Published: 13/10/2014 14:16 - Updated: 13/10/2014 14:33

Gael force helps Willie go down a storm

Written byCalum Macleod

Willie Campbell
Willie Campbell

WILLIE Campbell knows what it is like to appear in the Mod.

"Oh, I have Mod memories," he smiled.

"The first one is of my knees literally knocking together, seven years old in the Town Hall in Stornoway. I’ve never been so terrified in my life.

"I did three competitions as a kid and then, as far as I was concerned, that was me and the Mod finished."

Which is why the Lewis-born singer and songwriter will not be found among the 3000 plus entrants in the official Royal National Mod when it makes its return to Inverness this weekend.

However, he will be busy on the Mod Fringe, the biggest in the competition’s history, with a run of dates on the Fringe’s Pub Music Trail, but more significantly his own headline show at The Ironworks with his band The Open Day Rotation where they will perform all of his only Gaelic album — to date at least — Dalma.

Recording an album in Gaelic was something Campbell, a self-confessed "lapsed Gaelic speaker", would never have dreamed of when he first dreamt of starting a band.

"It was everything I wanted to get away from," he said.

Influenced more by his dad’s 1960s music tapes he would listen in the car and more contemporary bands, after moving to the mainland Campbell joined childhood pals Charlie Clark and Gareth Russell in forming the band Astrid in the mid 1990s.

Although Astrid called it a day a decade ago, Campbell has continued to purse music first with the band Our Small Capital and then more recently with The Open Day Rotation.

However, his unexpected detour into Gaelic came when he was invited to appear at the Ceòl ‘s Craic Gaelic arts club in Gaelic alongside fellow Lewis singer Calum Martin.

The pairing proved such a success that the two decided to keep up the partnership, resulting in the recording of Dalma.

Relying on Martin to keep the Gaelic on track, Campbell wrote the songs first in English with Martin translating them into Gaelic.

The result, released in March, has been widely praised by both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers alike and far from narrowing his fan base, the experiment seems to have brought him new fans and new exposure.

"One of the nicest things people have said is that the sound of my voice singing in Gaelic was part of the attraction," Campbell added.

"Definitely Gaelic is something I’m going to do again. I’m just in two minds about whether I keep them separate or do a mixture of English and Gaelic."

And that second album, like Dalma, is likely to be different from most of the music associated with Gaelic.

"To be honest, it’s not really my world," he said.

"What marks this out is that it’s not coming from a traditional background. This is more of a Teenage Fanclub/REM sound, it just happens to be sung in Gaelic."

Campbell will be appearing solo in his other Mod Fringe appearances in Inverness, but The Ironworks date sees him backed by The Open Day Rotation in its full nine-piece glory,

"I’m really looking forward to it," he said.

"I’ve played there solo, but not with the band. The stage is nice and big and you have really good sound engineers. You know you are in safe hands."

Willie Campbell and The Open Day Rotation perform his album Dalma at The Ironworks on Wednesday 15th October.

Campbell can also be seen performing solo on the Mod Fringe Pub Music Trail at The Gellions on Tuesday 14th and The Eagle Bar on Thursday 16th.

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