WHEN Achiltibuie musician Mairearad Green needed inspiration for her new album, she did not need to look far.
Just down to Loch Broom and the Summer Isles, the small archipelago at the mouth of the sea loch.
"Being from Achiltibuie, that’s a view that I’ve grown up with," said Green, who also runs Achiltibuie’s Scots Trad Award-winning Summer Isles Festival.
"I’ve always wanted to do more research on them, having heard bits of stories, and I was very fortunate to get some money from Creative Scotland. That allowed me to take time off touring last November and come home, so I was working every day, reading books, taking boat trips out to the islands or writing on the piano or accordion."
Although the tiny islands are now uninhabited, Green soon found much to inspire her, including Island Years, Island Farm, well known naturalist Frank Fraser Darling’s memoir of life on a croft on the largest of the islands, Tanera Mor, and some less well known books and writing about the island, as well as stories from neighbours and family.
"There is a real wealth of material there with the stories and the wildlife as well. Once you get started about that there’s too much. I’m sure I could probably do another album. But maybe not right this second," she said.
One new element for Green on Summer Isles, her second solo album, is the inclusion of songs.
Like her first album, Passing Places, Green initially saw Summer Isles as an instrumental project. However, when Jan Kilpatrick, a friend of Green’s mother, offered her lyrics from a writing course she ran on Tanera, Green decided it fitted so well that she had to use it and other songs.
Singing is becoming a more important element of Green’s musical life. Although well used to helping out vocally as a member of all female band The Poozies, it is only relatively recently that she has added songs to her live duo set with Black Isle multi-instrumentalist Anna Massie.
"I’m not a confident singer," she admitted.
"I just write whatever I want to and now I’m getting to the live gigs and thinking: Oh! I’ve got to sing this now! That’s why it was nice to get some guests involved so it wasn’t all me."
Those guests include Nairn fiddle player Mike Vass, singer Hector McInnes, bass player Ross Saunders, drummer Scott MacKay, Jo Nicolson on clarinet, Southern Tenant Folk Union’s Pat McGarvey on banjo, and Annie Grace, Jeana Leslie and Hamish Napier on backing vocals.
There is also another guest vocalist she initially hesitated to get in touch with, Kenny Anderson, better known as Fife singer-songwriter King Creosote.
"I knew his voice would be perfect for that song, Star of Hope, but I did put off asking him because I didn’t know him," she said.
"Then eventually I needed to get someone because it was getting late in the day and I asked a friend for his email address and straightaway he got back to me and was totally up for it. He’s really brought that song to a new level."
After the excitement of launching her new solo album, Green will just have a few days to prepare for her final tour with The Poozies in March.
Both she and lead vocalist Sally Barker, a runner-up in BBC talent show The Voice, will be making their final appearances with the band.
"I’ve moved back to Ullapool and I just wanted a less stressful life. It’s pretty exhausting being on the road all the time," Green explained.
"I had to cut back and unfortunately that meant losing The Poozies. But I had a brilliant eight years with them. It’s sad that it’s come to an end, but I’m looking forward to my new start in Ullapool as well."
• Mairearad Green’s album Summer Isles is released on Friday February 26 and it will be launched with a solo set at the Music Station, Church Street, Inverness, at 3pm, with a further performance at Coda Music in Edinburgh on Saturday 27.
The album’s release is also being marked by the release of a new set of stamps from Tanera Mòr Post Office on the Summer Isles.