6 days over 6 months, 2070miles driven from Inverness to Glasgow and that was Till recorded, mixed, mastered and ready for release in early 2017! Of course it took many years of preparation and procrastination before I eventually got to the recording stage, but I can say that without doubt it has been such an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
I’m sure it was around 2010 when I first started thinking about recording another solo album. I was still with Dàimh, we had just finished recording Diversions and I had started collecting a good number of songs. I thought then it was maybe time to start thinking about a new solo record.
Then of course, a change of job, getting married and having two children meant a small delay in the process but I have no doubt that it actually allowed me more time to collect the songs I wanted to record, write some new music and to be comfortable and ready to head for the studio.
So then came 2016, with Donald Shaw (Capercaillie) on board to produce the album and my good friend from Dàimh, Ross Martin ready with his guitar, we made for the studio in early June.
First up was a day’s rehearsal with Donald in Glasgow. We had been back and fore on email with dodgy mp3 recordings, but it gave him a gist of the material I had and what I was aiming for with the album. It was a day of blistering heat and probably the best we had in 2016. (I started recording at around 26°C in June and finished up at around -4°C in December). Anyway – the first run through was great, we got through the first batch of songs and they began to take shape nicely.
Then it was into the studio for Day 1, with Ross recording guitar, Donald on piano and myself focusing on the first four songs. Heads down and off we went. We recorded at Gorbals Sound Studio with engineer Kevin Burleigh. A fantastic space to record and one I would recommend to anyone. Kevin is a fantastic engineer and worked really well with Donald to set it all up and from Day 1, I felt more relaxed than I ever had in previous recordings. A great start and driving up the road to Inverness I was beaming – finally started and all had gone smoothly!
Between June and December 2016, I made 6 trips down to Glasgow to record Till. During these recording sessions, I had the chance to invite some of the finest musicians in to take part in the making of the album. First in, was James Mackintosh (Shooglenifty) on percussion and a fellow Leòdhasach James Mackenzie (Breabach) on flute and whistles. Rising star, and I can call him a fellow Leòdhasach too, Innes White was next in to record some guitar and mandolin. Donald had written beautiful string arrangements for two of the songs (Thug iad a Thung thu and Fil o ro) and it was a real honour to have Robert Irvine (Cello) and Greg Lawson (Violin) in the studio and it added something really special to these beautiful Gaelic songs. Manus Lunny (Capercaillie) contributed bouzouki to some of the tracks and Sorren Maclean added some electric guitar to the waulking song, ‘Mo nighean donn’. Jim Murray, who I first met at the Blas Festival in 2005, was able to add some beautiful guitar playing to Fil o ro and he completed the cast of instrumentalists. On backing vocals were two of my favourite singers and long-time friends Julie Fowlis and James Graham.
Next up, was the mixing and mastering which was done by the excellent Iain Hutchison at Glo-Worm studios. Then it was time to decide on the name and artwork – piece of cake….!
There were a number of working titles but none of them really worked and seem pretty ridiculous when I think about it now. The album is made up entirely of songs and music that have a connection with my native Point on the Isle of Lewis. From sitting down with my father and learning songs from him, listening to Tobar an Dualchais and the BBC’s Bliadhna nan Òran and researching songs from within the local community, the whole album is linked to being back at home in Point, so one day the name Till, which is the Gaelic word for return, came to me and seemed to tie in well with everything. It was then I decided that I would like to have the image of Point on the cover. Harris Tweed has been a huge part of my life, with my father having been a weaver for nearly 60 years and my wife running her own business @weenorrag making Harris Tweed products. I came up with idea of combining both their talents and the cover was created by Angela in late December using tweeds made by dad earlier in 2016. Designer, James, at Whisky and Milk then brought everything together in no time at all and I am absolutely delighted with how it all turned out!