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Arts / The show will go on – meet some of the musicians finding an audience online during lockdown

From left to right: Gordon Tulloch, Keirynn Topp, Arthur Nicholson - all pictured as they recorded their own videos.

WITH no venues or pubs open, Shetland’s musicians have been left without a stage to perform on – and a lack of clarity on when they will reopen has left question marks over when local folk will get to gig again.

But during the lockdown period some have been taking advantage of the opportunities the internet and social media offers – in some cases giving local musicians the chance to perform to people across the world.

Some have already caught the limelight, with accordionist Peter Wood raising an impressive £8,660 for the NHS Shetland endowment fund by playing video sessions on Facebook.

Similarly a ‘buskathon’ campaign led by musician Jack Sandison helped to raise over £6,000 for Shetland Foodbank.

Others have been regularly uploading videos online simply to spread a bit of joy in what can be tough and lonely times.

Arthur Nicholson, known for playing in acts like First Foot Soldiers and the U-Turns, has been uploading clips of himself in singer-songwriter mode from the comforts of his living room.

His mix of covers and original tunes have become something of a hit, with his dextrous version of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ viewed over 12,000 times on Facebook in a fortnight – a bit of a change to performing for folk in The Lounge on a Friday night.

“It’s nice to provide people with some entertainment during these strange times,” Nicholson says.

“I’m used to playing in a range of live music settings, but not so much from my own living room to the internet.

“I never imagined any of the videos would get so much coverage. I’ve had some very nice comments.”

It is clear, though, that Nicholson’s heart lies in performing to a real audience. “It’s been fun trying something new, but I’ll be delighted when the powers that be decide it’s safe enough for musicians to go out and play again in front of a live audience.”

While Nicholson’s videos have been solitary pursuits, Gordon Tulloch has been enlisting the help of other singers and musicians for a series of tunes on Facebook.

His virtual collaborations – clips meshed together using video editing software – started off with a “bit of a fun with my son and family” before he started doing requests for people.

“The more I did the more other people got involved and I started to think who has got a lovely voice, and I started asking people I used to play with,” Tulloch said.

“So this then made me up the game a bit and move from editing on iMovie to Final Cut Pro. There have been over a dozen people I have collaborated with so far.”

Tulloch – playing guitar, bass and drums – has recorded collaborations with not only singers but also some remote sessions with full bands, including Bongshang, Sore Finger and The Vinyls.

He is not keen on the clips being a polished affair, though, with a desire to have everything recorded just through mobile phones to keep things raw.

“Most of the tunes were recorded along to the original track so that’s why you see people using earphones so they can use the track as a guide, Tulloch explains.

“I will use the same track as a guide for recording my parts, then I piece it all together.”

Local singer-songwriter Keirynn Topp, meanwhile, has approached things a little differently by videoing himself taking on a 30-day cover challenge.

The challenge calls on musicians to record themselves performing a track each day under themes such as ‘a song that reminds you of yourself’ or ‘a song from the 70s’.

“I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with the response to my challenge videos,” he says, “mostly because it’s been such a long challenge and the support has been with me the whole way.

“The point was always to cheer people up and the fact it’s worked at all is amazing.”

Topp admits, though, that it has been a struggle at times to keep to the challenge.

“Not every day is a quiet one and I’ve needed to prioritise my work, social life and other projects, and that’s forced me to get less creative at times,” he says.

“To make things more interesting I made sure I got a few friends involved.

“I had the likes of Rowen Thomson playing a surprise solo to a Busted tune, a long-awaited duet with Lisa Anderson, a first time singing with my girlfriend and even a charity Backstreet Boys cover with my musical and non-musical mates.

“I’ve managed to stay connected with a lot of friends in a different way, and in times like these, it feels all the more special. That’s been the most rewarding part. My last video is going up shortly and will feature friends and family.”

Topp says that before the challenge he recorded a few videos for charities, “so I’ll maybe do more of that”.

“I’m really looking forward to playing live in venues again though,” he added.

“I’ll be releasing a solo tune after all this is over and I’ll also be playing in a new band for the first time in a long time, which has been another side project through all of this. Honestly, I really don’t make it easy for myself.”