Calum Stewart's Tales From The North
by Kyle Walker
UILLEANN piper Calum Stewart’s new album may be his first solo effort to feature primarily self-penned music – but whatever you do, don’t call him a composer.
“I’m definitely not a composer – I’ll write a few tunes now and again, but I don’t force it,” the musician said. “I really don’t force myself to write music.
“A lot of composers will force themselves to sit down and write music, but I can’t really do that – I have to wait until inspiration comes to me.
“Often there’ll be a wee tune or a wee melody or a couple of phrases for a tune in my head, and it might be there distilling for many days, many weeks – sometimes longer, sometimes many months, you know?”
Thankfully, myths and histories surrounding the north of Scotland proved to be just the inspiration that uilleann piper Calum Stewart needed for his new album.
Tales from the North sees Garmouth-born Calum draw upon the legends surrounding Inverness-shire, Moray, and the Cairngorms to weave his melodies – with a north of Scotland launch set for Eden Court on Saturday.
“I’ve got two main passions in life, I suppose,” he said. “One of them is music, of course, and the other one is history and the past – especially in the north of Scotland.
“So putting these two things together was quite an obvious thing to do really, I’ve been building up to do this for a long time.”
And the track list is a history lesson by itself for those unfamiliar with the stories and locales that surround the Scottish north – Randolph’s Leap, the Bell of Ardclach, and the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui are just some of the tales and locations that Calum drew inspiration from.
“The inspirations really helped the tunes to come out,” he said, “But reading up on these old tales, a lot of them aren’t taught in school so you have to go out of your way to find them. They’re not necessarily current knowledge, which is a shame.
“I’d come across a story, for example, about the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms. I’d read about that and just dwell on that for a few days, thinking about how cool that is – and then, sooner or later, a tune would play, show itself to me and come to the surface.
“It was pretty much as simple as that really – the stories themselves were inspiration enough.”