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26 years of living next door to Nessie proves the perfect inspiration for Smokie keyboard player Martin Bullard whose home overlooks Loch Ness

By Ian Duncan

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Martin Bullard at the Loch Ness Centre.
Martin Bullard at the Loch Ness Centre.

Martin Bullard is a relative newcomer to the rock band Smokie – he was asked to join them as the keyboard player in 1988.

The band had their first hit, If You Think You Know How To Love Me, in 1975 and have since sold more than 30 million CDs, records and albums.

Martin moved from Yorkshire to the Highlands 26 years ago after he and his New Zealand-born wife, Roz, visited the area and fell in love with it.

They settled in the village of Balnain, near Drumnadrochit, and when lockdown hit he used the time constructively to finish an album that had been in the works for some time.

He said: “Initially it was a shock not to be working after 33 years. I am one of the later members – I joined in the 80s and the first hit was in the 70s – but I’ve been very, very, lucky having that bit of spare time. It encouraged me to finish an album I started three years ago.”

The end result, Piano Room, has now been released and is available on Spotify.

Martin Bullard playing the bagpipes.
Martin Bullard playing the bagpipes.

Living in the Highlands was ideal for Martin’s creative process, offering plenty of opportunities for getting out and about as a way to get the creative juices flowing.

He said: “It’s been a really good time for me personally. There are some fantastic walks around here. If I need an idea I go for a walk.

“I don’t think there is anywhere else I’d rather be.

“We’ve been very lucky during lockdown because we could go for long walks. We both couldn’t work so what was there to do?

“Plenty of exercise – I’ve never been so fit.”

The 64-year-old musician is classically trained and carries portable recording equipment with him so that he can quickly preserve his ideas whenever they strike.

Martin Bullard playing keyboards.
Martin Bullard playing keyboards.

Since joining Smokie – taking the line-up from four to five memebers – he has performed for fans around the globe in a total of 35 countries at some major festivals.

Putting the band’s early success down to the good fortune of working with the production team of Chinn and Chapman – “They were the Stock, Aitken and Waterman of their day.” – as well as glam rock and country rock festivals the band’s broad appeal has also seen them on the bill of many an “oldies” show in Germany, alongside the likes of Suzi Quatro, The Searchers, and Dave Dee.

“The year after I joined we went straight to number one in Norway,” he said. “You can’t take away classic hits and people still want the 70s songs.”

When he is not touring with Smokie Martin likes to create his own music in what he describes as his “modestly proportioned studio” and is influenced by a range of sources – including Aboriginal, Latin and Eastern European.

He said: “But I mostly make music for pleasure.

“That’s how I started and that’s how I view the making of music even now.”

Visit: www.lochnesscomposer.com

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