Published: 17/10/2014 13:25 - Updated: 17/10/2014 13:40

It's not a dog's life for hard touring John Wheeler

John Wheeler
John Wheeler

JOHN Wheeler would like a dog.

However, it does not look likely that the man better known in these parts as Hayseed Dixie frontman Barley Scotch is going to get a faithful friend any time soon.

Not with 150 shows a year on the Nashville born musician’s itinerary.

"You can’t do that to a dog — dogs are pack animals. I love dogs, that’s the thing!" Wheeler said.

The lack of canine company aside, Wheeler does not have too many complaints about his roving lifestyle and the chance to see different places and people.

He reckons this might just give him a better insight into what’s going on in the UK than most politicians have.

"I actually go out there and talk to people and see what’s bothering them," he pointed out.

Those travels take the now UK resident Wheeler back to Inverness on Sunday for what might be his first Highland appearance under his own name.

The fact that he is billed as John Wheeler rather than Hayseed Dixie’s Barley Scotch should not worry people that he has adopted some earnest navel-gazing folk singer persona.

"I don’t really do that — I don’t actually have a sensitive side," he said.

"Part of the reason I’m doing this is that the band has been going for 15 years and like any band that’s been going that long, you have to make room for new material.

"Every Hayseed Dixie show we do, someone always comes up and asks for a song we did five or six albums back and we just don’t have room to play them any more."

So Wheeler’s own shows, whether solo or with a percussionist, are the play to go to hear songs from his own back catalogue or other songs from last year’s solo album, Un-American Gothic, where he found a home for those songs that did not quite fit Hayseed Dixie.

"If you want to hear Highway to Hell, you might be better waiting for Hayseed Dixie because it sounds better with the fiddle and banjo," he cautioned.

"But having said that, we did do Ace of Spades lounge style a few shows back. We also merged Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls with Johnny Cash. It was a Prosecco night — half-way through, someone shouted out ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and someone else shouted ‘Johnny Cash’ and I wondered: ‘How would that work?’"

Hayseed Dixie have been regular visitors to the Highlands, although it has been a while since the band last played the Highlands and Wheeler is looking forward to a region that reminds him of home in both good and bad ways.

"If I drive around north of Inverness, the names of the towns are the surnames of people I went to grade school with," he said.

"I knew a bunch of guys named Cro-marty and stuff like that. You don’t see these names in the States outside of the South very much.

"There was one night I was playing the Isle of Lewis and sitting in a pub afterwards, passing the guitar around. I think it was a whisky night because I was getting into my fire and brimstone mode and started singing what we would call Church of Christ hymns — I found out later that the Church of Christ was started by these two brothers from Glasgow.

"I’m singing these songs that no-one in the States outside of the South would know and they’re singing along with me. They pull this hymnal out from behind the bar and say: ‘You’re singing the Free Church of Scotland hymnal, mate!’

"The connections you discover. I woke up the next day, Sunday morning, and the swings were chained together and I went: ‘Yep — they do that in the South!’"

• John Wheeler is at Mad Hatters at Hootananny, Inverness, on Sunday 19th October.

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