I started playing the piano at the age of six, then took up the violin at eight. I spent my early teenage years playing in the Hillhead Strings orchestra, overseen by the wonderful John Maxwell Geddes.
Folk music began at the age of 13, when I joined the Glasgow Fiddle Workshop. Traditional music had always been around in the family, if only on tape. My parents used to play, among others, a lot of Patrick Street, Paul Brady, Planxty and De Danann, as well as Scottish artists like Dougie MacLean and Dick Gaughan.
Iâ€™ve listened a lot of fiddle players over the years. To name but a few, I would count among my influences: Kevin Burke, Paddy Glackin, Frankie Gavin, Liz Carroll, Matt Cranitch, Martin Hayes and Tommy Peoples. In 1995, on a particularly wet holiday to Skye, my mum bought me Matt Cranitchâ€™s excellent tutor, appropriately titled â€˜The Irish Fiddle Bookâ€™. I ploughed through it and have never looked back since.
Several years spent with the Inishowen Ceili Band took me to every conceivable corner of the Central Belt of Scotland. I also formed my own band, The Broken Peg, and we became stalwarts of student ceilidhs around Glasgow. I competed in the yearly Irish music competitions for a couple of years, winning senior fiddle in the all-Britain fleadh in â€™98 and â€™99.
1998 was about the time I made some of my longest-lasting musical friendships. Lawrence McElhinney, an outstanding button accordion player, introduced me to the Glasgow session scene. He also took me regularly over to Edinburgh and the heady sounds and atmosphere of the sessions on the Royal Mile. Thus I met folk like Aidan Oâ€™Rourke, Kathryn Nicol, Freddie Thomson, Chris Drever, Eilidh Shaw and Malcolm Stitt.
I also met Sean Oâ€™Donnell around this time, whoâ€™d landed in Glasgow from Derry. Sean had a rock music background but he picked up the backing for folk music at a terrifying pace and is still finding new and inventive accompaniments to this day.
In late 2000 Sean and I got together with Padraig Oâ€™Neill from Kerry. We called the band 'BenÃªche', a bizarre name from my history degree, but it stuck. We released our debut album in January 2003. I also reached the finals of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year, a fantastic experience.
That same month at Celtic Connections, the band won a Danny Kyle Open Stage award. We also took on an additional member in the form of Martin O'Neill, a terrific bodhran player who has wowed audiences with his skills all over the world.
BenÃªche toured extensively. Highlights would include the Orkney and Shetland folk festivals, Celtic Connections alongside the Dubliners, excursions to Manchester and Wales, and of course Lorient in summer 2004. In February 2005 I began recording towards my first, and hopefully not my last, solo album. It's now finally out so I hope you enjoy it.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Clare Toast
2. Ma's Taxi
3. The Luck Penny
4. The Silver Spear
5. Palma Perfecto
6. Coilsfield House
9. Who's on the List
10. The Scotia