Visitors find common ground for isles-inspired music

Folk songbirds Visitors have been busy recording new material at Mareel, having found common ground following their journey to the isles.

Andy Kinnear, Chris Grant, and Cha Johnson formed the band through the monthly Shetland Singer Songwriter nights at the Lerwick venue.

Kinnear hails from Fife and has made Shetland his home, working as dentist at the Family Dental Clinic.
Grant moved north from Glasgow, where he will be shortly returning, with Johnson settling from the Philippines.

“The whole idea was that it wasn’t meant to be a band,” said Kinnear.

“It was meant to be an opportunity to sit down and start writing songs, singing our own songs and expanding our own songs with people that were in a similar situation.

“It was writing songs about moving to Shetland and the relationships we’ve found here.”

Johnson said it was more about becoming friends than just sharing music.

“It was very creepy,” she laughed, referring to the fact they rehearsed at Kinnear’s home in a space they dubbed the “Tiger Lounge”.

“I was meeting these two guys every weekend in a place called ‘The Tiger Lounge’,” jokingly named after a tacky beach towel owned by Kinnear that he bought on holiday.

“This is my first experience of writing songs with other people, not just having a song and having it performed with other people, but writing it for the purpose of this band.

“I only had one English song in my bag.

“I really struggled to write in English because when I was in the Philippines I was taught to write songs in an effort to promote Filipino music.”

She admitted she wasn’t really in “inspirational mode” at first because she came to the isles “in the dead of winter” – a contrast to her familiar warmer climes.

“A lot of the songs are about friends, and a sense of family and the relationship between the long summer nights, the fire festivals and the winter,” said Kinnear.

The trio have recorded six songs documenting their time in Shetland, with LAU sound wizard Tim Matthew behind the desk.

The sessions also feature Shetland friends singing a chorus part and poetry reading from their creative pal Nat Hall.

Both Grant and Kinnear said they wanted to challenge themselves musically, with difficult, intricate harmonies a part of their sound.

“Chris was really good at thinking out the dynamics of the songs, the harmonies and the structure as well,” Kinnear said.

Grant added the fact he’s leaving has given the group a sense of urgency to get the songs recorded.

“That sense of urgency has been really useful and it’s also got us to the point to decide to keep this going.”

Grant spoke fondly of his time in the isles, the diversity of music in Shetland and the encouragement of others.

“I think you can’t help but be diverse [in Shetland] so my big goal when I go home is to not let go of that.”

• For more music coverage see this month’s Music Matters in Friday’s Shetland Times


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