With the help of a couple of folk, Kenna Ross takes a look at the thriving Highland music scene.

Before becoming a member of a band in the Highlands I didn’t really pay attention to the music scene here. I would travel miles to see well known bands and, for some reason, thought that was what I had to do to see quality live music.  How wrong I was!!

Now, as a regular audience member at local live music gigs, I realise that we are so fortunate to have many opportunities to see class acts on our doorstep, some who one day will probably be the ones you travel miles to see.

Recently I have felt that the Highland music scene isn’t just growing but actually doing really well from a national perspective.  Bands such as Bloodlines are travelling up and down the country, playing to busy venues and are regularly in the press.  Another band, Spring Break, are making their name known in the Hip Hop industry and joining forces with the Yellow Movement.  Lional, who joined with IMOUT RECORDS, were invited in for a live BBC introducing session with Vic Galloway.  There are a list of quality acts from the Highlands I could mention.

I asked Alex Smith, who with his work with XpoNorth Music has a substantial role in the development and growth of music businesses in the Highlands, what he thought of the local music business?

“It’s great we are continuing to see the development of a larger music industry infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands…. Above the very visible success of the live sector, we also have some great independent labels based in the region such as Middle of Nowhere Recordings in Ullapool, Lost Map on the Isle of Eigg and the newly announced Belladrum Records. It’s also great to see services like Joe McAlinden’s Single Track in Argyll continue their critical work with new talent to get them to market faster. They are currently working with some really exciting artists such as JR Green from Strontian, Esse Gee and TAMZENE from Cromarty.”

Alex moved on to talk about other elements of the vital music infrastructure; “I’m really looking forward to seeing the opening of Black Bay studios in the Western Isles as this will take a world class recording facility online in the region as well- the first one in Scotland to be included on the influential Miloco Register. In terms of talent, it’s been fantastic to see act like C.Macleod and Rachel Sermanni continue to develop their international profile and new acts like TAMZENE and Bloodlines are also really exciting.” Alex later makes mention of his anticipation of the forthcoming new material from Garden of Elks.

One of the list that Alex mentioned, TAMZENE, is presently one of the artists I predict a busy future for.  She is the first artist to release music with the newly set up record label Belladrum Records is travelling to America later this month with XpoNorth to Musexpo, an example of opportunities available to up and coming artists.  I’ve been to see her a number of times and have been struck by the quality of her voice. Tamzene  I asked her what her thoughts were on the present music scene in the Highlands and she was happy to share her thoughts;

“It’s incredible to feel like a part of a new wave up in the Highlands. There is so much untapped talent and there are so many opportunities popping up. It’s an exciting time to be a musician”

Alex also refers to the opportunities available and It’s hard not to share his positive perspective of the Highlands scene;

“It’s a remarkably sophisticated music industry we have across the region and there are some great support structures for businesses to access. With the opening of UHI’s new campus, it’s great to see the emergence of a coherent student population and fantastic to see younger people viewing the region as somewhere they’d like to work and set up new businesses as regional retention is a such an important factor in how the creative sectors continue to grow across the Highlands and Islands.”

So where can these acts be seen?  As well all year round venues such as Hoots, Iron Works and the Market Bar, there are opportunities to get a real feel for the music industry at some local festivals including Northern Roots and Woodstockz. Looking towards the summer months, we also have XPO North, Belladrum and then Jocktoberfest coming up.  If you’re looking for a live music experience then get the dates in your diary now.  Remember, don’t just go to the main stage and the popular tents, have a look in the smaller tents and stages, as they will be the ones who will be on the bigger ones in years to come! And you will be able to say you saw them first.

Get involved with local bands and artists, follow them on social media, go to the gigs! and, if you’re looking for a chilled night with quality music, don’t forget Carma :)