It says much for the individual talents of Kinnaris Quintet that their collective work was causing excitement before it was even heard.
From diverse geographical and musical backgrounds, they gravitated from playing with other outfits to forming their own band and finding their own sound.
While the five-piece is relatively new, their gigs regularly sell out and their success is set to continue with the release of their debut album in the summer.
“We've been musical pals for a long time, and all been fans of each other's styles of playing”, said Laura Wilkie, who plays alongside fellow fiddlers Fiona MacAskill and Aileen Gobbi, guitarist Jenn Butterworth and mandolin player Laura-Beth Salter.
“We got together a few times to play some tunes when we were all free from our other commitments and it became clear that we were all excited enough by the music to work it up to playing in front of an audience.
“Our styles all stem from various backgrounds of folk/roots music - Scottish/Irish/Bluegrass/Classical/Jazz/Country/Old-time music/Folk - but none of us grew up in the same musical ‘scene’ as such.
“We often surprise each other with the music we listened to outside the folk sub-genres through our formative years (and up to the present.) We all have fairly eclectic music tastes. It feels great to learn and draw inspiration from one-another in the band.”
The highly-accomplished players bring a wealth of experience to the collaboration, having performed with Shooglenifty, Fiddlers’ Bid, Niteworks, The Shee, Salsa Celtica, Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson Band, Dougie MacLean, Fat-Suit, Songs of Separation and Phil Cunningham, to name a few.
“It’s been so exciting and rewarding to blend our different styles to make our own sound”, said Laura. “We’re all still so excited by each other's styles and ideas that playing together is such fun.
“We’ve had the opportunity to play slots at festivals, before the release of any formal recording due to intrigue and respect as individual artists with individual styles.
“We've individually spent many years playing on other people's projects and fitting into specific roles. When we play our Kinnaris Quintet music, we feel a particular sense of pride and ownership over the music.”
The band will appear at next month's Hebridean Celtic Festival and in August release their debut album ‘Free One’, which is aimed at capturing their energetic live performances.
“We are really buzzing for HebCelt this year”, Laura admits. “This was the first festival to approach us after hearing us live for the first time. We’re all huge fans of the festival and are very honoured to have the opportunity to play this music at it this year. The line-up looks great too!
“Festivals can be a chance to gain a bigger audience, full of people who don't know anything about your playing. So it's a good challenge to try to grasp their attention and make them want to watch to your performance.”
“The release of our forthcoming debut album will hopefully further bolster our strength as a band and will give us a ‘benchmark’ of sorts to develop our sound from in the future.
“We decided to record it together in a live environment. We wanted to be able to perform the music live as closely as possible to the album, meaning focusing on the acoustic sound of our instruments and the energy we create as a group."
Traditional music has not escaped allegations of discrimination, with claims of a lack of female representation among musicians, problems with some venues booking female acts and a gender imbalance in awards nominations.
“We've all had separate experiences, good ones and bad ones”, recalls Laura. “Some of us have experienced differences in pay, in comparison to our male counterparts.
“Gender inequality is something experienced by people in every industry. We have to say that we do feel very supported in the folk scene by both male and female peers.
“We can't help but wonder why there seems to be so few professional, adult female instrumentalists in comparison to male, especially when it comes to back-line players (i.e. guitar, bass, drums).
“Melody instruments like fiddles and whistles seem to have a better balance of both male and female players, which hopefully means there are positive role models for everyone.
“Female representation on other instruments is slowly getting stronger, which will hopefully encourage, empower and inspire young women and men to play whatever they want to play.”
This year’s HebCelt runs from 18-21 July with headliners Deacon Blue, The Fratellis, Eddi Reader, Skipinnish and Roddy Woomble.
Day tickets for HebCelt are available exclusively from the festival website. See www.hebceltfest.com
The Hebridean Celtic Festival was crowned Best Cultural Event or Festival at the Scottish Thistle Awards in March and in January, it won a Highly Commended accolade at A Greener Festival Awards.
Last year it scooped the Festival of the Year award and the Grand Prix prize at the Scottish Event Awards and was also named 2017 Best Cultural Event or Festival in the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards for the second time in three years.
HebCelt is part of the Year of Young People 2018 Partner Programme