Sean’s bold gamble at Sounds in the Grounds

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WHEN established in January 2007, one of the main aims of the Western Isles Nu-Music (WIN) Trust was to support and showcase local artists who were producing original contemporary works of music.

And the closing act of this weekend’s WIN Trust Sounds in the Grounds music festival, The Sean Harrison Band, are a shining example of just how vibrant and flourishing the local contemporary music scene is.

The new band sees a new direction for singer/songwriter Sean, and if you go down in the woods on Saturday you’re certainly in for a big surprise as the once mild mannered young music maker is set to deliver something different; something bolder; something loud!

“I’m over the moon to be closing Sounds in the Grounds as it’s by far and wide the biggest gig I’ve been given the opportunity to play,” says Sean.

“It could be a bit of a gamble, playing new stuff with a new sound that’s no one has heard before, but hopefully it’s a gamble that will pay off!”

It is a new venture for the entire band however as this incarnation of the Sean Harrison Band is much more of a collaborative venture than previous versions – each member now bringing their own unique influences and experience to the table.

Having spent a number of years writing original songs as a solo artist, most recently Sean has began to write with guitarist Ivor MacKenzie (Dragging the Lake), as well as close friend and fellow writing and recording buddy Keith Morrison (Face the West).

The trio are joined by drummer Kyle MacLeod and vocalist Fiona Martin – both of whom played with Sean in his acoustic band – and last, but by no means least, rounding up the ‘new’ Sean Harrison Band is former Her Voice Resides bassist Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson, who jammed with Kyle and Fiona in their Harris school-days and has made the cut after a year of, as he puts it: “Bugging Sean to be in his band!”

Expands Sean: “I’d never really collaborated with anyone before, but keeping an open mind Ivor and I thought we’d try a few things out and it’s just sparked something.

“In the last band line-up I kind of led the way things were going, although the others brought with them their own talent and ideas. Now though it’s very much more a group thing and the songs are created and worked up together in rehearsal.

“Some of my biggest inspirations have been singer/songwriters, so it seemed natural to start my music that way, but even they had bands backing them and with this band it just adds so much more weight and layers to the music. It’s some of the best stuff I’ve heard.”

Ivor adds: “I had a lot of guitar ideas left over from Dragging the Lakes as well as some more pop-like songs which I thought would be good for Sean and things have just grown from there.

“Fergie adds a stack of weight and we’ve got a really tight rhythm section as he and Kyle have been playing together since they were kids.”

And Sean continues: “Keith is just epic in any form and Fiona adds so much vocally – she has a scary natural ability for a harmony, an incredible voice and she can sing well even with me!”

For the others, the experience of performing, and creating, together is very welcome as the excitement surrounding the new musical project is clearly visible when the band strike up.

“This is the first thing I’ve done musically for about a year and a half since Her Voice Resides and I’m so chuffed to be a part of it, it’s a new experience for me musically,” says Fergie, as Kyle adds: “We’ve got the feeling that this band has a lot of potential and already we’re curious to see what comes out from the next batch of songs.”

And Fiona comments: “Sean’s got a lot more braver with this new direction and it’s a lot more exciting. He’s a fantastic songwriter and it’s a privilege for me to work with him. I’m just looking forward now to seeing where we go next.”

The excitement and energy felt within the new line-up is certainly palpable when they perform a brand new sound together.

Yet for fans of Sean’s solo acoustic charms, there is nothing to worry about as the matured musician has gone from soul-sick songwriter to formidable front-man with apparent ease. His lyrical and musical power has morphed from a whisper to a shout; yet although now ‘rocked-up’, the delicate subtleties of his previous manifestations are still very much rooted in his music.

The formation of the group illustrates the achieved aims of the WIN Trust – the new line-up firmly representing a group of musicians who have matured their craft under the Trust’s wing: and are now set to showcase their hard work headlining the local music scene’s very own festival.

“The WIN Trust really has been the inspiration to carry on,” comments epic piano-man Keith, as Fergie goes on: “So much on these islands just wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Jori Kim and Innes Morrison of Honcho and the WIN Trust.”

And Ivor adds: “Sounds in the Grounds is the pinnacle of everything that’s happened here – it’s gone from an afternoon in the back of a lorry at Cuddy Point to a two day festival; that just shows how much we owe to Jori, Innes and the WIN Trust.”

So, to hear something new (and it is very, very good!) from the Sean Harrison band, and support your local music scene, make sure and get yourself out to Sounds in the Grounds this weekend.

As well as Sean and co; performing on the main stage on Saturday, May 21, are: Stuttgart Traffic; Winters: Murderers of Love’ Zoey van Goey; Iain Morrison and Daibhidh Martin; and Kassidy.

And on the Saturday acoustic stage – Ian Chockey; Tim Durbin; Can’t Swim; Iglue; Ali Murray; Miss Irenie Rose; Sinead Cunningham and the Dun Ringles.

Expanded to include Friday entertainment, those line-up for May 22 at the festival are on main stage: A Promise to No One; Her Voice Resides; Colin MacIntyre, and DotJR. And on the Friday acoustic stage: Dead Man’s Waltz; Mata MacDonald, and Amber Wilson. For more information, visit www.soundsinthegrounds.net