Jillian’s verdict of her US journey: ‘I’m shattered but it was brilliant ‘


Not many young people clock up 11,500 miles on a trip abroad. Neither do they get to star in a music programme broadcast across America.

Both of these were realities for young Shetland singer Jillian Isbister, who is recently back from her second trip to the United States, this time to promote Highland Heartbeat, the Scottish music show she stars in.

The show was filmed in Scotland and is being promoted across America. It is being shown on PBS, a television station which obtains its funding from quarterly “pledge specials” rather than licensing fees.

In return for pledging money towards the station, people receive a gift, which can be anything from CDs and DVDs to meet and greet opportunities and show tickets.

Jillian and others from the Highland Heartbeat show were in America to promote the show as part of a pledge special, in time for the show’s launch.

Jillian said the trip was great: “It’s been really good. We flew out on the 27th [of February] and were sent our different ways to promote the show. PBS have no adverts, it’s all publicly funded. Folk are asked to pledge money to the channel.

“We started in New York on the 28th where we were all together then split up and I went to Atlanta, in Georgia, to do a couple of stations; then on to Detroit and then Boston. Then me and [fellow singer] Maureen McMullan drove to Albany, which is the New York state capital and I flew on to Tampa in Florida.”

The trip was a hectic one for Jillian, with non-stop promoting.

She said: “In all it was nine nights, seven different hotels, six different stations in five different states! I think the round trip from home is around 11,500 miles, which averages about 1,000 miles a day, so I’m absolutely shattered!”

It seems to have been well worth it, however. Jillian said: “It was a brilliant experience.”

The response to the show has been positive, with many Americans with Scottish heritage interested in the Highland Heartbeat show and calling to pledge money to the station.

There was even a call from an old friend from Shetland who happened to be in New Jersey and saw Jillian on TV.

Jillian said: “It was so weird, just before the first pledge show we did … She was flicking through the channels and saw me!”

The main focus of the callers was of course the show and Scotland, however Jillian said she did her best to teach folk about Shetland.

She said: “They didn’t really know where it was, I had to explain it was in the far north and tell them about our Viking heritage. I tried to teach them a few words too – they kept saying ‘Or as Jillian would say, peerie …’”.

As well as taking Shetland fudge with her, Jillian introduced the backstep to America during one of the shows.

She said: “There are usually two presenters – one doing a hard pitch and the other to interview you. One of the presenters asked if I could do the Highland fling, and I said I couldn’t but I could do the backstep.

“He asked me what it was and I showed him, and got him to do it too. It was so funny! Then the producer wanted us to do it on air, and no offence to the guy, but he made a total a*** of it! It was totally random.”

All in all the trip seems to have been a success. Jillian said: “So far so good, it’s been really well received. I had a really good time.”


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