THE MAKING OF MY SUMMER ISLES ALBUM #2

Week 1

1st-7th December

Trowel in my hand

Having been on tour for most of October and all of November I was in need of some rest before getting right down to writing. Thursday the 4th of December was my official album start date.  The first few days were spent setting up all my gear and establishing my work space. My parents very kindly allowed me to use my Grandpa’s old house as a studio.  I have a digital piano, a microphone, my laptop, my accordion, lots of books and writing paper and the house is nice and warm despite the gales outside. My flat in Glasgow has no separate work space so this is an absolute luxury and it is 100 yards from my family home where I can return at meal times! Spoiled!

I bought the book ‘Island Years’ written by Alasdair Fraser Darling. It has two interesting chapters on Priest Island and on Tanera Mor. I also read the Trowel in my Hand by the local bard Neil Macleod who is a relation of our family. Kevin Macleod has very kindly given me lots of information on this.

It is a fairly daunting prospect to sit down at your piano and say ‘right, I’m going to write an album’! As well as researching the above material, I used my most common approach of playing for enjoyment to warm up and relax. The more I play the more likely new ideas are to arrive. The Grayson Perry Reith Lecture on Radio 4 was a really interesting discussion on being creative. He mentioned that playing as if you are a child with no inhibitions and no fears leads to the best art work. I often write new music when on my own at the piano just messing around! Although to get to that stage I do have to have all real life matters dealt with and put away before I can even get close to achieving this ideal head space. This does take a lot of planning and organising!

Jan Kilpatrick, an amazing artist and friend of the family came to our house for lunch very soon after I’d started writing. She has held many writing courses on Tanera and just by chance I asked if she had any poems or stories from the Summer Isles that may help spark inspiration. As it turns out the poems that Jan sent have been so inspirational. I wrote the melody for one of Jan’s poems, A Tanera Talisman as I was reading the words for the first time at the piano. (This doesn’t happen very often but it is amazing when it does!) I then spent a lot longer developing the intro and outro. That was a successful day and a definite track for the album! Another of Jan’s poems, Blessing on Tanera worked well with a song I’d written a while back but didn’t like the words and I have also written a potential melody for another poem by Jan called The Island. At this stage it is easy to feel quite up and down about everything I have written.  Stay tuned for the next few blogs from December on my emotional writing rollercoaster!

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