Down The Railway Line”.  The songs that will feature in “Down The Railway Line” are based on my memories of growing up in the small village of Fishcross, my experiences of both exciting adventures and the mundane weekly routine as well as a glimpse of what the future holds.

I grew up in Fishcross and spent uncountable hours playing down along the path that used to be the old railway line that ran from Alloa to Dunfermline.  “Down The Railway Line” is a fitting title for the album, the railway line being symbolic of the journey we all take through life.

“Down The Railway Line” will be available to pre-order through Crowdfunder from 2nd April, with some exciting rewards in return for making a pledge.  Check back here on 2nd April for the full details and link to my Crowdfunder page.

Photos in the rain

Just over a week ago, I met with my friend Kevin Ross who is a member of Loch Lomond Camera Club.  Having been 7 years since my photo shoot with John Lamont, I figured it was time for a refresh of my promo photos and Kevin kindly agreed to take some new shots for me.  So we head off, in the cold rain, into some of the historic parts of Fishcross including, of course, the old railway line, the miner’s memorial and Auchinbaird Doo’cot.  I think you’ll agree that Kevin has done a tremendous job as you can see from the two photos below.  You can find the full gallery of photos here.

Status report…

I suppose you are wondering how “Down The Railway Line” is progressing?  Well, wonder no more!  The album is progressing very well and 7 out of the 9 songs that will feature on the album have been arranged.  Once the other two are arranged, then it’s recording time!  I should be able to commence recording within the next two or three weeks.

I’m thrilled with how the songs are sounding and it always amazes me how much songs evolved during the arranging process.  In fact, most of the songs are sounding quite different to how I initially heard them in my head and I think they are all the better for it.

Expect some gentle, thoughtful songs mixed in with some of the more upbeat, big sounding songs.  Overall, the songs are a bit more serious (except “The Sweetie Song” – that one is a lot of fun!) than the ones that appear on my first album “Travels”, but the few people that have heard some of them have all agreed one thing – you can’t get them out of your head!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time For Something New

A very happy new year to all of you, can you believe it’s 2018? Where on earth has the time gone?

Having been getting a bit more musically active over the last few months, coming out of hibernation I guess, I’ve been thinking about what comes next on my journey and have set myself a goal for this year. First of all, I’m delighted to announce that I am going to be a dad! Baby Huggan is due for release in June.

The news that I am going to be taking on all the responsibilities of parenthood has set a bit of a time limit on my musical plans. I’ve been toying with this idea for a number of years now and think it is now time for a new release. So my musical goal for 2018 is to record a brand new EP before Baby Huggan arrives. The track list will exclusively consist of new original songs, the majority of which have already been written and ready to be developed into something more.

Now, I know a few years ago I said I was working on my next project – “Project Blue” – it’s safe to say that this is dead in the water. I guess it was a case of trying to run before I could walk. So, the new EP will be sticking with what I know – writing songs. There’s been a few I’ve written since “Travels” that will appear, but there will also be some brand new unheard songs that I am really excited about working on.

That’s all for now, but keep your eyes peeled for more news about how the (as of yet untitled) EP is developing!

When Snow Falls – Available Now!

After releasing my first Christmas song “Staff Christmas Party” back in 2013, I’ve been wanting to write another Christmas song.  The problem is, by the time I’d thought about it, it was already Christmas!  Luckily, this year I am on the ball!

I am proud to release my new song “When Snow Falls“.  I came up with the idea when thinking about what Christmas was like when I was a wee boy…

…I can still feel the excitement of walking down the stairs on Christmas morning.  I would be so excited that I would literally be shaking.  My dad was just as bad as me, and I can remember a couple of years where he had to wake myself and my sister up at stupid o’clock because he was too excited!  I started thinking of how those days are in the past and how it’s not the same when you are an adult and started to feel a bit sad.  However, I started to think about my two year old nephew and how he still has all this excitement to come and it made me feel really happy and excited for his future.  I’ve tried to capture all of this in “When Snow Falls”.

“When Snow Falls” is available to buy via my store on Bandcamp.  You can visit by clicking here.  It’s also included together with “Staff Christmas Party” in “Christmas Double Bill“.  I must make you aware that VAT will be added at checkout, making it 79p for “When Snow Falls” or £1.50 for the “Christmas Double Bill”.

All songs are now also available in iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify, Apple music and many more online stores for those who don’t have access to a PC/Mac or can’t download songs from Bandcamp.

 

New Song “Down The Railway Line” Available Now

Back in August, I attend Glasgow Songwriting Festival – a weekend of songwriting workshops with Findlay Napier, Karine Polwart, Emma Pollock and Jim Hunter.  I had been struggling with “writer’s block” and basically didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do next with my music.  My grand ideas for “Project Blue” remained just that…ideas.  I had been to a concert with Findlay Napier & Boo Hewerdine at the Tolbooth in Stirling and heard about the festival then and signed myself up for it…I am so glad I did!

At Glasgow Songwriting Festival, I learned some skills to help come up with new ideas and I found them to be very useful…I have so many ideas and have written 3 new songs since then!  One of these songs I have now recorded and present to you for your listening pleasure.  This song is called “Down The Railway Line” and was actually written during the festival in Jim Hunter’s workshop.

There is a path that stretches from Alloa in Clackmannanshire to Dunfermline in Fife.  This path used to be a railway line used to transport coal and other freight from the coal mines in Clackmannanshire and Stirling to Fife.  Growing up in Fishcross, I used to play down the Old Railway Line and I still often go walking along this path to this day.  Every time I walk there, I think back to when I was a child and also imagine the trains storming down the track, shaking the miners working in the tunnels below.  “Down The Railway Line” is all about thinking back to my childhood and imagining all the industrial goings on that used to fill the area.

This version of “Down The Railway Line” will feature in an app being developed at Stirling University for a project called “Landscape Legacies Of Coal Mining“.  The aim of the project is to raise awareness of Clackmannanshire and Stirling’s rich industrial history and will eventually include guided tours and information about the area.  You can find more information here and I will share more details when the app becomes available.

Until then, enjoy listening to “Down The Railway Line”.  If you like the song and want download your own copy you can do so here.

 

In The Reek Of The Smouldering Peat Music Video & Free Download

 

While attending Celtic Connections in Glasgow, January 2017, I mentioned to some friends that I had an idea for a music video for my song “In The Reek Of The Smouldering Peat”. They thought it was a great idea and a master plan was hatched to take footage while in Berneray Youth Hostel later in the year.

Fast forward to July, I meet my friends who are also traveling through the Outer Hebrides and the subject of a music video came up again. “You’re really serious about this?” I said to my friends, and I brushed off the idea as something that wouldn’t happen. But they kept on at me throughout the holiday, and by the time we got to Berneray, the project became an obsession for us all. Before we knew it, we were dancing in the sea, marking the beginning of filming.

Throughout the few days we were in Berneray, the project took shape, a story line was decided for the video and we had the crazy idea of getting the rest of the people staying at the hostel involved in the video. Some more of my friends, before “Travels” was released, had created a dance to the chorus, so we set about teaching this dance to the hostelers, while the camera rolled.

All of the video was recorded on my iPhone, but the problem I had was that the videos didn’t quite go with the existing recording of “In The Reek Of The Smouldering Peat”, so I recorded this brand new version of the song purely for the video. Considering the video was pieced together on a phone, I’m impressed by how well it has turned out.  I hope you enjoy the video!

To accompany the video, I am offering the new version of the song as a free download.  You can download it by clicking here.  I hope you enjoy the track (as well as the video!) and please share this with your friends so they can download it too.

This also marks the end of one chapter of my musical journey. I’ve started writing new songs. Who knows what the near future will hold…

Lights, camera…ACTION!

On the anniversary of my last update to this site (shocking, I know) I am pleased to bring good news!

Back in January I was chatting with some friends about an idea for a music video. They became obsessed with making this idea a reality and a plan was hatched to film some video “on location at Berneray Youth Hostel.

The months rolled past and I didn’t think much more of it until I met the very same friends in the Outer Hebrides a few weeks ago. Once we got to Berneray, the idea then started rolling. There were ideas galore, a variety of footage and a variety of locations and, of course, hilarious out-takes. The storyline for the video is set, all the footage is recorded and I am now in the process of re-recording an old favourite to go with the video.

Ladies and gentlemen, “In The Reek of the Smouldering Peat: The Movie” will be hitting the small screens in about a months time!

Hebridean Blue

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There’s nothing quite like a trip to the Outer Hebrides to inspire, motivate and re-energise.  My wife and I recently went on a hebridean holiday including the fantastic Hebridean Celtic Festival, Berneray Week and some nice surprise in Barra.  All it took was a bit of a sing-song and some time on stunning beaches to get the creativity flowing again.

88I’ve been going to the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway most years since 2004.  This year, my wife made her first trip the festival and we had a ball!  I’ve made a lot of friends over the years at the festival, and I’ve realised that my favourite aspects of it are not just the music: it’s the atmosphere, the people you meet and the unique experiences that make the Hebridean Celtic Festival such a special event.  This year was no different, and besides all of the amazing artists we saw, one of my favourite moments happened the day after the festival.  Basically, there were about 15 of us crammed into the cooking hut on the campsite, having a session and everyone was singing along to “In The Reek Of The Smouldering Peat”.  It was one of those moments that really drove home just exactly why I love singing.

After the madness of the festival, we made our way through the mountains of Harris to catch the ferry over to Berneray, one of my favourite islands.  Although the weather wasn’t exactly the best, travelling through Harris was quite simply stunning.  Even in the bad weather the beaches in Seilebost and Scarista were shining.  A lot of people think of Skye as having some of the must stunning scenery in Scotland, but for me that trip through Harris trumps them all.

135We were staying in Berneray for 3 nights we happened to arrive in time for Berneray Week, which saw various events taking place all over the island, from sheepdog trials and sports days, to ceilidhs and barbecues.  We stayed in the hostel the first night, instead of going to the ceilidh, as we felt we needed to relax and unwind a bit after 4 days of partying and dancing and we spent the evening chatting to other hostellers and passing the whisky around.  This hostel is of course the very same place that inspired “In The Reek Of The Smouldering Peat” and sharing whisky and chatting to like-minded people seems to be what most people love about the hostel, as well as the stunning location of course.  There’s a reason many people return to this amazing place year after year.

The next morning we woke up to blazing sunshine.  If you ask me, when the sun shines in Berneray there is one thing you HAVE to do – take a walk around the coast of the island.  I’ve always been blown away by the beauty of this small island, but it was even more special showing my wife all of the special places on the island.  Walking up the east beach and on to the cliffs in the north, the view over the Sound of Harris to the mountains we had travelled through the day before is nothing short of mind-blowing.  You would think that it would be heard to beat that view, but if you keep walking along the north you eventually make it to the west beach – 3 miles of pure white sand and that stunning blue-green colour I can only describe as “hebridean blue”.  Walking down that beach, you see the uninhabited island of Boreray to the west.  It really is one of the most perfect beaches and I’ve always found it a great spot for wildlife.  This year we were lucky enough to see some dolphins, probably only about 20 feet away from us too!

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The sunshine, sadly, wasn’t meant to last.  That night we were treated to a spectacular lightning storm through the night which we could see striking in the distance, silhouetting the distant Cuillins in the flash.  The next day was overcast, but mostly dry, so we decided to take a trip over to North Uist and take a walk around the Balranald nature reserve.  It was a great walk, even though it was a bit boggy, and I think the fresh air did both of us wonders.  In the evening, there was a massive bonfire and barbecue on the beach.  179We went along and enjoyed the warmth from the fire.  It seemed that the whole of Berneray was gathered around the fire.  I had taken my guitar along with me “just in case”, a woman noticed it and practically demanded that I start entertaining the onlookers.  Of course, you don’t need to ask me twice!  I sang a few songs, which people seemed to be enjoying singing along to.  One wee boy came up to me and asked me to sing the “Rock Me Mama song” again (“Wagon Wheel”), I told him I would only sing it again if he sang it with me.  So the pair of us sang our hearts out.  The wee boy was over the moon to be singing with me, I’ll never forget that moment.

After Berneray, we had planned stay a night in South Uist before heading to Barra the next day.  However, as we were driving through the Uists we decided to keep on driving to Eriskay and chance our luck and get the ferry over to Barra.  We were able to get on the ferry so, in the torrential rain, we made our way over to Barra.  After putting the tent up on the rain, we headed to my favourite pub in the Hebrides – the infamous Castlebay Bar.  It was there that we saw a poster saying that the mighty Vatersay Boys would be playing in the bar on Friday and Saturday night…what a way to end our holiday!

The next day the sun made an appearance again, so we decided to visit the beaches of Vatersay.  It was stunning.  I even went in the water, though only up to my knees!  After spending a nice bit of time on both the east and west beaches on Vatersay we headed back to Barra and paid a visit to the wonderful beach at Tangasdale.  There was a circus tent set up on the machair, and we heard that Let’s Circus, who had been at the Hebridean Celtic Festival, were in Barra for three nights – the first circus ever to visit Barra.  So we booked a ticket for that night.  We then headed north to Eoligarry and visited a part of the island I hadn’t been to before.  It was the most amazing spot, we could see over to Eriskay and South Uist and the water was crystal clear.  We then headed down to the beach on the other side of the dunes from the airport and enjoyed the last of the sunshine before heading back to Tangasdale.

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Later that night, we headed to the circus!  It was fantastic, we had unicycle-riding clowns, double-jointed bendy folk, trapeze artists and, of course, the Balloonatic!  It really was good fun and the atmosphere was brilliant.  Little kids and big kids alike were having a whale of a time.  I was amazed at the skill of all the acts.  It was also great to see someone from Lewis, who had literally ran away and joined the circus at HebCelt, performing at the end.  When the circus ended, we returned to the Castlebay Bar, where the Vatersay Boys were in full swing.  It was a great end to a brilliant day.

The next day, the weather was awful. The rain was torrential and, as we lay in our tent, it felt like it was never going to end.  Eventually, the rain stopped a little bit and we ceased the opportunity to head for some lunch.  We then got in the car around the island for a while.  The beaches we had visited the day before were now grey and wet, but the hebridean blue glow was still present in the shallows.  We had booked a table for two at the fantastic Cafe Kisimul for dinner, so we headed there and read the menu…wow!  I had been looking forward to the meal all week and had already decided what I was having: the Cafe Kisimul signature dish of scallop pakora for starters followed by chicken korma.  I swear it was one of the best meals I have ever had!  I highly recommend a visit to Cafe Kisimul for dinner if you ever find yourself in Barra.  After our wonderful meal, we returned to Castlebay Bar where we were meeting a friend later.  We were chatting to on older guy who was telling me that the only way to tell a woman just how beautiful she is, is to say it in gaelic.  I guess I’m going to have to learn gaelic then!  The Vatersay Boys started and the bar was transformed into a house of musical mayhem.  The atmosphere was electric and the whisky measures were…strong.  A perfect end to a perfect holiday.

I hope you have enjoyed reading all about our holiday.  I can safely say I have returned from the island re-inspired and ready to continue with “Project Blue”.  I was going through all of my ideas recorded on the computer and looking forward to expanding on what I’ve already written.  Until my next post, farewell!

Project Blue

Hello,

I thought I would give you an update on how things were progressing on my latest project.  As this project doesn’t have a title at the moment, I’m simply referring it to as “Project Blue.”  When I first came up with the idea a few years ago, it was going to be called “Hebridean Blue”, named after the beautiful blue-green colour of the sea on many of the beaches in the Hebrides.  I don’t feel that the music I’m writing really reflects the beauty of the Hebrides, so Project Blue will have to do for now!

project blue

Writing Project Blue is going very well.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more creative than I do just now.  It seems every time I go to work on Project Blue, more and more ideas keep coming. I’d say I’m about halfway through writing the initial ideas, which is still only a small part of the finished album as it will still need to be arranged, produced, mixed, mastered…the list goes on, but at least now I have a picture in my mind of how I want it to sound.

At the moment, Project Blue will be in two parts (which may be split into several tracks), each with a different feel/theme, but which ultimately are linked together.  I have written two new songs, one of which, “Joy”, will definitely be in the album as I feel it would make a great ending for Part One, which starts quite dark/sad, but will end a lot brighter and happier.  My hope is it will take the listener on an emotional journey from sadness to “Joy”.

The main theme of Part Two is based on a short instrumental I wrote that I used as the introduction to the “Wee County Sessions” video blog I did a few years back.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how I’ve been able to expand this short piece of music into something wonderful.

So, that’s how things are with Project Blue at the moment.  I’ll give you another update once things have progressed further. logo