This year’s Scottish Album of the Year award ceremony was held in the grand surroundings of Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms, right in the heart of the capital; and before the ceremony itself got underway, which ultimately saw Auntie Flo take the prize home for his intercontinental club music opus Radio Highlife, The Fountain was lucky enough to meet up with fellow shortlister Fergus McCreadie, nominated for the Fergus McCreadie Trio’s reflective jazz release Turas, and grab a quiet chat over a fancy cocktail or two at the bar.
TF: What does it mean to you to be nominated?
To be nominated alongside artists that have a lot of traction in Scotland; Aidan Moffat, C Duncan, people that are very well known, it’s very surprising but really exciting to be included. This is my first album, and I’ve not been doing the thing for that long.
TF: One thing that struck me as a very encouraging about the SAY award that people can get nominated very early in their careers alongside people we’ve all been listening to for a long time, and it’s very much a level playing field…
Of course, I think that’s the best thing about it. It’s very inclusive of all genres and all levels of career. From someone who’s released the first album of their career in an obscure field to someone who’s on their tenth album and in a very popular field, they all have an equal chance of getting on the longlist, the shortlist, and even of winning. I think that’s a very needed thing in the music industry.
TF: The SAY Award here in Scotland often gets compared to the UK-wide Mercury award, and it strikes me that the various genres are treated much more equally in the SAY award rather than the Mercury, where it seems there’s always the token jazz act and so on.
Yeah I think you’re very right with that, the Mercurys do come across as very tokenistic in that way, where the SAY Award are very good at picking the best albums that have come out, and what genre they’re from doesn’t actually matter. Genre is just a label really.
TF: It’s good to see so many cross-genre collaborations too and surprising people working together, it’s maybe not something that’s unique to the music scene in Scotland, but it seems like a particularly natural thing for artists to do here. I’ve found it really interesting to find out the different things artists have been listening to as they’ve grown up and the stuff they like, and sometimes it can be quite unexpected in relation to the kind of music they play and record. Is that something you can relate to, prying into your background a bit and what you listened to growing up?
I think I’ve come a kind of weird, roundabout way because when I was very young I started playing classical piano, before I started playing jazz, but then way before that I’d played bagpipes and been in a pipe band and stuff, but as soon as I discovered the American side of jazz I just wanted to put all that aside and almost pretend I was American. Then as time went on and I started writing my own music and became more fluent on the piano and in music in general, I couldn’t help but for the Scottish folk influence to come forward a little bit again. So naturally being in Scotland and being around Scottish music, because it’s such a strong scene here, you can’t help but present your music with just that little bit of Scottish tinge, no matter how subtle it is.
TF: I think you often find that, with everything from electronica acts, to guitar rock acts, that little flavour of something Scottish tends to come through.
It’s hard to put your finger on what it is as well, it could be the accent the singer sings in, or it could be a certain movement of chords, or it could be the way the rhythm is handled, but it’s always there.
TF: It really makes for an interesting and distinctive scene, and it kind of comes back to what we were saying at the start there about the SAY award being genuinely level and equal, that maybe the common cultural background is something everyone shared before they started spreading out musically into different styles and genres. Is that something you can see?
Yes of course, maybe from my perspective I’m most immersed in the jazz scene still, but everyone I know really likes other Scottish artists, and collaborations just seem to naturally spring up. I think everyone plays music in a very malleable way in Scotland so I think you could pick any two random musicians, and as long as they got on personally they would make great music.