Eleven bands scattered across the country are creating new music from their homes using state-of-the-art laptops and microphones after funding was secured for a new concept billed as a major “breakthrough”, allowing artists to make new work at minimal cost to the most remote areas.
The Isle of Lewis recording studio founder got the backing of Creative Scotland for his idea to ship kits in aircases around the country.
Keith Morriso ran a contest to use the free sessions after he received £26,000 for a pilot project that he thought would prove that “high quality music can be made anywhere”.
Morrison and his team at Wee Studio in Stornoway use the latest video technology and recording techniques to control the equipment and guide every action for the best possible results.
Singers and musicians from the islands of Canna, Barra, North Uist, Skye and Lewis and from Inverness, Rossshire and Glen Shiel in the north west of the Highlands record music on borrowed equipment managed by Clarad Sun Sgot (Cloud Recording) which was developed , when the musicians could not travel to the recording studio due to quarantine restrictions.
Morrison said: “I already started a record label because I met a lot of incredibly talented musicians who, after several years of not being rewarded for their talents, left him. It was very difficult for them to get any funding. I felt a great responsibility to develop the creative scene on the island as much as possible.
“When Covid came, I was left to work in the studio alone, as we could not invite anyone.
“But by that time we were already working with artists all over the country, including the band Heron Valley and their singer Abigail Pride, with whom I recorded a solo album when she had to return to her parents in Dunoon.
“She bought some equipment, and I managed to send her some more small things from here. I called her by video link and told her what to do.
“It was kind of a nightmare and we finished all the vocals to finish the album, but something clicked in my brain and I started to wonder how it could have been done better with a little thought and investment.
“With the high speed internet we have now, I realized that high quality equipment can be shipped anywhere in a very simple shipping case and I can use streaming software to control a laptop in someone’s home.”
The project features Lewis-based performers including singers Alice McMillan, Calum Frisil and Iona Mairead Davidson, and accordionist Graham McLennan.
Wee Studio is currently working with South Uist piper and singer Chloe Steele, Inverness musician and singer Lisa Mulholland, clarsatch player Grace Stewart-Skinner of Urrey in Rossshire, Skye multi-instrumentalist John Phillips, Cannes singer Fiona J. Mackenzie, singer and musician Lisa McNeil of Barra, and Glen Scheel accordionist Lowden McKay.
Morrison, a founding member of Stornoway-based band Face the West, set up Wee Studio in the family home in Stornoway 14 years ago before settling on permanent premises in the city. He founded the record label Wee Studio five years ago and has worked with Lewis-based bands such as Peat and Diesel, Astrid and The Tumbling Souls.
However, bands planning to record at Wee Studio faced an average cost of around £1,000 to travel to and stay at Stornoway.
Morrison hopes the remote recording concept will develop into a new commercial direction for the studio, with at least three sets circulating around the country, but he also offers to help launch similar initiatives elsewhere in Scotland.
He added: “Obviously a lot of musicians and bands have their own equipment and can now record remotely.
“The big difference with this project is that I can send all this gear to people who have never been in a studio before, never recorded anything, and never learned how to use software before.
“They were all able to effectively run the studio at home. I really wanted this project to be not just a channel for people to my studio. As soon as it is finished, I plan to release a very simple and easy to read information sheet so that all other studios can copy it so that the public money invested in the project will benefit the entire Scottish music scene.”
Friseal, vocalist for Gaelic rock band Balach, said: “Studio time is probably the biggest price any new band has to bear.
“For a band formed during the lockdown that hasn’t yet been able to tour or generate income, this will be a huge financial help as well as an opportunity to showcase our material and help us build an audience before going on tour. ”
Steele said: “Traveling to record new material is something I have limited time for – this project is the perfect solution and it will allow me to continue my development as a musician, which I am very passionate about. It has been three years since I last professionally recorded any Gaelic or traditional material.”
Stewart-Skinner, who plays a duet with her mother Christina, said: “We only started playing together during the first quarantine.
“I’m coming home from university and I really had nothing to do but play with song arrangements. We soon discovered that our performance styles were very similar and that we worked well together.”