Award-winning Irish artist Cara Dillon will be one of the main draws at HebCelt when she and husband and music partner Sam Lakeman make their festival debuts on the main stage on Friday 19 July.
If they needed any persuasion, a few choice words from Sam’s brother, the internationally-renowned singer songwriter Seth Lakeman, certainly helped.
“He said ‘It’s mad. Totally mad, an amazing gig. You have to do it’”, said Cara. “So I am.”
The 19th HebCelt will run from 16-19 July in Stornoway and will feature over 30 performers in its biggest ever programme. Cara says the location will make her feel at home.
She said: “The main attraction for me is in visiting a place that’s so remote and isolated from the regular throughput of music and culture. It reminds me of Inishowen in Co Donegal where I spent my summers as a child, where the pace of life is very different, and when music does happen to make an appearance it’s a really big occasion and was always the best craic.
“People’s opportunities to see other performers are so limited that they’re not going to let anything get in the way of having a good time. I really like that atmosphere. It’s the same in Orkney and Shetland where I’ve played before.
“I’ve been very lucky to have had some incredible festival experiences - like performing in a 3,000-year-old Greek amphitheatre with Mount Etna erupting in the night sky as a backdrop, or playing amongst the giant redwoods in California, or sharing the stage with international singers in South Korea.
“But the bottom line is that the best experiences come from a combination of the audience and the band and that can happen anywhere - village hall, marquee, field or car park.”
The Hebcelt audience will hear music from her new album, A Thousand Hearts, which was released in May and keenly anticipated, with two showcase concerts in London in April sold out well in advance.
The songs have an unexpected common theme which Cara and Sam realised only after the album was completed: “The songs come together very quickly and Sam has almost fully formed ideas on the treatment and instrumentation as soon as we’ve finished the first few demos.”
“What’s interesting about this collection is that after we’d finished recording and were looking for an album title we realised all the songs were about different states of the human heart, which then led us to the title ‘A Thousand Hearts’. The songs are about unrequited love, death, faith, lust, a broken relationship, pure love, emigration and longing for someone who’s far away. They pretty much capture every condition of the heart...totally unplanned.”
The resulting fifth album is a long-awaited follow up to 2009’s critically-acclaimed Hill of Thieves which won Album of the Year at the Radio 2 Folk Awards: “Fans have been hounding Sam and I for a new album for over five years and we’ve never been happier than with what we’ve produced this time around.
“As soon as our twins were born back in 2006 we set out to make music our passion again rather than allowing it to become a job (which is sometimes inevitable). As a result we’re energised by the music and the output is all the better for it. We’re so excited to be releasing another album again and the thought of performing new material is a real treat.”
Cara’s career has been peppered with highlights, such as singing the title song to Disney’s animated movie Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue in 2010 (“I got to sing songs that ooze the Disney magic and it was fantastic and a real privilege”) and singing live to a television audience of several hundred million at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Ryder Cup. She has also topped the charts with dance remixes, collaborated with stars including Richard Hawley, Mike Oldfield and Sinead O’Connor, and presented her songs with full orchestral backing.
However, her future ambitions are straightforward: “My goal has always been to bring whatever music I’m performing to as many people as I can. I’m not precious about how that’s achieved and I’m not precious about what type of music I dip into.
“I’m a singer and it would be ignorant to say that I only ever wanted to sing traditional music. I love all types of music and I’ve been lucky to contribute to other projects.”
The 2014 HebCelt will be headlined by Levellers, Big Country and Donnie Munro. In all, more than 30 acts will feature over four days in the festival’s biggest ever programme.