Willie's recordings are soundtracks to the truly humane life – a life of fallibility, resolution and of ultimate redemption.Kevin MacNeil (novelist, poet, playwright)
Willie Campbell was the frontman of Glasgow indie rockers Astrid, foot soldier with The Reindeer Section and a man around the bars of the city in the late 1990's. When the lifestyle and business of music got too much Willie retreated to the place he had once been glad to escape and sought refuge and solace on his native Lewis. Reassessing his priorities and remembering what it was he loved about music he embarked on a series of low key collaborations and solo recording projects.
During this time of rediscovery Willie started working with veteran Gaelic folk rock musician Calum Martin. A generation apart, the pair bonded over a love of Gaelic psalm singing, melodic 60s pop and oddly enough Nashville Americana.Willie re-embraced the Gaelic language that he had rejected in his teens and under Calum’s tutelage produced an album of original Gaelic songs.
The lyrics are unflinching in their honesty – expressing a deep sense of loss experienced before the turning point that offered Willie the chance to start again. The music in Dalma spans the highs and lows of this journey with a collection of melodies that are as beautiful, varied and inspiring as a Lewis skyline. The result of this creative partnership takes the Gaelic song tradition in exciting and uplifting new directions.
Regarded by a broad cross-reach of respected voices as among the finest songwriters in the country, Campbell came to widespread attention co-fronting indie contenders Astrid, and also as a founding member of Gary Lightbody's Reindeer Section. His current creative guise, The Open Day Rotation, have released two critically acclaimed albums- 2008 debut, Down by the Head, and last years, Toxic Good Toxic Bad, the latter produced by Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian).
Campbell's artistic collaboration with award-winning author Kevin MacNeil further illustrates his creative versatility, dropping full length offering Visible From Space last year to a fantastic response - with focus single, Local Man Ruins Everything, garnering Single of the Week across a range of respected media including, The Guardian, The List and Steve Lamacq's radio show.
Campbell was also the subject of last years BBC documentary, An Estate Car and a PA, which documented his return to his native Lewis and successful writing trips to the fiercely competitive environment of Nashville.
after playing on the same bill at their monthly event at the CCA. Unrelated to that, Alex Macdonald at An Lanntair had been making similar suggestions for a few years, the 2 of us working together seemed like an inevitability. I had a Song I thought may lend itself well to Gaelic, Very personal lyrically, I thought the change in Language may take some of the emotion out of it, it didn't as it happens, It's track 6 on the Album. Calum did a translation and I learnt something important about how that process works... a literal translation sometimes doesn't sound great. Calum changed some phrases, I in turn changed the Melody to fit the Gaelic and the number of syllables and it all came together fairly easily, it was a useful lesson. We got to work on some more songs but both had other things to finish off, we were always chipping away over the months and the song list came together. We didn't have a set way of working, I had some full songs that Calum translated or, as my Cousin Duncan puts it 'retold', Calum had some musical ideas I wrote some melodies and words for. We basically had a lot of fun and did what we thought was best for the songs, for me that meant ditching guitar ideas in the studio that I'd worked on or ideas each of us thought would be great not making it onto the album. I think it's all worked out well. We are both all about getting the very best out of a tune, ditching parts we worked hard on being the price for that.
Singing in Gaelic feels pretty natural to me. I'm not approaching it as anything other than a language. Although I'm not fluent, I was raised around Gaelic speaking but not so much the music,( Status Quo and 60's compilations got played on our record player). I'm one of those people that will understand what's being said but don't feel confident enough to answer in Gaelic. It's been great Knowing I can approach the actual performance the same way as an English song, for me that is generally screwing my face up and belting it out. Not very technical. I was in a group called astrid, we were together from the late 90's up to 2004. We were good friends with a Welsh band we toured with Called Big Leaves, They suggested we do a split single, Welsh and Gaelic. We dismissed the idea. I thought we were cooler than we were. Gaelic seemed a bit foosty to me, I was wrapped up in a musical scene we weren't really part of, the bottom line is it would just have not looked very cool. Of Course, with hindsight it would have been a very interesting and unexpected thing to do and could potentially have opened up our career as a band, partly other people's opinions stopped us I suppose. Now I'm a bit older I have a lot less of that baggage. I don't expect everyone to enjoy this album but I do hope my enthusiasm for singing in Gaelic and for these songs is apparent. Someone without Gaelic can enjoy this set of songs. Tony Doogan has done a great job mixing, I hope there is something for everyone.
I have a lovely piano I still can't play, my music room is full of push chair and plastic stuff normally. It's magnificent. As a result it meant I wrote a couple of these songs in my car. Out at cuddy point, Stornoway to be precise, every time another car came I felt really resentful and annoyed. Did they not know I was doing something important?
I wrote some music for Grunnd na Marra out on the Pentland Road, it wasn't very good. The car didn't always work. Sometimes just an empty house and coffee is best. I scrapped my first attempt at putting music to Kevin's great words, sat in my Kitchen and got something better. The first song that Me and Calum did together in Gaelic was written on a grey day looking out the window sitting with my guitar. Tolsta can be a bit heavy feeling but also very beautiful and inspiring. It features in the Lyrics of the album often, particularly the Traigh Mhòr. A breathtaking place in any weather.
I've really enjoyed working with Calum, we have similar tastes musically. Although he seemed surprised I was so into the Louvin Brothers, their version of Nearer My God To Thee is something incredible. I knew listening to it that there would be space in the melody for Gaelic words, so why not? Calum's translation is great. Musically I wanted to keep it as close to the original as possible. Calum's friend in Nashville, Scott, made sure of that.
I've included 2 songs with English vocal takes at the end of the album, just for anyone listening that is interested in hearing how the songs develop when translated. Thank you for buying this album.