With a new line-up in place and another album on the way, Skerryvore are continuing to evolve after 12 years of entertaining fans around the world.
Earlier this month the now eight-strong line-up played their first gigs with new full-time member Scott Wood who has also been adding his piping and whistle-playing skills in the studio as the band record their seventh album.
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate and 2013 BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalist is no stranger to Skerryvore, having first guested with the band as a 17-year-old in 2010.
His permanent addition is in response to founder member Martin Gillespie scaling back his playing after developing focal hand dystonia, a neurological condition which affects the hands and is common among pipers. Martin, who formed the band in Tiree in 2005 with brother Daniel, along with Fraser West and Alec Dalglish, continues to tour with the band.
“Having Scott in the band is very exciting for us. It’s freshened things up and also allows us to be a bit more musically creative”, said drummer Fraser West. “Martin is still playing some tracks. Having two pipers on stage is a real crowd pleaser.”
It is another stage in the development of Skerryvore, who have progressed from being an instrumental ceilidh band playing traditional tunes, to one that is more musically-diverse, performing their own new songs. The forthcoming album will continue that process, with bassist Jodie Bremaneson now sharing writing duties.
“The new album is an ongoing process for the moment”, said Fraser. “This is the first album that has involved Jodie in the writing process, so it’s been great having his input. Fans can expect some of the usual Skerryvore, exciting tune sets - and maybe a few surprises too.”
Having ended last year by being named Live Act of the Year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards for the second time, the band are again touring extensively in the UK and Europe this year and will be back at the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway in July for the first time in five years.
“We are really proud of these awards”, Fraser commented.
“It’s reassurance that we’re doing something right. We are always trying to be better, so to receive the awards means a lot and is a boost in confidence.
“We are extremely excited about returning to HebCelt this year. One of our favourites things about it is the general buzz around the town. It gets you excited to go and play.
“The HebCelt audience can look forward to a great show. We’re really excited to be coming back to play to a big crowd on a big stage. There’ll be some new material to look forward to.
“We’re really keen to make each tour different this year, to make our sets different for each tour. For example, the show we play to thousands at HebCelt will be different to the tour we do of seated theatres in England. We want to keep pushing ourselves musically and also hopefully produce an amazing new album.”
In addition to touring and working in the studio, Skerryvore give their time and energy to performing at a number of projects and locations, including special needs schools, the Royal Blind School, Cornton Vale prison and Live Music Now, which brings music into a range of community settings, including care homes and hospitals.
This year they have already been involved in projects in schools in Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire and Fraser said it’s something from which they get enormous satisfaction.
“It’s amazing to see kids really enjoying themselves, or to receive a letter from someone, who is now out of jail, telling us how we helped and inspired them. It’s pretty special.”