I grew up in the North of Edinburgh and was really lucky to have music and Gaelic culture in my life from a young age – my Dad played and taught 5-string banjo and mandolin, as well as being a Scots singer and a lover of Gaelic song and piping. I grew up listening to him play as well as listening to records by singers like Ishbel MacAskill and Cathy-Ann MacPhee. I went to the Gaelic-medium primary school in Edinburgh at the time, Tollcross, where I was encouraged into Gaelic singing by music teacher Gillian McLuskey (MacKenzie). Around the same time, I started learning classical violin through the Suzuki method with a hugely influential and enthusiastic teacher, Elizabeth Peploe, who also had a vast amount of respect for Shetland fiddle playing and Jazz. It was at her suggestion that at age 9 I take up traditional music with renowned fiddle player Gregor Borland, which gave me a fantastic grounding in Scottish music, and so I ended up having two fiddle lessons every week for a while – something I feel very privileged to have had. I also owe a lot to Fèis Rois, the Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin’ and Fèis Dhùn Èideann, where I received top-notch tuition – like so many others – during the school holidays.
A few years later, I started attending the RSAMD Junior Academy, where I was very fortunate to receive lessons from Sarah-Jane Summers, Lauren MacColl, Rua MacMillan and theory lessons from James Ross. It was around the same time that I was introduced to the vibrant Edinburgh session scene, and it was also around then that I began guitar accompaniment lessons with one of my inductors into the sessions, Tom Oakes, something that gave me a totally new take on playing music with other people.
At age 16, I moved up to Uist in order to study for an HNC in Music Performance with renowned tutor Anna-Wendy Stevenson at UHI. It was a fantastic place to live and study music, an experience I would recommend to anyone thinking of studying music. Whilst I was there, I developed a taste for Irish music, being drawn in by the intricate ornamentation and incredible improvised variation I heard on records by players like Tommy Peoples, Paddy Glackin and Cathal Hayden. Being in Uist also gave me the chance to meet other like-minded people, and I was lucky to share the experience with some amazing friends and players.
After a year in Uist, I decided to study for a Diploma in Gaelic Media from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (Scotland’s Gaelic college) in Skye, a place just as rich in music and culture, a year which I thoroughly enjoyed. Since then, I have been lucky enough to work as an apprentice for the Traditional Music Forum in a number of settings, as well as touring in Scotland, Switzerland, France and Austria with bands Canach, Manitoban, Huradal and various cèilidh bands.
Since leaving school, I’ve been very lucky to get involved in teaching, having taught at various workshops for Fèis Rois, Fèis Dhùn Èideann, Feis na h-Òigridh, Scots Music Group and Liniclate High School. I was also invited to adjudicate the 2014 Col. Jock Fiddle Competition in Portree.
More recently, I’m delighted to have been on a 6-week North American tour with The Paul McKenna Band, and asked to step in for a few gigs with Scots-song stalwarts Malinky, Radio 2 Young Folk Award Winners Talisk and exciting new band Tannara, as well as being a founder member of new band INYAL, and a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2016 competition.
More recently, I was delighted to be the inaugural winner of the 2017 Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Award at Blair Castle.
More info on the bands I’ve played with, or depped for, can be found here: