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New music careers setting sail at King Tut's

I work for CalMac's communications company. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the final of CalMac Cultures, and backstage access. So here's what happened on the night, and a little introduction to our winners.

I arrived at King Tut's in Glasgow and made my way up the stairs into a packed room in time for the end of Old Bohemia's haunting tones. They were playing the second set in the final of the CalMac music competition. Eight original singer/songwriters were playing to win a slot at the Hebridean Celtic Festival and one at the Tiree Music Festival.

The line up for the final was:

8:45 Robin Crosbie

9:00 Old Bohemia

9:15 Angela Dunn

9:30 Freya Giles

9:45 50 Shades of Blue

10:00 Davie Nicol

10:15 Sophie Rogers

10:30 Leanne Smith


The room's packed and there's a great atmosphere, which stills to quiet for Angela Dunn's first song. It's beautiful. But the room is soon full of clapping and cheers again, for her cheery folk song Homeward Bound to Islay. Frey a Giles walks on stage with an endearing hint of nerves. She describes the room during her sound check as a 'wee guitar heaven.' Her voice has a beautiful soulful tone mixed with haunting wisps. I feel a bit like I'm in pain with her.

50 Shades of Blue are based in Glasgow, and they've brought a few friends to the room - one even has a sign! Ahh, a bit of liveliness! It's hard not to tap your foot to this one. And I'm slightly loving the mini drum kit! These guys have done this before.


In the 15-minute set break I make my way from the floor up to the green room to chat to a few of the acts. The green room here is actually purple, with a couple of couches and a small table. And guitars. Lots and lots of guitars - everywhere!


I spot Freya and Angela first. They don't seem the least bit surprised by this random with a notebook walking in and firing questions at them! Gradually the acts come and go; a bundle of nerves before they go on, replaced by euphoric relief and adrenaline after their slot. I nabbed each of them for a few minutes.



Having fun?

It's been a great day, a brilliant atmosphere.

How did you find out about the competition?

My mother's friend found a flyer.

How did you write the song you chose to enter with?

I wrote a new song for the competition. You know, Time is of the Essence is a different approach. It was interesting writing in a different way; it felt "honest" just listening to your gut and going for it. I find it easier to write sadder songs and wanted to make a happy song - I think I got halfway there!

Where are you from?

I'm from Fife - Rosyth originally, and moved to Glasgow a few years a go.

Have you travelled to many of the islands? Got a favourite?

I'd love to explore more of the islands. I've been to Islay and Skye so far.

My ideal would be to spend my time going from one boutique festival to the next all the time and for it to never end, as that is where I am happiest. They're a city of community spirit.


Sophie was just about to go on stage when I was chatting with Angela.

"I just want to be on the stage! It's the waiting that difficult!" she said. She was as excited as she was nervous.

"I've loved today - there's a real family atmosphere - like we're all new friends."

After her performance, I caught her on the way back up: "It felt great! Nerve racking beforehand, but once you get out there you just do your thing!"



How did you find out about the competition?

My Boss gets the CalMac Newsletter and he saw it there.

How did you write the song you chose to enter with?

You'll never guess - I actually wrote the song on top of Hebridean Isles CalMac Ferry! Sat on the deck with my guitar. I'm an Islay girl - it's so much of me and singing my song makes me feel so patriotic to my little island!

I've been writing music for about 15 years but only really found my voice within the last 6 months. My son entered me for The Voice and each stage I got through was such a huge confidence boost.

I feed off of the enjoyment of the audience but saying that tonight is only the second time my mum and brother have heard me.

Islay music just fantastic. The scene on Jura is also great - you can just walk into a pub and there are a few guys, you just pick up a guitar and start singing - everyone just joins in!

I'm calling myself "Granny CalMac!" I'm the oldest here by far!

(I should point out she's only 45 and I maintained Mummy CalMac was probably more fitting.)

She replied 'Oh but I've signed all the posters as Granny CalMac now!'


Old Bohemia - Otis and Marie

Did you know Peacock feathers are bad luck?

Neither did Old Bohemia but as soon as they found out the peacock feather in Otis's hat was soon removed. It was the talk of the green room!

Otis and Marie only started performing together in February this year.

They were both playing at the Wickerman festival separately. But they met each other and fell in love - Ahhh.

They spend a lot of time just making music, in their house with their two cats (and a third on the way) and are always trying new things.

They tell me they take everything they love about music and create something new.

They don't want to fit into a genre - "it's not like you choose to write what you do. It's what you love and feel that just spills out."


How did you find out about the competition?

Saw ad on Gumtree

Have you been to many islands?

Not yet been to any of the islands but spend a lot of time in Oban.

HebCelt and Tiree both look fantastic. There's such a unique magic about them.

We play the open mic @ Pivo on a Monday night (check it on Facebook).

How was tonight for you?

Going out there was Terrifying! We were nervous before but when on stage it all felt great. We feel like we've made lots of new friends here today!


Davy Nichol

How did you hear about the competition?

Woke up one morning and looked at Facebook (it seems to be the first thing you do these days) and saw the post about it.

I'd made a video before so thought it was worth a shot.

Have you been to many of the Scottish islands?

I'm from Gourock and I've spent time on lots of the islands. I've cycled the Outer Hebrides - the weather was not so nice but the scenery more than made up for it.

How did you enjoy the final?

It was nerve racking going out there. I was nervous of the audience - some I knew, most I didn't!  But as soon as I started to play I relaxed into it and enjoyed it.



Leanne was last on the bill. She was a bundle of nerves and very quiet. Until she got her guitar in front of her!

How did you find out about the competition?

A friend's gran passed on the information, so it's all thanks to her I'm here I guess!

How do you write your music?

I write a lot of music and love to share my songs. I study music and they go through with us the ways of getting noticed - gigging, setting up a YouTube, open mic nights etc. So for the past couple years I've been looking for opportunities.

Are you looking forward to your performance?

I'm very nervous, trying to keep my cool! I've never played here before so I'm very nervous. But I'm so excited.


I caught up with her again after her performance and asked her how it went.


For my first first song I was really nervous!

Everyone in audience was really supportive. I loved it.


50 shades of blue - LJ and Mark.

They started gigging 14 months ago, and started doing open mics and entering songwriting competitions. LJ says: "Our boys are grown up now so we've an old caravan we found and go round in it playing music. Mark is so bold - he just goes right up to the managers and says 'Like what you hear? Fancy booking us then?'

For LJ's birthday they recorded at the Clutha Bar in Glasgow. It wasn't long after this that the Clutha tragedy happened. "We lost a few friends that night so we sold all our CDs in aid of the Clutha fund."

LJ brought 70 year-old dad along to the competition after all it was Father's day.

"We're playing open ceremony of the Commonwealth games - we'll get everyone excited and going while they're getting seating."

How did you find out about the competition?

Saw it on Facebook

Have you been to many of the islands?

We've been to Iona, Mull, Arran and Skye.

Iona's amazing and we love Skye!

One of my friends runs a hostel up in Skye - musicians get to stay for free if they play.

I asked each of the acts what one thing would they take away from this experience:

(If you know any of the acts have a guess at who said what!)


That Advil is only a semi-effective flu relief!

Stop thinking about stuff so much and just do it! Go for it.

Camaraderie and great craic!

A good day meeting fellow musicians from all over the country.


Results time!

All the acts were ushered down to main floor, I was standing with Sophie, Freya and Leanne as the winners were announced. The girls were full of beans and excited, but the nerves were visible.

There was so much tension you could see them all thinking- just announce it already! Leanne was saying to me that she was just so pleased to have played King Tut's and to such a welcome crowd. Sometimes it's daunting performing in front of friends and family. But she said when she walked on stage and saw her mum everything felt a little easier.


When the judges called Leanne's name as the chosen act to play at Tiree Music Festival her face drained for a moment. I thought I would have to catch her! I gave her a rub on the shoulder and pushed her forwards on the stage. She was shaking like a leaf!

Only one winner's spot left - A set at Heb-Celt.

I could see Sophie, Freya and Angela holding their breath.

When Sophie's name was announced, she looked torn between running on stage and wanting to comfort her new friends.

Everyone who performed was brilliant. They had such great banter with each other, being up in the break room felt like being in a little bubble of musical high and mutual understanding, with everyone part of a CalMac Cultures family.

Part of backstage should have been live screened too!

You can see all of the footage on our YouTube page and see for yourself who you think should have won.

Don't forget to book your tickets for this years Tiree and HebCelt and see the winners in action!


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