It’s a first for Lewis based singer/songwriter Willie Campbell as he launches his latest album this month – it’s new, it’s bold, it’s Dalma.
A collaboration with veteran Gaelic folk rock musician Calum Martin, album ‘Dalma’ (translated as ‘brazen/bold/audacious’) sees Willie – formerly frontman of Glasgow indie rockers Astrid and foot solider with The Reindeer Section – stray far from his comfort zone.
But the Tolsta talent is delighted to have completed his first Gaelic language album – something he’d never before envisaged.
“I had no real interest in Gaelic whatsoever,” he admits. “But being back home I suppose it was inevitable I’d be drawn to it and I found the whole Dalma experience really fulfilling.”
It was around 10 years ago that the Glasgow lifestyle and business of music got too much for Willie and he retreated to the place he had once been glad to escape, seeking refuge and solace on his native Lewis.
Reassessing his priorities and remembering what it was he loved about music, he embarked on a series of collaborations and recording projects. And it was through such that Willie and Calum – although a generation apart – bonded over a love of Gaelic psalm singing, melodic 60s pop and oddly enough, Nashville Americana.
Willie re-embraced the Gaelic language that he had rejected in his teens and under Calum’s tutelage produced Dalma – an album of original Gaelic songs.
He expanded: “We were first commissioned by Ceol ‘s Craic to do a Gaelic song together and it worked really well. It gave us the interest to do much more and through Creative Futures [a Creative Scotland funded mentor scheme] we set about and wrote the album.”
Calum added: “Being involved in the co-writing of this project with Willie has been truly inspirational. It brought me right back to the halcyon days of the mid 70s when I first started writing and recording Gaelic songs in a new and maybe ‘Dalma’ way.”
Willie continued: “It’s been a big step, I’ve been out of my comfort zone, but I think at the age of 35, if I’m don’t try different things now I’m never going to; and it’s added a whole lot of potential to where I can go and what I can do, it’s something I’d definitely like to carry on with.”
For fans of Willie’s English language music however, there is no need to worry – the language may have changed, but the songs and music are still very much those of Willie Campbell, as he added: “It feels very comfy to be singing in Gaelic but it also feels good that I haven’t strayed away musically – the songs and the melodies sound the way I sound, it’s just the language that’s different.”
Indeed, the lyrics contained within Dalma are, typically Willie, unflinching in their honesty – expressing a deep sense of loss experience before the turning point in his life that offered Willie the chance to start again.
The album’s music spans the highs and lows of this journey with a collection of melodies that are as beautiful, varied and inspiring as a Lewis skyline.
And the result of this creative partnership takes the Gaelic song tradition in exciting and uplifting new directions.
‘Dalma’ will be launched on Lewis next weekend in the Woodlands Centre on Friday, March 14th when Willie will be joined by his Open Day Rotation collaborators for the show. And on Saturday, March 22nd, the new album is launched nationally at Ceol ‘s Craic at Glasgow’s CCA.
A translation of lyrics can be found on the Ceol ‘s Craic website at www.ceolscraic.org