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Highland musician James Mackenzie returns for the first time since Covid with some Scottish dates including Inverness and Thurso showcasing his debut album The Honeymoon

By Margaret Chrystall

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A familiar face will be heading home for the first gig in a long time on Saturday when singer songwriter James Mackenzie plays the Tooth & Claw with songs from his debut album.

James has been based in Germany for the past few years.

James Mackenzie The Honeymoon. Picture: Alex Reibrich
James Mackenzie The Honeymoon. Picture: Alex Reibrich

And with Covid and lockdowns, it has been a while since he has made it over from his home in Nuremberg in Bavaria to share his latest music with Inverness and Thurso.

“This has been the first tour I have played in four or five years and it’s the first time I will have been over since I released the album,” James said a few days before returning for a mini-tour which will also take in Leith, Largo and Pitlochry.

“It will be a whole new set I will be playing which is a nice change for people who have seen me quite a lot!” he laughed.

Having had his debut album recorded with his five-piece band in Germany just as Covid shut everything down, it was almost exactly this time last year that James started promoting the album which he had released as planned.

“The promotion had been on the backburner because everyone was doing music and it wasn’t a good time to be promoting music. Live stuff wasn’t happening and people were being overwhelmed with Facebook live sessions and bands doing online stuff.

“But I released it anyway because I had it ready and I had a plan and I wanted to get it out,” James laughed. “But since this year started and things have started to open up again I’ve been promoting it.

“It has been out for about a year, but if anybody says they haven’t heard it yet, it’s understandable!”

It fulfills a long-term goal of James’s.

“I’ve always wanted to release an album though I know that unsigned musicians don’t release albums, you just release music and it goes online, usually.

“But I really wanted to do it, so I started a crowdfunding campaign and raised £10,000 to record the album and have it ready, which was fantastic.

“I worked with a producer from Texas who is with a band that I like very much and I went over to Texas to do what you would call the pre-production. There was some writing involved and in February 2020, just before the pandemic, he and the engineer came over and we recorded it in Nuremberg in one week.

“It is also on vinyl, I decided that one of the deals I wanted to do with the crowdfunding meant that people who pledged a certain amount of money would get vinyl.

“And then of course Brexit happened so everybody that bought the vinyl in the UK had to add another £20 on top for delivery!”

James had had to put his planned wedding on hold – despite changing the date twice – but it will happen now in September.

James Mackenzie returns for Scottish dates including Inverness and Thurso.
James Mackenzie returns for Scottish dates including Inverness and Thurso.

He has called the album The Honeymoon.

“A honeymoon is shortlived but you remember it forever,” he explained.

He is hoping he will see family and friends and musical colleagues he knew when he was part of Highland music life at his gigs.

“There might be people who come along curious to see if I have progressed musically or if my voice has improved and stuff like that, and that’s what I like about it.

“I think that is the whole reason that you learn new songs and learn your craft so that when you play to these people again they are not hearing the same thing again that they heard from you a few years ago.

“I feel I want to turn up and show I have been doing stuff all this time – maybe my playing is a little bit better, or my songs. I am a bit of a self-critic and I know that a lot of the people who go to gigs in Inverness are musicians.

“It’s not about impressing these people or so much about getting respect from them, more like you want them to know that you appreciate they are there! You can play to your fans and they can sing along and support you. But it would be nice to see faces from other bands there as if you are giving a nod of approval to each other. They are your peers and you respect them and it’s that level of appreciation. You’re aware of each other throughout your music career.

“You will see someone coming in, just see their head at the corner of the bar. And you know they might be popping in to see what kind of guitar you’ve got now or what pedal – and that makes it more fun.”

James will play with Hospital Corner and Daniel Gunn at both Tooth & Claw, Inverness, on Saturday, and Mr Cs, Thurso, on Sunday.

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