We caught up with all girl band The Shee earlier this year at Cropredy where they put on spectacular performance (see photos below by Michael Farrant). The band have many strings to their bow thanks to their vocal, instrumental and dance talents as well as their varied backgrounds, but one thing they do share in common above all else is their sense of tradition and the importance they place upon ‘passing it on’ to the next generation.
This love of traditional music is, in may ways, the glue that bonds them. This, along with their dynamic stage presence and incredible sense of independence have been key factors in their success. As an all girl band they have avoided the record industry pitfalls where media moguls would love to sign such a band…instead they did it all themselves and set up heir own record label!
The Shee are:
Shona Mooney: Shona plays the fiddle and lives in Hawick (pronounced Hoyck) in the Scottish Borders. She also teach traditional music.
Laura Beth Salter: Laura plays the mandolin and sings. Her background is in bluegrass and oldtime which was played by her parents. She’s from Lincolnshire but now lives in Glasgow because, she says with a smile “I love the music”.
Amy Thatcher: Amy is from Stockport and plays the accordion and clog dances in The Shee.
Lillias Kinsman Blake: Lillias grew up in the Scottish Borders and plays the flute. She is also studying graphic design in london and did the graphics work for the bands début album, A Different Season.
Rachel Newton: Rachel plays harp, her family roots are from the North West highlands and she now lives in Edinburgh.
Olivia Ross: Olivia plays fiddle and lives in Inverness where she also teaches as an instructor for schools in the region.
The Shee were formed in 2005, they all met at Newcastle University where they were doing a folk degree. All the band are now involved in teaching in some way and a couple do full time teaching in schools: Shona is employed by the Scottish Borders Council as a Traditional and World Music Development Worker and Olivia is employed as a string instructor by the Highland Council.
All of the band have adapted their lifestyles in some shape or form to earn a living, they all agree that versatility is key to this and that Google calender is a saving grace when it comes to organising their time together as a band alongside all their other commitments. The Shee have a new album out in 2012 and at the time of this interview a big chunk of time had already been set aside for getting together to record new material.
Those that are fortunate enough to play in The Shee and to also make a living from teaching music see themselves as being in a lucky and uniquely rewarding position. Shona also explained how important it was to her and the rest of the band to be tradition bearers for the next generation.
There are many private tutors Shona explains but there are only 40 instrumental instructors employed by the council in the highlands alone. Help is at hand with the current Youth Music Initiative between Fèisean nan Gàidheal and the Highland Council which provides funding for the introduction to traditional music in 188 primary schools. Without such an opportunity many children would not get any such introduction to the traditional music of Scotland.
The Shee’s sense of independence came across during the interview as a fundamental core from which they draw their strength…it also sets them apart from the crowd of artists that would run a mile at the thought of doing it all off their own backs. They admit it has not been easy but they took the decision early on when they formed the band that they wanted to own their music and that they wanted to be in control of what they do. Although they employ professionals for studio work etc. they run their own label and do all their own licensing and accounts. When they initially looked into what options were open to them they felt that the independent route was the only one where the results were stacked in their favour.
There is a lot to be said for the initiative of The Shee in how they have established themselves…they also take a lot of pride in the way help pass on the tradition to the next generation. I hope others follow in their confident footsteps!
Make sure you check their gig dates and festival appearances for 2012! Also keep an eye out for their new album.
Track: Tom Paine’s Bones
The Shee at Cropredy
photo credit: Michael Farrant