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Arts / Heidi & Boo set to offer sublime evening of song at Mareel

Irish singer and songwriting great team up for tour-closing show

Edinburgh-based folk singer Heidi Talbot.

CLASSY Irish folk singer Heidi Talbot is back in Shetland this weekend with singer-songwriter and guitarist Boo Hewerdine in tow for a concert at Mareel.

Talbot was one of the headline artists at the 2022 Shetland Folk Festival and now she and Hewerdine are returning to round off a 17-date UK tour in Lerwick on Friday night.

The pair will perform two sets including songs from Talbot’s recent acclaimed album Sing It For A Lifetime and Love + Light, a record Hewerdine produced for her back in 2008, as well as selection from the prolific songwriter’s own latest LP Understudy.

Hewerdine posted on social media earlier this month that it was “difficult to overstate how fun this tour has been”. When Shetland News caught up with Talbot between shows on Tuesday afternoon it was evidently a sentiment she very much shares.

“Really enjoyable. It’s been so much fun to play with Boo,” she says, “and we’re really looking forward to the gig on Friday.

“We’ve known each other for 22 years or something like that, so there’s so much history there. It’s a really nice dynamic between us and he’s so talented, a brilliant musician, and we’re going to do it again next year.

“Attendance has been really good, especially in Scotland where there’s been lots of sold-out gigs, and it really makes a difference when there’s lots of bodies in the room!”

Boo Hewerdine and Heidi Talbot will round off a 17-date UK tour in Shetland this Friday.

Although Talbot and Hewerdine only share one co-writing credit, she is effusive about his ability to channel the thoughts and emotions of others. Hewerdine has penned any number of songs for Eddi Reader and has supplied tracks to everyone from K.D. Lang and David McAlmont to Kris Drever and Natalie Imbruglia.

“He’s such a great songwriter that I can ring him up and say ‘I’m looking for a song about this, a range or feel, a darkness but a 1950s-style groove, and he’s just such a songsmith that he can come back quickly with something moving and beautiful,” Talbot says.

Her own songwriting abilities have earned her a nomination for composer of the year at this weekend’s Scottish Trad Awards, while over the years Talbot has chalked up a high strike rate when cherry-picking favourites from many other songwriting greats to take into the studio.

Released last year, Sing It For A Lifetime features numbers written by Leonard Cohen and Dolly Parton, while earlier readings of Natalie Merchant’s Motherland and Tom Waits’ Time are simply sublime.

Brought up in rural County Kildare, Talbot began singing in a church choir, attended singing school in Dublin and then moved to New York for two years, before eventually settling just outside Edinburgh.

That has contributed to a melting pot of Irish, Scottish and American influences, with the producer’s seat for studio recordings occupied variously by Hewerdine, her former partner John McCusker and, most recently, Dirk Powell. Collaborators have included Mark Knopfler, Graham Coxon from Blur, King Creosote and Tim O’Brien.

Her folk festival visit 18 months ago was her first time in Shetland. Flanked by Orcadian pianist Jen Austin and Glasgow-based guitarist Innes White for the shows, Talbot absolutely relished the entire experience.

“We had such a brilliant time. I’m really hoping I get to go again sometime. It’s such a brilliant festival – I loved everything about it. Innes and Jen were with me as well, it was like a brilliant holiday!”

While the live music industry strives to get back on its feet post Covid-19 and is “still not where it was”, Talbot points out these are difficult economic times for everyone, not just touring musicians.

“It is just a reality for all of us,” she says. “The general feeling is you’re just holding on until it’s totally improved. It’s really tough, but in saying that it’s tough times for everybody.

“I find lots of my friends who are musicians as well are having to have a sideline. I do – I teach yoga on the side to have some kind of a steady income. But nobody gets into playing folk music for the money!”

She adds: “After Covid and not being able to do what you love doing, it’s such a joy and a privilege to be able to go out and play concerts and for people to come out and listen. There’s something very special about the energy of being in the same room and all having the same experience through different eyes.”


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