The decision to become a duo has been singularly successful for Al Lewis and Alva Leigh.
In the three years since the former solo artists teamed up, they have released an award-winning album and three critically-acclaimed EPs, earned honours and nominations for their song writing and made stand-out performances at major festivals, including Glastonbury.
Their collaboration has resulted in a brand of music they call Celticana, a mix of influences from Al’s Welsh roots and Alva’s Mississippi heritage, and earned them a growing following in the UK and abroad.
A current tour, which includes dates in Germany and also supporting Jools Holland in the UK, takes them to the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway in July, as they also begin work on their second album.
It now seems far removed from the time Lewis & Leigh were working independently, both seeking that spark to ignite their careers.
They met up in 2014 when Al was invited to a show in London by a mutual friend with whom Alva was singing.
“We met after the show and scheduled our first writing session”, Al recalls. “We kept writing and decided to arrange and perform the songs as a duo and haven’t looked back since.”
The newly-formed duo received two nominations, for UK Artist of the Year and UK Song of the Year, at the inaugural UK Americana Awards in 2016.
A stunning acoustic set at the event led to invitations to join Billy Bragg’s songwriters’ round at Glastonbury, where they were the only artists playing two shows, and to open for Deacon Blue on their UK tour in November, as well as a return visit to the US Americana Festival in Nashville.
The same year they released their debut album ‘Ghost’, a collection of self-penned songs which resulted in Lewis & Leigh scooping awards for UK Album of the Year and UK Song of the Year at the UK Americana Awards in February.
They have also picked up a growing following with live performances on Radio 2 and Radio Scotland, as well as at Celtic Connections and the Cambridge Folk Festival.
“Winning Best Album and Best Song at the UK Americana Awards this year was definitely a highlight for us, seeing as our performance at that award show the year before ignited lots of exciting things for us”, said Al.
“It felt like our previous year of success was celebrated by the organisation that helped us get it in the first place.”
A third single, ‘Piece of Gold’, from the album was released this year and describes the pressure on women to ‘have it all.’
A video to accompany the release features one of the duo’s fans, Beci, a local firefighter, avid runner and mother-of-two who is active in her community.
“Women (of a certain privilege) are supposedly freer than ever to choose what they want but still find themselves bullied into thinking that they’re still not doing enough”, Alva commented.
“We wanted the video to feature a woman who made her own measures of success and broke society’s mould of what a woman should be.
We were thrilled Beci got involved – she is an amazing woman who inspires us,” she added.
‘Piece of Gold’ will be among the songs featured in their performance at HebCelt, which will be “a mix of acoustic and electric songs and maybe a cover surprise with our signature harmonies at the forefront”.
Al continues: “We are so excited to visit gorgeous Stornoway. Alva has never been.
“Our fans in Scotland have told us the festival has a great vibe.
“Festivals are a wonderful way for us to reach new fans and to learn about new music ourselves.
“With so much music available today, it’s great that people still seek out festivals to find new artists.”
This year’s HebCelt will run from July 19-22 in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, and will be headlined by The Waterboys, Imelda May and Dougie MacLean.
Also on the bill are Lucy Spraggan, Peatbog Faeries, Between Islands, Ryan Young, Willie Campbell’s Dalma, Elephant Sessions, Skerryvore and many more.
For the full line up, to book tickets and for more information, visit www.hebceltfest.com.
Tickets are available for the main arena, An Lanntair, late night ceilidhs/clubs and the community events. HebCelt has again teamed up with Pitch Village to provide ticket and accommodation packages. Visit www pitchvillage.com/festivals/hebcelt for futher details.