Saying “auf wiedersehen” to Inverness will be the hardest words for James Mackenzie, after a recent tour of Germany inspired him to commit to a life-changing permanent move to the country – and not just because it’s his hometown.
“My German is VERY minimal!” the singer-songwriter laughed. “But, if I get a job in a bar and/or meet some people, I have no worries about picking it up.”
For James, this move marks a new chapter in his musical career – one that has seen highlights across the Highlands and beyond.
Named among MFR’s Ones to Watch in 2015, over the last few years the singer-songwriter has played the main stage of Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, released an EP (Winter), supported Celtic rock legends Runrig on their UK tour, playing alongside long-time collaborator and keyboardist Chris Gorman, as well as the aforementioned tour of Germany.
But James is still looking for a fresh start. “I think I'm always feeling restless and never quite happy to settle with what I have, so I think Berlin will be good for me. It's new, it's exciting and it's huge!
“It was definitely the tour that inspired me to move. The tour had been booked for a while – six months before – so it gave me time to think about my plans. I just needed to set a date!”
And the response that he and Chris got on tour didn’t hurt matters either. “The tour was brilliant. Every show was different and the crowd loved it – I sold all my merch and gained some new fans in Bavaria and the south.
“The most interesting thing was a small group of fans decided to set up a ‘Mackenzie/Gorman’ appreciation fan club. Very humbled indeed – and slightly freaked out!
But before he departs, James has one final gig to send him off, an afternoon session at his favourite watering hole – city venue The Market Bar. “I wanted to say goodbye to my friends in the most apt way possible,” James said. “Drinking and playing music in my favourite pub!
“It's a fantastic pub that has had a huge effect on why the Highland music scene is so vibrant today. [Promoter] Shirley has been booking music there for years, and has never turned me away when I'm looking to play a show.”
He won’t be away for long though. “We’ll be playing at Jocktoberfest – how fitting – on the Saturday,” he reveals, “then hitting the stage at Mad Hatters on the same night.
“Then Chris and I will be taking to the Market Bar stage on the Sunday and we'll be playing the same set we did on the Germany tour!”
Until then though, as he prepares to jet off to the continent, he has one final message for the hometown he’s leaving behind. “Support your local bands and slàinte mhath!”
James Mackenzie’s farewell gig is at The Market Bar on Sunday from 3pm.