Burnsong starts next week. I’ll be spending a week working with Chris Blanden and ten songwriters at a remote Scottish farmhouse in Dumfries (with resident llamas!), followed by a gig at the Scottish Parliament on 30th Nov, which is to be broadcast by the BBC. It’s a daunting thought that the songs we’re going to play haven’t actually been written yet but there’s something energising about rehearsing a band set at this speed!
The winners have been identified, and we’ve heard the initial songs (i.e. the ones written before the event). Here’s a list of the people we’ll be working with.
Fiona J Mackenzie
The first Gaelic speaking winner of Burnsong, Fiona J Mackenzie is a native of Morayshire, lives in Dingwall and is well known as a Scottish Gaelic singer and teacher. In 2004 Fiona was nominated and won the BBC Scotland Traditional Music Personality of the year. Well known for pushing the boundaries of Gaelic song, she is unafraid of experimenting with styles and genres as well as being passionate about her desire to make the learning of Gaelic language & song as accessible to as many people as possible.
Andy Tucker is an Edinburgh-born singer/songwriter. Formerly of The Dead Beat Club Andy is now singing with The Scattered Family – a broad musical collective of musicians from all over Scotland. Over the last few years, Andy has shared a bill with the likes of The Beautiful South, Seasick Steve, Angus & Julia Stone, Ian McNabb, Kim Edgar, Karine Polwart and Martin Stephenson playing everywhere from Portmahomack to New York’s east village.
Singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon is among the best and brightest emerging talent currently from Scotland. She has recently received national radio support and is winning over many new fans with her strong, creative melodies, demonstrating a voice that can be both fragile and intense. Yvonne has consistently drawn and stirred crowds across the UK with her emotive performances.
Scots-Italian Roberto Cassani sings his stories with lots of humor and a curious Scottish-Italian accent. Roberto is a in parts bit poet, a bit troubadour, a bit of circus clown. A superb songwriter and a master entertainer, Roberto Cassani is cheering up audiences nationally and internationally, as well as getting radio play and featuring in some of the most prestigious festivals around.
A previous Burnsong winner in 2005, Alex has gone on to perform as far afield as South Africa and Malaysia. He also regularly performs at cultural events around Scotland. Alex Hodgson lives in Prestonpans with his wife Isobelle and two children. By day, Alex is a technician at Preston Lodge High School.
Nuala Kennedy and Ziggy Campbell
Nuala and Ziggy met in the Burnsong Songhouse in Nov 2007. They immediately struck up an affinity and wrote several tunes together during their tenure. This year they have played incendiary sets at the Edinburgh Art Festival and at the Big Tent Festival in Fife. Nuala also accompanied Ziggy in a sell out performance playing alongside his latest BAFTA nominated sound installation, Cybraphon. Both have their own busy gigging schedule with their own acts but continue to write and play together.
Lisa was born in England in 1974 and moved to Scotland when she was 8 years old. With family roots that are an Afro-Caribbean-Celtic, she describes herself as “ A Scot of the world!” Lisa is currently part of Edinburgh band Townhouse, that was picked as a finalist of Radio Forth’s Forth One to Watch competition this year. Lisa was also a previous Burnsong finalist in 2007.
Marie Claire Lee
Glasgow based songwriter Marie Claire Lee has supported among others the likes of Mercury prizewinner Julie Feeney, world-renowned Ojos de Brujo and, more recently, rising stars Mr Kil. Marie Claire currently plays with The Lotus Project and Engine7. Recent gigs include The Edinburgh Fringe Festival Mannifest Festival (Isle of Man) and a live session on BBC Scotland Radio Vic Galloway Late Live show.
A. J. Roach was raised Scott County, Virginia. The relentless touring and recording schedule that A. J. has kept since 2003 has paid off. In 2004, he was the General Category recipient of the Chris Austin Songwriting Award at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, NC. In 2006 his sophomore full-length album reached the number 1 spot on the Euro-Americana Music Chart. In 2007 his song, ‘Black Lung’ was included on a compilation album that was thrice nominated for Grammy Awards by the Recording Academy, and in 2009 A. J. was selected as an Emerging Artist at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. A. J. currently lives in Brooklyn, NY where he is working on his third full-length album.
Emily Elbert joins Anthony as another of the first winners of the Burnsong International Song Contest. Raised in Texas on a musical diet of Antonio Carlos Jobim, James Taylor and oldies radio, 20 -year old Emily has a passionate, self-taught approach to her song writing. Emily has toured extensively throughout the United States, opening for artists ranging from G. Love & Special Sauce to Richie Havens. She is currently a student of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.