Channerwick-based singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack will take to the stage at the British Legion in Lerwick next Friday evening as part of a six-piece band for the official launch of his third solo record, From the Thorn.
The 11-track album – his first since 2005’s Edges and Spaces – was recorded over the past year and features both solo acoustic tracks and songs with the band. The four solo numbers were recorded at Dougie MacLean’s studio in Perthshire and the remainder were laid down at Marvin Smith’s studio in Aith and guitarist Steven Laurenson’s home in Lerwick.
Making up the band are Laurenson, pianist Astryd Jamieson, Tallack’s younger brother Rory on fiddle, bassist Graham Malcolmson and drummer Paul Mullay. The singer-songwriter – who has previously supported veteran Scottish folk-rockers Runrig – said those who have heard him as a solo artist may be surprised by the sound on the album, which he sees as a “significant step forward”.
He said: “The band I put together for recording the album consists of two guitars, piano, bass, drums and fiddle. It is a big sound, although still centred around the acoustic guitar and vocal. The musicians are all excellent, and very versatile, and playing together has allowed the dynamics of the songs really to come to the fore.”
The band operates, he said, as a “democratic dictatorship” and the chief influence on the sound of From the Thorn has come from the individual contributions of each band member. “I started rehearsals with a pretty vague idea in my head of how I wanted it to come together, but I didn’t give the musicians much direction really. We just kept playing and playing until it felt and sounded right. Each of them approached it from a different angle, bringing their own ideas and influences to the songs. I would sometimes just steer us back if I thought things weren’t going the right way, and occasionally I would be over-ruled.”
A little-known fact about Tallack is that, aged 16, he was offered a place at the Brit School of Performing Arts – one-time home of, among others, Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash, Katie Melua, The Kooks and Leona Lewis. He didn’t go. “Sometimes I think about that – how would I have turned out after two years in performing arts school with all those people, desperate to be famous? It would have been truly awful.”
The 28-year-old, who recently returned to the Shetland Mainland after staying in Fair Isle for three years, also edits Shetland Life magazine and is currently researching his first book. A fervent Dylan fan and admirer of Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and a host of other great singer-songwriters from the second half of the 20th century, it is probably fair to say that Tallack is not the most dedicated follower of musical fashion. “I stopped trying to keep up to date with new music quite a few years ago; it was too much effort and too little reward. I don’t own a TV, I don’t read the music press and I don’t listen to music radio, so frankly I haven’t a clue what’s going on or where I fit in. Probably nowhere.”
After making their live debut at this year’s folk festival, he hopes the band will be able to appear more frequently within these shores over the summer months – something he has not done particularly extensively since he started performing. “I’d like to play as much as possible, but the problem we’re having is that while six musicians in a band can make a great sound, they can be very difficult to get all in one place at the same time. The logistics are a bit of a nightmare. We certainly will be playing again before very long though, particularly if the album gets a good response from folk.”
? Tickets for the launch night, costing £5, are available from High Level Music or online at www.malachytallack.com, where you can also hear two free tracks from the album and download a From the Thorn album sampler. Doors open at 8pm and a short acoustic set will be followed by a performance from the Donald Anderson Band, before Malachy and band take to the stage.