From North Uist in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, Julie Fowlis is probably the most successful artist ever to work predominantly with Scots Gaelic. Drawing worldwide appeal with her striking voice. A multi-award winning Gaelic singer who is deeply influenced by her early upbringing in the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist. Nominated as ‘Folk Singer of the Year’ at the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and ‘Best Artist’ at the Songlines World Music Awards 2015, Julie is a warm and engaging live performer who has graced stages around the world, from village halls in the Highlands to stages in New York, The Philharmonie de Paris and Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
She sang live at the closing ceremony of the Ryder Cup in Chicago in 2012 to a TV audience of 500 million, an event that was only eclipsed by singing live at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games in 2014, to a TV audience of over 1 billion people.
She recently launched her 5th studio album – ‘Alterum’. For the first time, two of the songs are in English, ‘Go Your Way’ Archie Fisher’s ‘Windward Away’, featuring guest vocals from Nashville-based Mary Chapin Carpenter. Alongside Julie Fowlis, the album features Éamon Doorleyguitar (bouzouki, viola, percussion), Tony Byrne (guitar), Ewen Vernal (double bass), Mike McGoldrick (high whistle) and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (vocals). The album was Engineered by legendary musician Calum Malcolm.
What role has Gaelic had in the development of your music?
It has had a pivotal role in my musical development. It remains my biggest inspiration and influence, it is part and parcel of my daily life – and my children’s first language.
What have been the music events that have most influenced by?
I have been more influenced by musicians and singers rather than events I have to say. Festivals helped shape a career in music, and I love going to festivals throughout Scotland, especially the Hebridean Celtic Festival and Scotland’s biggest winter festival Celtic Connections. In my younger years though, it was individual singers and musicians who influenced me most, people like Mary Smith and Iain MacDonald in particular.
What has been inspiration behind your new this album?
A desire to express myself a little differently this time. I promised myself that after the last record that I would do something a little different for the next one, and I have. A little bolder, a little more experimental. A darker side to me perhaps. And it’s in three languages.
What advice would you give other musicians, especially those featuring Gaelic in their songs?
Be true to the language, respect it, celebrate it.
What instruments do you play – and when composing what music instrument do you prefer?
I play whistles, pipes, oboe, cor angles and a little ukulele and harmonium/shruti box. When composing I almost always come up with musical lines buy singing them first, then transferring them to an instrument.
‘Fowlis’s ascent to international stardom, putting Gaelic folk on the world music map, is evidence that a sublime voice transcends language and culture’ – The Guardian.
The new album is available on iTunes and Spotify