Penicuik folk singer goes back to her roots

The cover of Penicuik singer Siobhan Miller's second album 'Strata'.
The cover of Penicuik singer Siobhan Miller's second album 'Strata'.

Penicuik folk singer Siobhan Miller is gearing up for the launch of her second album next week with a big concert at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh.

Performing on stage since she was 13, 30-year-old Siobhan told the Advertiser just how important the release of ‘Strata’ is to her in terms of her musical upbringing (her dad is renowned folk singer and guitarist Brian Miller), with all the songs in the album her interpretations of songs she grew up listening to.

She said: “With this album the whole idea was to look back into my own roots in traditional music. I grew up in a very musical household. I was really influenced by travelling singers from a young age.

“So this is a look at those singers and putting them into a setting more relevant to where I am now. To present the songs in a new way.

“The album has got bass and drums, so not possibly instruments associated with traditional songs, but I think best fit the story telling element of these songs.

“I have learnt a lot of these songs from the people that have directly influenced me so there is a whole cycle going on there. These are my most treasured songs.

“I do write my own songs, my previous album had my own songs, but the whole idea behind this is I wanted to bring these songs to a wider audience and to showcase my influences.”

Siobhan revealed how much she enjoyed a new way of recording, working with producer Euan Burton in Glasgow.

She said: “Most of these tracks were recorded as live as possible, which was exciting for me. I wanted the overall feeling to have a live performance feel.

“That was really exciting and new recording process for me.

“I have got lots of brilliant musicians on the album. Most of them are friends from the folk scene that I have been working with for a long time.

“We spent a week going in and putting down the tracks. So it was a faster process than the first album.

“There were other parts added to it later to add a little bit of colour and texture, but not as much as usual.

“It has been really exciting because it has been a project I have wanted to do for a long time. It also just felt like a very natural process.

“Sometimes going into the recording studio can be stressful as you know whatever you record will be like that forever. But I know these musicians so well and these songs so well, so it was really enjoyable to do these songs.”

Now Siobhan can’t wait to launch the album next Friday in Edinburgh, before taking the show on the road.

She said: “I have played the Queen’s Hall before and it is one of my favourite venues to play. So it’s really great to launch the album there. It’s got great acoustics, I can’t wait. I would love it if it was busy.

“I go on tour after the album launch, all across the UK. It’s about two weeks, at arts centres and music venues, from Inverness and Elgin at the top of Scotland, down to Birmingham and London. We are really travelling as far as we can to spread the music.

“Following on from that I’m touring Germany for a week. I have done quite a lot of work in Germany and Austria. They really love Scottish and Irish music over there. In some songs I’m singing in Scots, so I’m not sure if they understand me, but they just love it.

“I’m just really looking forward to getting out and playing the music live.

“And we are hoping over the summer to get to festivals with this album and just tour it as much as possible throughout the year.”

Although now residing in Glasgow’s West End, Siobhan’s hometown will always be Penicuik: “The audience in Penicuik has always been hugely supportive to me which has been a really lovely feeling,” she said.

“Keith Murphy at Penicuik High School was one of the people that really pushed me into performing so the support of the high school and the people of Penicuik has been really strong.

“I’m hoping some of them will venture to the Queen’s Hall for the launch.”

Siobhan recently previewed her new album at a sold out Mitchell Theatre show for Celtic Connections, a festival close to her heart.

She said: “It was the first time these songs had been aired with those arrangements. It was a great concert.

“I have been gigging on the folk scene since I was 13, and performing at Celtic Connections since I was 14/15.

“Celtic Connections has a really strong following, and people really do take the time to go to the concerts going on. It’s brilliant to see a festival in January flourishing in the way that it has.

“It is so important that people come out and support live music. And it seems that at Celtic Connections they really do. Us artists really appreciate that.”

Siobhan Miller with special guests, the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Friday, February 24, tickets £17.

Album review

Following her well-received 2014 debut, Flight of Time, Strata consists of eleven songs, from a variety of sources, that Siobhan grew up listening to and performing in her youth.

Songs passed down by Scotland’s source and revival singers - such as ‘The Unquiet Grave’ and ‘False, False’ - sit alongside titles from contemporary writers that she grew up listening to, including Bob Dylan’s ‘One Too Many Mornings’ and ‘Pound a Week Rise’, penned by Ed Pickford. Siobhan’s vocal performances sit atop the all-star talents of some of Scotland’s finest folk musicians, including Kris Drever and Aidan O’Rourke of Pathhead-based band Lau and Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott.
The album also features guest appearances from accordion star Phil Cunningham, who performs on two tracks, including the ‘The Ramblin Rover’, written by his former Silly Wizard bandmate, the late Andy M. Stewart.

Album opener ‘Banks of Newfoundland’ perfectly illustrates Siobhan’s beautiful and rich vocals, starting Strata on the front foot. “What You Do with What You’ve Got’ is a joyous uplifting track that instantly sticks in your head.

The majestic ‘One Too Many Mornings’ slows the pace, while ‘Pound a Week Rise’, a song about mineworkers, is a real foot tapper to get things moving again.

Other highlights on the Penicuik singer’s album include ‘The Month of January’, the stunning ‘Bonny Light Horseman’ and the fittingly triumphant album closer ‘The Ramblin Rover’.

The mix of song types on Strata showcases Siobhan’s wide vocal talent and proves that she is no one trick pony.
‘Strata’ by Siobhan Miller, out February 24, through Songprint Recordings.