Girl destined to be a singer pays tribute to those who helped her


JILLIAN Isbister was always destined to be a singer. She started when she was peerie, she said, singing in the house, in the car, anywhere. When karaoke machines became the rage she sang with one of those, and when folk came to the house at New Year she would sing to them too.

As The Shetland Times revealed last week, soon she will be taking her talents to America, being one of five chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to appear in a US series featuring Scottish music.

This week, talking about her achievement in detail for the first time, Jillian said she could hardly believe what she had done. “I’m in total shock. An ordinary West Side lass like me. . . “

Jillian Isbister. Photo: Keith Morrison

Jillian Isbister.
Photo: Keith Morrison

Brought up on country music thanks to her mum’s love of it, the young Jillian developed a taste for it herself, but then became a Spice Girls fanatic. She started piano lessons with teacher Carol Jamieson (who also taught her at the Anderson High School) at the age of nine and was given a keyboard by her grandparents.

“Mam was trying to get me interested in something, but nothing really stuck. It was a typical battle to get me to practice at first but then it seemed to click.”

Now a 20-year-old veteran of the performing scene, Jillian started gigging just over five years ago when she was 14.

Her singing talent, which her pals forced her to display to teacher Carol during break time, led to her being put as lead singer in the AHS school band Inspiration.

Jillian sang and played the piano with the band, first in a workshop which was recorded by Radio Shetland, and then in her first public performance at Clickimin.

“I thought – what’s going on? I’ll no’ be able to do this. It was mental, scary, but I never thought I wouldn’t do it. When I got up and played the piano and sang it felt so natural.” That first performance included the numbers Never Loved you Anyway by the Corrs, and well-known favourites Suspicious Minds and Son of a Preacher Man, she recalled.

Then her teacher Carol, who played with local band Loveshack, took Jillian to meet the band and she started occasional gigs with them where standing up to sing was a new experience.

The gigs continued and Jillian’s musical range broadened.

“Carol has been such a support and encouragement, if I wasn’t for her I might not be singing at all,” Jillian said.

Her parents, too, have been a “massive support”, even though they are, apparently, not particularly musical themselves. “Mam says I took any musical talent she had,” Jillian joked. But her dad has a very good ear, she said, and her peerie brother Martin plays drums in a band.

Soon Jillian will be stepping into the lead singer’s role with Loveshack as current lead singer Tess Leask and Carol are leaving the band. Jillian and the guys – David Bisset, Davie Sjoberg and Victor Carlin – rehearse as much as they can, but, she said: “We’re all so busy it’s hard to rehearse, but we ken each other so well we don’t need to practice too much. But until you’ve gigged it you don’t get the song into you.”

And, she said: “I love all the guys to bits, they’re so easy to play with, it’s like an extended family.”

Now they play all the popular numbers, she said, including R&B and Abba, and newer stuff like K T Tunstall and Razorlight – and with wedding bookings to 2010 there is plenty to keep them busy.

Between working at the Clickimin – Jillian has done a massage course and gym instructors course – and the commitments with the band, she has found time for recording.

Her version of Imagine, on a Shetland Arts Trust recording, was one of the songs she sang for the first audition for the American TV show. She was also required to sing a traditional unaccompanied song, for which she chose Wild Mountain Thyme.

Then came the phone call that she had reached the final audition. Again she had to sing a contemporary and a traditional song, and this time she chose Time is a Healer and Willie Stewart.

The TV company then told her the news that she had been selected – and filmed her receiving the phone call. “I howled and gret with joy – I just didn’t believe it.”

She will appear on national TV in the US in December, the show being first aired in New York and then rolled out through the other states.

Filming, in scenic locations throughout Scotland, will start soon, and a promotional CD will be recorded this week. “I still can’t believe they picked someone like me,” said Jillian.


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