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Milestone moments already this year for Katie Gregson-MacLeod – Catch up in this QnA!

By Margaret Chrystall

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QnA Katie Gregson-MacLeod

Q What is the thing in your musical life that has got you most excited this year?

A Katie: Too many to name. Milestone moments like the Ivor Novellos and BBC Big Weekend are obviously huge for me; moments I never would have seen coming even a year ago. I think, though, what keeps me going and allows this to be a really fulfilling journey is the multitude of amazing friends and collaborators I’m meeting and working with now, as well as the opportunities I’m getting to make the kind of music I’ve always wanted to with such special people around me.

Katie Gregson-Macleod on stage at Eden Court as part of her Highland tour. Picture: James Mackenzie
Katie Gregson-Macleod on stage at Eden Court as part of her Highland tour. Picture: James Mackenzie

Q Looking back on your Highland tour, what is your best memory of those days back on your home territory?

A We had the best time. It was the perfect group of people and I think it’s a period already glazed in nostalgia. My favourite memory might be the first night in Ullapool. It was my 22nd birthday and the team of people we had there made it so special. We ended the night in a local pub and I got tap-happy buying rounds of Baby Guinness. Also springing to mind is staying up chatting with Bonnie and Meg in our Skye hostel with a bottle of Baileys. Or, getting matching tattoos on our final day in Inverness. Too many fun things. You can watch all of it in the documentary we made, which is on YouTube now.

Q I think you are doing Latitude (last weekend!) and Connect to come with other festivals this summer – what do you like – and look forward to about festivals as a performer?

A Festivals are a weird one for me. Sometimes I find myself feeling ambivalent in the run-up to festivals as you just never know what you’re going to get or if anyone is going to show up. My worries have been proven wrong by every slot I’ve done this summer, though. I’ve been in a few places across mainland Europe, as well as dotted around the UK and every show has been great. Yet, I’m always surprised by that. The thing I like the most about playing a festival is the mix of people in the crowd, both in demographic and in exposure to my music. Playing to new people who have no clue who you are can be daunting but it is so fulfilling to get them on side. Another part of festivals I look forward to is just seeing so many people I know and love pottering around. A lot of my pals are playing the same festivals this summer and there can feel a real sense of camaraderie there, given that it’s such a unique experience. I love seeing familiar faces. For instance, I bumped into my pal (the amazing) Joesef in Switzerland the morning after my show in Montreux. When we can catch that time together it’s valuable.

Q Meticulous lists of who to see when at a festival – or 'stumble-by' things as the spirit takes you?

A I’m definitely more of a wanderer. There are usually a couple artists – and often a couple friends – who I will go out my way to see, but a lot of the joy of festivals is the spontaneity of it. At Belladrum, I’ve got to run a pretty tight ship though as so many of my pals are on.

Bonnie Kemplay. Picture: James Mackenzie
Bonnie Kemplay. Picture: James Mackenzie

Q Will Belladrum feel different this year for you – and what was that first performing experience at a festival ie Belladrum – like?

A Everything is different, I suppose. And yet, it’s not at all. Stupid answer but probably true. I’ll be there with the same troops as last time. We’ve become even closer with all this happening and I can’t wait to see them again. The set, and everything around the set, is different though. Last year I played with my band, but this year it’s just me and the piano/ guitar. If there’s added pressure, though, I’m not yet feeling it. I’m just there to party a bit and be home and see everyone. Also to do a job but that’s secondary.

Belladrum was the first festival I played and I can’t think of a better one really for that experience. Everyone was so supportive and the atmosphere is so special. It’ll always have a place in my heart.

Q If you had one wish for what comes next with your music, what would it be?

A I just want the next load of music to show people facets of my writing and artistry that haven’t really been put on show yet. It’ll take years for me to let people into what I feel I am as an artist and as a writer. People form opinions and ideas fast but I want to peel back new layers in this next phase.

Nani with the band.
Nani with the band.

Q Whose sets might you be trying to catch at Belladrum this year?

A There are such amazing acts based in Scotland right now that make me super excited and inspired to be part of the Scottish music scene, and a lot of them are playing this weekend. I’d say my top must-see acts are Nani, Hector Shaw, Bethany Nelson and Bonnie Kemplay. I also really want to see Rachel Sermanni, as I’ve never been to one of her shows and she’s just stunning. Also, my friend Cate is playing main stage on Thursday evening and I love her shows so much, so I’d really recommend everyone flock to that.

Rachel Sermanni. Picture: Gaelle Beri
Rachel Sermanni. Picture: Gaelle Beri

Q Belladrum has always seemed to be conscious of giving women a space to be performers with an equal place in the spotlight. Now that you work in the music business full-time, I wondered if you could recommend it as a positive experience to young women?

A I’ve only had positive experiences at Belladrum. As a woman in the industry there are things you just prepare yourself for as a rule in a live context and also behind the scenes. However, I’ve never had those things happen at Belladrum. I do understand criticism targeted at most festivals right now and the lack of female headliners. It feels like a lot of the same year after year. I do see improvements though and I know first-hand that efforts are being made at Belladrum in particular to bridge that gap. The most exciting music coming out of the UK – and the world – right now is coming from female, NB and LGBTQ+ artists. It’s time that festival line-ups (Glastonbury in particular perhaps) reflected this.

* Now a bit silly, some final question(s) celebrating Belladrum's theme – cartoons this year:

Q If you could get to be a cartoon hero for a day, who would you be?

A I had a big crush on Daphne from Scooby Doo growing up so maybe I’d say Fred from Scooby Doo. That’s her love interest right? Yeah, that feels good.

Q Imagine you could have a cartoon character join you onstage – who would you want and what music would you play with them?

A Daphne from Scooby Doo. Poison by Bell Bit Devoe.

Q If the challenge was to get a cartoon theme tune to number one, which one would you fancy tweaking to get there!

A The Pink Panther theme tune is sick. I could add words to that and get it to that top billing I suspect. Did it already have words? I don’t think so but I could be wrong. Either way I’m writing the hell out of that.

Katie Gregson-MacLeod is playing the Grassroots Stage at 18.10-18.50pm on Saturday.

And don't forget to check out free festival newspaper The Belladrum Bugle – with music interviews, QnAs and headliner profiles plus your crucial Clashfinder to work out what you want to see – and don't want to miss!

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