Julie Fowlis - Interview

You’re no stranger to awards. What’s been your biggest achievement?

Remembering the words to three songs at a charity concert, a couple of weeks after having had my first baby!

Scotland’s Gaelic Ambassador?
That’s got a nice ring to it...

It was such a great honour to be Scotland’s first Gaelic Ambassador - or Tosgaire na Gàidhlig in 2008. It was unexpected and I did not feel deserving of the title! But I am always happy to try and promote Gaelic wherever possible through my musical performances and interviews.

We heard a rumour that you used to sing rude nursery rhymes when you were little...?

I’m afraid my first songs were rude nursery rhymes my father taught me - but we’ll not go into that! I am told I was a noisy
little character and I sang when I was tiny. We were really lucky to have teachers in school who taught us fantastic Gaelic songs, so I suppose my love for music started before I can remember.

What inspires you?

The communities I was brought up in and now live in, and the physical
environment that surrounds us in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Plus of course, the fantastic musicians and singers that I’m lucky enough to collaborate with through the course of my work - but most especially my husband Éamon Doorley.

Ah yes, he’s in your band...
Perfect marital bliss or the
occasional creative tiff?

[Laughs] Well I have to say, we’re pretty well-matched - I think! We do get on
incredibly well for a couple who spend 24 hours a day together. We do of course have
differing opinions on things, music included, but I think that’s healthy.

We read one review that called your music “life-affirming”. How do you
describe your style?

Mmm...that’s nice. I’d say it’s traditional,
Highland, Gaelic, acoustic...

The Scottish highlands - a certain kind of magic?

I think in so many ways this part of Scotland is very different. Historically it’s always had it’s own identity and even now I find a
difference in people’s mind set and
attitude. Of course, the physical geography is markedly different also, which makes the landscape very striking.

So you’re definitely a true
Scottish lass...?

The music that belongs to this area is definitely the music I feel closest to, and this forms the basis of my material and sound.

Any heros or heroines?

I’m greatly influenced by traditional singers and musicians from the Highlands and Islands, many of whom you wouldn’t hear of on mainstream radio or television.

That said, I am a huge fan of many of the iconic female singer songwriters from the 60’s to the present day.

We hear you’re a James Taylor fan...?

It was a real thrill to sing with James on the Transatlantic Sessions TV series last year - I’m a big fan! I really enjoy the element of collaboration, it’s one of my most favourite things to do - I have sung and toured with the likes of Le Vent du Nord from Quebec, Nicola Benedetti, Runrig, and Bill Whelan (Riverdance). Earlier this year I was involved in a show which celebrated the work of Joni Mitchell, and I found that a really inspiring experience.

You’re a bit of an old-hand at TV these days, aren’t you...?

I suppose so! I kind of fell into TV and Radio presenting by accident. But, yes - I have presented now for BBC ALBA, SKY ARTS and BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4 plus BBC Scotland. Most recently, I co-presented a programme called Port which was aired in both the UK and Ireland and looked at regional styles in both Scotland and Ireland.

What makes you proud?

My two daughters.

You recently completed a Masters degree – how on earth do you fit
everything in?

With great difficulty sometimes! I am really drawn to research and academic work though, although I do find it challenging to fit in to a busy working and family life sometimes.

Any best mates in the Celtic world?

Loads of best mates! It’s such a small circle and most folk are a brilliant craic.

Ever dreamt of being a rocket
scientist – or an archeologist?

No, if I wasn’t a musician I’d pursue my other loves - so something that involved languages or sports/outdoor pursuits.

So Julie, where do you go from here?

To make a cup of coffee :)