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Moteh Parrot Q&A: 'I really struggle to write truly happy songs'

By Kyle Walker

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Moteh Parrott.
Moteh Parrott.

The Little Bird Coffee House in the Ironworks hosts its first live session on Wednesday, March 8. For its inaugural gig, Moteh Parrott – former frontman of the Red Kites – will be bringing his stripped back folk-rock to an intimate setting. He talks to Kyle Walker about how the gig came about, the challenges of going solo, and the songs that mean the most to him.

How did this Little Bird Session come about? And are you looking forward to playing such an intimate gig?

Moteh: “I was asked to play this gig by a local promoter, Steve Robertson, who asked if I’d like to headline the first session. Of course I said yes! I’m really looking forward to it. There’s something special about a show where people are there to share the intimacy of the songs, and you’re playing to a silent room. I think the cello will come across well through the stripped-back arrangements.”

Who will be joining up with you for the concert? And how do you decide which friends to gig with?

Moteh: “I’m playing with the very talented cellist, Kathleen Rollins-Mckie. We usually play with Kathy’s husband Marc on drums too, but we’re just playing as a duo for this one. These are the only two friends I’ve been playing with since I’ve returned to the Highlands. We’re looking for a bass player though!”

What’s been the big difference between performing as part of a band and performing under your own name?

Moteh: “My previous band, Red Kites, were a five-piece alternative rock band. With a larger line-up, there are loads of options for how to arrange tracks, and there are few limitations in terms of sound, especially using guitar pedals and keyboards/synths. So one of the major transitions has been going from that to a more stripped-back sound, and adjusting my performance accordingly.

“I think sometimes the limitations can be strengths though, allowing the songs to speak for themselves. Cello really compliments the tone of the music and lyrics, while the drums keep a more upbeat element.

“I’m enjoying using my own name; it frees me up to work with lots of people, as opposed to having to stick to the same line up.”

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

Moteh: “That’s a tough one! We had some awesome ones with Red Kites. Rockness and Belladrum 2012 really stand out, as do a lot of the band’s early gigs. More recently, our first gig with the new band at Belladrum 2016 was great! I hadn’t performed live in months, so to play to an appreciative festival crowd was a massive buzz. And then there was a gig I played as a session guitarist for my friend Alex Stamp in Tokyo back in 2013! That was a crazy weekend!”

What’s the nicest thing anybody’s said about your music? And what’s the most horrible thing?

Moteh: “A few of my songs are inspired by the life and death of my brother, Laurence, so to have people come up to me after a gig to tell me those songs really connected with them sort of completes the circle of creativity and is incredibly moving, especially when they’ve been through something similar.

“The most horrible thing, off the top of my head, was being told by an A&R guy from Universal that my voice wasn’t interesting. Luckily people have generally been very lovely though, but I really appreciate when someone is honest and gives constructive criticism.”

How would you describe your music to potential new fans?

Moteh: “Another tough one...alternative folk-rock? Although that says very little. There are elements of a slightly rockier Ben Howard or Bon Iver, although it’s difficult comparing it to other artists. My favourite review of Red Kites said we had a sound comparable with ‘a Highland wilderness, with all the sweeping colour and spirit which that encompasses’. I hope some of that still remains. Very poetic!”

What can people expect from your live shows?

Moteh: “My songs tend to be quite emotionally driven. I really struggle to write truly happy songs, although there is always a hopeful, positive message overall.

“I think more stripped-back gigs tend to expose the lyrics more, so this one will be very intimate. Our full band shows are rockier sounding and more energetic.”

If you could pick one of your songs for a complete newcomer to listen to, what would it be and why?

Moteh: “My new song Undertow is the most relevant at the moment, as it addresses the heartbreak a lot of people are feeling at the state of the world, without naming any names. I think people will relate with the message of the song right now. None of my solo music has been released yet, so you can only hear it live!

“If anyone would like to listen to Red Kites’ old music, a lot of it is available on YouTube and SoundCloud to stream. Beat in Time was written for my brother, and is the one most people seem to connect with.”

Moteh Parrott plays the Little Bird Coffee House on Wednesday, March 8. Doors open 7.30pm, tickets £7 (includes a hot drink). For more information or to book tickets, go to www.ironworksvenue.com

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