Having spent the majority of the last two years in airports and on stages around the world, collaborating with world-class musicians and bringing her music to new audiences, the career of Mischa Macpherson is an exciting one to follow. The stories from the 22 year old singer and musician are ones expected from someone much later in life, but Mischa has successfully squeezed in tours in Australia, North America, Europe and UK, winning multiple awards and all before graduating. Known for her work in the Mischa Macpherson Trio, she took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her new 7-piece band, debuting at this year’s Celtic Connections festival on the 29th of January in Glasgow.
For the last couple of years I’ve been playing with my trio with great plans of an expansion running at the back of my mind. It is only now I have found time to make these thoughts a reality. The six musicians joining me are a real pleasure to work with and it has been really exciting exploring all the new possibilities of texture and depth that can be added to the songs. I am delighted to have double bassist James Lindsay (Breabach) joining me, who I worked with a few years ago as a part of Callum McCrimmon’s Borraraig Commission. Alistair Iain Paterson is on piano and has a beautiful and sensitive touch, but what I’m really excited about is that he is also a maestro on the harmonium. I spent the best part of 2 years studying in Finland at the Sibelius Academy, and harmonium is a very prominent instrument there. It’s my new obsession which I’m completely in love with and luckily it really suits Gaelic song. The wonderful Signy Jakobsdottir will be on percussion. Signy has worked with a long and diverse list of musicians in her career including Capercaille and Emily Smith and is amazing at creating musical landscapes with a mix of tuned percussion in amongst her playing. Mike Vass will be adding fiddle to the mix, and of course I have Innes White, who has been playing guitar with me for 4 years now, and Ali Levack, a phenomenal whistler/piper whose instinctive improvisation is really shining through over the new layers of backline. The bigger band is working really well for the three of us.
Although young, Mischa embraces and respects her tradition and history, gathering her material from its source. Learning songs from the ‘Gaelic greats’, a term coined by the younger generation to describe their tradition bearers, as well as from old recordings, the origin of the material is constantly at the front of Mischa’s mind. Telling the tales of the songs she sings, it is clear that she knows and values the history and source of each song, which perhaps explains her ability to truly capture the emotion and beauty so effortlessly in performance. The care and sensitivity in her approach shows that Mischa is not just a singer, but also a tradition-bearer of the future.
The material we are doing includes a couple of songs I have done in the past with the trio, of which the arrangements are being expanded and given new life. Mostly though, it is new material which we are working on as a 7 piece from scratch. Some of my new material has come from Ishbel T Macdonald. I have been really lucky to spend some time with her over the last 6 months, she has so much knowledge and is always so happy to share it. Together, we have been listening to a lot of Willie Matheson’s material, a Gaelic scholar and remarkable singer of the last generation. Although I never met him – he died when I was just 2 – he has been a massive inspiration in my life and I have learned so much from his singing and work. I also compose melodies for old scots and Gaelic texts I have sourced. The older the better. I don’t write lyrics, I enjoy focusing on texts from the past and understanding their stories. The tales from our history should be shared with audience today and I love playing a role in that.
Celtic Connections began with a bang at the Royal Concert Halls’ opening concert and it is little surprise that Mischa was also been asked to perform in this once in a life time Scottish vocal line up, including Kris Drever, Arthur Johnstone, Sheena Wellington, Jimmy Hutchison, Barbara Dickson, Adam McNaughton and Fiona Hunter. She will be accompanied by an impressive house band including Euan Burton, Anna Massie, Aaron Jones, Tom Gibbs, John Blease and Megan Henderson.
This weekend, Mischa will also appear at the Feis Rois 30th anniversary concert in the Mitchell Theatre (23 January 2016 7:30PM). Click here for details.
Between touring, studying and traveling, however disappointing for fans, Mischa has not yet found the time to record her first album. But a little bird tells me that with her stellar new band and her studies coming to an end, that 2016 could be the year of a release date.
Her concert on the 29th of January will be shared with no less than Ireland’s finest, Altan. Armed with her top-notch band, brand new material and a voice that runs shivers down your spine, this is a not-to-be missed gig at Celtic Connections 2016.
Interview by: Kim Carnie
Here’s Mischa performing An Lair Dhonn solo at Sidmouth Folk Week last year after the other two members were sent off to the pub…