Nae Plans with Adam Sutherland and Hamish Napier play the Stratherrick Village Hall at Gorthleck tomorrow (Saturday, September 23) with their philosophy of not planning what they will play beforehand to keep things spontaneous. Below Adam talks about that and what else he has been doing with future plans including an album of tunes that came to him in ... dreams.
Q Hi Adam what have you and Hamish been up with Nae Plans since we last spoke – I know you have a date at your “home gig” in the Stratherrick Village Hall tonight (Friday, Sept 22)
ADAM: We’re doing our annual autumn tour and our second and final leg of that and continuing with the theme of no prior discussion of the music and we’re going to a few different venues – and very happy to be going to the Statherrick Village Hall.
Q To me it sounds terrifying but probably exhilarating if you are musicians as accomplished as yourself and Hamish. Is it like someone pushing you off the top of a mountain when you’ve got one ski on and you just have to find your way down?
ADAM: There are a few different analogies, first of all it’s terrifying and I’m not totally sure if it’s good for the mental health. It’s exciting, though, and I think musicians do something interesting often when they are backed into a corner.
So perhaps skiing down a mountain blindfolded! Or riding a bike and closing your eyes and taking your hands off the handlebars? I don’t know that kind of thing.
I’ve been very busy in my career playing pre-arranged sets and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are lots of good things about it. But I also like to have the spontaneity thing as much as possible too. This format is certainly encouraging that and a bit of fear and insecurity can hopefully bring out some interesting musical things.
Q Neither of you has dashed from the room not to be seen again for the rest of the night, so far, then?
ADAM: No one has run away yet, but quite often the desire or impulse of flight or flight has come in.
I don’t know about Hamish but I get quite anxious and nervous beforehand, but once you are sat down on the stage, it’s OK. And we’re lucky that the audiences so far have been receptive to it. Usually we explain to audiences’s and say that ‘s fine and that gives us a bit of breathing room and we choose a tune.
We dress the stage up like a living room for increasing our set design the reason we do that is to amplify the idea we’re projecting which is that it is almost like a house and that people have come around for a wee ceilidh and we like to try and play music as if it was a house party and a few folk are sitting by the fire and saying ‘Give us a tune!’. when you are in that environment and you are in a house party and there are a couple of folk playing and there are guests in on couches with a glass of wine and maybe some bombay mix, there’s more of an interesting musical dialogue. There’s something great about traditional music in a home setting so we’re trying to get that across.
Q Adam – I think you are off to teach at Stringmania in Australia soon?
ADAM: That’s next week! My musical life is divided into three – performing, writing and teaching. I have been really stepping that up over the last three years or so and I have my own fiddle school and it has been really good fun. I was teaching at the Gaelic college at Sabhal Mor Ostaig and ran my first five-day course of my own. And that was really exciting because I used to go to the Gaelic College when I was a child. Alasdair Fraser’s now legendary fiddle school started in the late 80s and I went with my father to the second or third of those and a class of about 15 or 20 people. It has now expanded and is 30 years old and is huge. But back then we went at the very inception of it and it was a hugely formative experience for me under his incredibly inspirational tuition. So to go back to exactly the same building and teach there had a lot of personal meaning for me.
It was like teaching in a childhood memory – a very fond one.
I’m going to teach at Stringmania in australia near Melbourne leaving on September 28 and looking forward to that and I’m working with the Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers for a week after that. I’m heading out there with a guitar player from Ullapool Michael Bryan and just keeping the teaching thing going. It’s all go really!
Q What is Hamish is up to at the moment?
ADAM: He has just moved back to the Highlands – back to Grantown on Spey where he is from, right by the river. He has all sorts of interesting projects going on – he’s working his second album of his own material. The first one was called The River and he is working on his second one The Railway, due for release very soon.
Hamish is also highly in demand – one of the things he’s doing is playing with Duncan Chisholm.
Q How is your Errogie Collection Vol 1 tune book going – with globally popular tune The Road To Errogie –have you planned a Vol 2 yet?
ADAM: I do know where my books are going, and as for the tune, someone gets in touch roughly once a month sending me an email asking if they can record it. I just got an email from someone in France the other day. And I was in Australia earlier this year teaching alongside former Feis Rois students with Marc Clement and I was in a pub session at a place called Portarlington where the National Celtic Music Festival of Australia is.
And there were folk there playing the tune in the pub there which is always strange – you think ‘Oh, I wrote that!’.
But with my own writing, I’m working on a new album which is due to launch at Celtic Connections in January next year. It will be my second solo album of entirely my own tunes.
It’s going to be an album of tunes most of which have come to me in my sleep.
I started dreaming little bits of melody and what happened was you know when you are almost awake and you are having that intense dreaming.
Last year I was dreaming and then I realised there was a melody in the dream – and that I was dreaming.
I thought ‘I’m dreaming, but what’s that tune?’.
So I woke myself up and wondered if the tune was still there – and it was! It wasn’t a completed melody but the most important part, the opening couple of phrases.
And the music doesn’t sound like anything I’ve written before. So when I got up, I wrote the rest of the tune there and then.
Then it started happening a lot and the more it happened the more used I got to it happening. And it ended up that every night for a while I was singing into my phone – and that was testing of the patience of my girlfriend!
And she had to get up early in the morning so I started sneaking through to the next room and getting the mandolin out and recording it into my mobile phone!
The majority of the tunes on the album have come out that way.
So my writing has taken a bit of an other-worldly twist! It’s almost as if the tunes have come from some other place so I might call it Some Other Land.
Q What future plans have you and Hamish got that you can talk about?
ADAM: I might be going to teach in New Zealand next year. and I won’t just be performing the Cd tracks but I’m relaunching the band which performed on my last CD and adding two folk to it. So I’ll really be going for it next year and trying to get as many festivals as I can. I’ve added John Somerville on accordion and Hamish is doing keyboards with Marc Clement on guitar, Iain Copeland on drums and John Spiers on bass.
I’ll be back in the Highlands to play Eden Court with Session A9 on Wednesday, October 25.
And sooner than that, Hamish will be performing The River next Friday, September 29 at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow.
Nae Plans play the Stratherrick Village Hall at Gorthleck tomorrow (Saturday, September 23) from 8pm.