Skerryvore are a Scottish contemporary rock band infused with Celtic delights. They start their 18-month tour visiting 6 countries and come to The Apex in Bury St Edmonds in November. I chat with founding member and bagpipe player Martin Gillespe
HC: A couple of quick COVID questions to get them out of the way…. How did you guys keep occupied during the lockdowns?
MG: We released quite a lot of music and done 3 live streams to quite big audiences. When COVID hit we were out in the US on tour and we had to book new flights and get home and after we got back we released new music to support our NHS, called ‘Everyday Heroes’ and it reached number one in the Scottish charts. We did some live streams from different locations, one being the final at Edinburgh as part of the Royal Yacht Britannia Whisky Distillery and The Burns Museum. A few different locations to show our international audience what Scotland is about and we had over 30 countries tuning in to each stream, which was good. Also, managed to release a couple of singles which got onto Radio 2 Playlist, one was on there for 6 weeks.
We managed to keep stuff going because when it happened at first we had no idea, we expected we’d all be back on the road in a month or two but then as it went on longer and longer we thought we needed to keep our fan base interactive and social media going. Alec, the singer, was doing live on a Friday night to keep people entertained, people sent in their requests. I was doing cocktail nights and all sorts of things, we were just doing things to keep things going and everyone engaged.
HC: What did you think of the response to ‘Everyday Heroes’?
MG: It was incredible, never expected it to grow like that. People were playing it on the Thursday nights when people going outside to play tunes and clap for carers. It was amazing to have so many folks involved. We had loads of lovely message from front line workers – it was great for them and helped kept them going. Music is such a powerful thing, that’s something we found from the experience, lots of messages about how important it was, creating music, giving folks some joy. That’s what kept us going as well.
HC: Your current single ‘Together Again’, is that your post-COVID track?
MG: It was written by Alec during one of the lockdowns and released when things were starting to open up again in the summer and a song to bring people back together again and that’s what we wanted to call this tour. The fact we’re back on the road, seeing people in person again.
HC: Did any on f the band learn a new skill during lockdown?
MG: Yeah, myself and my brother did a course for being whisky ambassadors. We’ve a big interest in whisky – in the US with our nights off we might do whisky tastings with music. We’ve lined up some companies to work with.
A lot of the other guys have lined up some projects. Scott (piper) has his own studio, he pulled the ‘Everyday Heroes’ track together and the singles ‘Together Again’ and ‘You and I’.
Craig (fiddle) does the artwork design so he did all the designs for the streams. We all do different jobs on the side.
HC: You’ve just come back from being on tour in the States, how was that?
MG: Oh it was amazing, I’m actually sitting down tidying up the financials & the receipts. The tour went great. It was a bit of a challenge getting there due to the visas etc but we managed to get it all done although with the time it took we did lose the first week-10 days and lost some shows, which we did manage to put some at the end. But once we were in it was a great response, new events, new venues, it was fantastic. We’re scheduled to go back in January, March for a big tour and then again August, September and October.
HC: How did the fans receive you?
MG: Yeah really great, we had a lot of folks from the US tune into our livestreams and we could see a when we turned up to the gigs a lot of our t-shirts from the streams out there so it was great, it was really superb.
HC: What was it like being together again? Did you have to get used to each other’s annoying habits again?
MG: We were laughing about this before we went wondering how this will go…obviously we’ve seen each other in small bursts, whether is been a live stream or the couple of gigs we did before we went away but everyone was fine. This tour we didn’t have too many travel days, the longest drive was only 5 hours and there were a few internal flights but it wasn’t too bad, this was a good one to ease back into and we had a few nights off to have some beers. Everyone was good. There were no ding dongs.
HC: Your fans talk about the real family feel from you guys, so what roles do people play, who acts the parents?
MG: My brother Dan, he manages everything and plans the tour and the guys appreciates that as we all know what’s happening and he’s good at that, keeping it all together. He’s the main one keeping us all sensible.
HC: You’re just about to embark on an 18-month tour across 6 countries – are you looking forward to it?
MG: I am looking forward to it, I enjoyed the US as it was getting us back to normality. Before we went we were a bit, you know, as it had been so long but once we were there it was like, this is what we’ve always done, so really looking forward to it. Going out in November to Holland and Denmark and then we come back for a few days off and then down to England and Wales.
HC: Do you have any favourite places to go back and play?
MG: We’ve got Settle, which is always a good one. It’s a dainty wee hall but it’s always rammed and always a good one to do, the hospitality is fantastic. There are a few new ones we are doing which is great, down in Newcastle, Liverpool, so we are excited about going there – some venues we’ve been to before and some new ones so it will be great to visit
HC: Are there differences in fans in the different countries?
MG: Yes there is a bit of a difference, we have quite a wide demographic of all ages from kids to retired people. It’s good as we get a mix of so many different people and it’s interesting to hear how people found out about us. We had this guy from down south who bought a vinyl and he’d heard about us from a company in Glasgow who does home sound systems where we did a vinyl launch and they were using our music to showcase their equipment.
It’s amazing how some people find you and that’s what’s good about social media as people can find new acts.
HC: What can fans expect from The Together Again Tour?
MG: It’ll be pretty lively, upbeat, high energy music and a lot of new tunes. We’ve got Greg, our lighting tech for the whole tour which means it’s going to be an exciting show to watch as well.
HC: What do you tell people who’ve not heard your music to encourage them to a gig?
MG: It’s high energy. People always say they enjoy it and that it’s not just bagpipes, it’s how we merge Celtic instruments with the rock and pop instruments people always comment on how we make our sound.
HC: 2020 was your 15th Anniversary, what happened, did you get to celebrate at all?
MG: We’d planned Inveraray Castle and had sold a lot of tickets so we were absolutely gutted it had to be cancelled. We did something online, we launched our 15th Anniversary Live album from Dec 2019 so released that in June 2020 instead of having the gig. We’ve not planned anything, the 15 is now gone and hard to go back – we’ll look ahead to the 20th Anniversary.
HC: Any thoughts as to what’s next after the tour yet?
MG: We’re constantly working on new material so I’m sure there will be a new album somewhere down the line within the next year to 18 months – we keep trying to write great new music when we can so we’ll see what that brings.
HC: Which song do you most like to perform, and why?
MG: That’s a good one. Probably the two new ones ‘You & I’ and ‘Together Again’ – when it’s new stuff it’s fresh and new songs are always good to be playing.
HC: The video of Together Again was filmed on a beach – was that really cold?
MG: It wasn’t the warmest that day! Although it was a lot better than the week before!
HC: What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you are hanging out?
MG: I listen to a lot of dance music. I do like listening to the pipes, Gaelic music, I’ve got a wide mix of what I enjoy. Modern pop music as well and the traditional Gaelic music with the pipes and the accordion as I play them.
HC: What’s the song writing process with you guys?
MG: Alan writes a lot of the songs and it comes together. He has a studio in his house and will come up with a basic idea and then we’ll work on that together.
For the instrumentals, myself, Scott, Danny, Craig, will have a couple of tunes and we’ll fire them to the guys and we’ll try and get together to pull them in. The hardest part is getting us all together as there are so many of us and we have wee projects on the side so even getting a rehearsal together is hard
HC: What’s the least cool thing you’ve done recently?
MG: The accounts from the US tour – I do all the finances for the company’s I have and sitting here, it’s panning my head in.
HC: When you are not making music, what hobbies do you enjoy?
MG: Going to the gym, playing golf, watching football and I enjoy cooking and I enjoy drinking I must say as well.
HC: So you must have enjoyed playing at the Ryder Cup?
MG: Yeah that was great, it was great to be near the experience and to watch it on the day.
HC: What was the last book you read?
MG: Probably a sports book – I’m not a big reader.
HC: What’s your biggest vice?
MG: Oh I can’t reveal that
HC: What’s your favourite condiment?
HC: What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
MG: Probably meeting people from all over the place
HC: How do you fit a giraffe in a fridge?
MG: Sorry, what’s that?
HC: How do you fit a giraffe in a fridge?
MG: Tuck its head in….?
HC: If you could only eat one thing for a whole week, what would you choose?
HC: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
MG: Oh I’m not one for karaoke but if I had to ‘Simply The Best’
HC: What album has got you through some hard times?
MG: I wouldn’t say an album more playlists, chilled music and maybe a lot of Coldplay. I’m quite an upbeat person though.
HC: Who is your favourite superhero?
Skerryvore’s ‘The Together Again Tour’ is already showing SOLD OUT for many of the dates therefore get your tickets now.
This interview first appeared on GrapevineLIVE