Rising star for festival

editorial image

THERE will be the chance to see one of the rising stars of the music world up close this month at the Girvan Traditional Folk Festival.

Singer-songwriter Ewan McLennan has been making headlines over the last year, performing at festivals, clubs, and concert halls across the country, and festival director Maggie MacRae is delighted he is appearing in Girvan this year.

BBC Radio 2’s Mike Harding has sang his praises saying he “sings beautifully, with great sincerity, great empathy, he’s terrific!”, while his classical-influenced folk guitar playing has been described as “stunning”.

His music combines traditional music from around Britain and beyond, with a particular focus on the music of Scotland, where he was brought up.

But Ewan retains a unique and compelling sound of his own in which traditional songs run parallel to his own earthy, self-penned songs.

Ewan, who will perform on all three days of the festival which begins on April 29, said he was exposed to a wide range of music and musical influences as he grew up in Edinburgh.

“I began listening more and more to what I guess could be described broadly as folk music – particularly American songs first of all, and most of all Bob Dylan,” explained Ewan.

“As well as being blown away by the strength and sensitivity of the music, I felt the power of the lyric too – a great many of those songs are as relevant and meaningful today as they were when they were written. Great songs can’t be dated.

“This led me on to a broader exploration of English-language folksong and created in me a fascination for how radical political and social themes were and can be expressed through song. But most of all, being immersed in song in this way just made me want to sing.

“Alongside this I took up classical guitar and formally studied it for some years.

“This training has quite strongly shaped my guitar technique, and I think the general rigour has also stuck with me and firmly influences my approach to playing, as well as my songwriting and interpretation of folk music today.

“After moving to Leeds some years ago, I became more and more involved with traditional music, with performing and singing, and more absorbed in particularly Scottish song - I guess distance makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

“I took up formal study that connected my three big passions – music, history, and social change – which in turn greatly inspired the music I was writing, interpreting, performing. I felt it was an incredible privilege for me to have the time to spend digging deep into the vast repertoire of industrial folksong and being able to write in depth about the role of folksong in the American and British labour and working-class movements.

“I gradually began to perform increasingly often, and began to enjoy it more and more as I did. After a year or so of kind and encouraging feedback from the venues and audiences I’d played to around the country, I decided to start performing, writing, and interpreting folk song in a professional capacity, basically an inflated way of saying it’s now my full-time job!

“Around the same time, I was signed to Fellside Records and recorded my first “proper” album – Rags & Robes.”