Wood Soul: Interview with Scottish Wooden Flutist Calum Stewart

Also in this edition: Lori Watson and Rule Of Three and Kernowpods

Calum Stewart and the cover art of the new album.

Between working with the London Philharmonic orchestra, recording for the next “Lord of the Rings” film, “Hobbit Movie” and completing being part of Jamie Smith’s Mabon’s Windblown, Calum Stewart took the time to talk to us about his career and how it all started.

Greetings! It is a lovely the month of October Celtic music followers. Our guest for this week is flutist Calum Stewart. He made a lot of collaboration with other bands. The new album Wooden Flute and Fiddle is out in the market! It is a collaboration with fiddler Lauren McColl and other musicians. If you don’t have a copy of the album yet, I want to tell you it is an amazing thing to have as part of your traditional music collection. Like what I mentioned in my last article about the album: This is an album that every traditional music listeners will want in his or her collection. This is due to the huge effort that the two and the rest of the session musicians placed on this album. There are slow and fast tunes. Expect variety in instruments and grand artistry that only musicians of their caliber can provide. And even if you are not really into Scottish or Irish trad music, you will still warm up to this one for its melodic and relaxing merit. Love it love it!

This interview was done in a relaxed manner. He has a tour this autumn and  you can nominate Calum as traditional Scottish instrumentalist of the year here http://www.scottishcultureonline.com/blogs/nominate-your-favourite-act-for-mg-alba-scots-trad-music-awards-2012/

All musicians started with something that they consider memorable. I helped him trace back on how it all started-with the release of his debut album Earlywood.

Can you tell us a little background as to why is  the debut album Early Wood?

“Earlywood” is my first solo album, and reflects my home tradition of the north of Scotland, with many tunes from Morayshire. There are also several compositions, which sit side by side the older repertoire, all arranged for Wooden Flute, Fiddle and Piano: my main interest has always been finding strong repertoire, interesting arrangements and powerful sounds, in acoustic settings. The title “Earlywood” refers to the inner growth circles inside trees. The “Earlywood” stage is the time when the tree grows the most… “Latewood” is the other time, and perhaps when the tree takes stock, during winter. Earlywood seemed a good title, because it was my first solo recording.

Since recording “Earlywood” and touring with my trio, I’ve had the opportunity to continue work with Lauren MacColl (Fiddle), with whom I’m releasing a new album with now (featuring Eamon Doorley of Danu, and Andy May). ( Go to www.laurenmaccoll.co.uk/shop )

I’ve also been working closely and touring with Breton guitarist Heikki Bourgault; we released our first duo album last year, with plans for a second one in 2013 (visit www.calumheikki.com for details).

Jamie Smith’s MABON has released Windblown. What can we expect from your musical contribution in this album?

I am featured as a guest on several of the tracks of their new album “Windblown”. Although I can’t play as a core member of JSM and Mánran now, because of my own project commitments, I really enjoy working with them when the occasion arises, guesting on recordings or sometimes at concerts / festivals. We are all very good friends and keep in touch about our own separate projects, and enjoy meeting when our projects cross paths, playing at the same festival!

Early promo pic of Jamie Smith’s Mabon

You are known to play hide and seek between time zones with multiple natures: you are in demand as a musician! How’s the experience of working with different artists and how this shaped your artistry?

Working and collaborating with different artists from different genres is really important, enabling one to have a more open perspective. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really inspiring people and they’ve really shaped my approach. However I also think it’s good to concentrate and develop one’s own musicality, ones own musical journey. Whilst you may encounter many influences along the way, fundamentally you must find your own voice.

Your musical development was traditional since you are originally from the North of Scotland and brought up with the traditional music of your native Morayshire. How do people in your hometown respond to your international success?

I always really look forward to playing on home turf, and it’s great to catch up with those musicians whom I played with when I was growing up. I try and “re-charge my batteries” when I’m back in Moray, usually remembering old tunes, learning some new ones or writing some, and most importantly remembering why I enjoy playing music in the first place! I still have family in my home village, although I don’t live there anymore – so I really enjoy going back there.

I realized that although your name is synonymous with the wooden flute, you are also and expert in playing the uilleann pipes and whistle. What are the other instruments that you play?

I concentrate on the Wooden Flute although I do play Uilleann pipes too, and really enjoy the different voice this instrument has. However the Wooden Flute takes up almost all of my concentration. Although there are different qualities in the pipes and the whistle, and sometimes they are useful – the Wooden Flute is really my musical voice, so I prefer to concentrate on this. I have a very special old flute, which I use for all my musical projects – its a Rudall Carte & co, made in the 1930’s. Its made from cocus wood, and has been with me in every musical situation since I found her! I use wooden headjoints by Tobias Mancke with her. In addition I own a brilliant Wooden Flute by Peter Worrell which is based closely on my original. As I don’t like owning many flutes and changing flutes, I take my Rudall Carte & co. with me, wherever I go!

Ewen Henderson at Clickimin Centre.

What is the recording process in making an album?

Every recording I’ve been involved with has been different. Although usually after the initial concept or inspiration, there follows a period of collecting / writing / arranging, before either rehearsals or concerts and then recording. Sometimes it’s possible to play music for a long time in concerts, developing ideas before the studio, but sometimes the music takes shape in the studio – there are no rules!


   After a big performance, how do you chill?

Usually, there is a lot of work to be done after a performance. I always try and meet the audience personally, making contact after the concert. Often there are interviews to do, CD signings and meetings – so it can be quite busy! After all this is over, and my flute is put away… I usually hang out with my band and quench my thirst.

What are other projects that you are working on?

This summer I’ve been working with the London Philharmonic orchestra, recording for the next “Lord of the Rings” film, “Hobbit Movie”. As well as that, I’ve recorded with fiddler Lauren MacColl, joined by Eamon Doorley (Danu / Julie Fowlis), and Andy May – this is available via: http://www.laurenmaccoll.co.uk/shop .

Otherwise, I’ve been guesting on recordings such as the new JSM album, and preparing new repertoire for a 2013 release with my duo.

What can fans expect to hear from the new album now that it is out?

Quite a traditional repertoire, coupled with some new offerings: based strongly on the interplay between the wooden flute and the fiddle

You are a huge influence to young people who are trying to learn traditional instruments. What can you advice them in how to make it like you

Play music that you believe in and always be yourself.

There you have it readers. Another exciting moment with Scottish musician Calum Stewart. I am looking forward to the “ Hobbits” soundtrack knowing he is part of the music. Also get your copies of the new album and drop by his website to say Hi. He is really down to earth and has an amazing sense of humor. I enjoyed this interview with Calum and it is really fun talking to artists and getting to know how they create their music. Have a great week ahead!

Check out his website:


Video samples:


Featured band:Lori Watson and Rule Of Three

Genre: Acoustic / Folk

Location Scotland, UK


Sweetness! Lori Watson has a voice than can melt your heart like butter. But don’t let this sweetness fool you. This amazing musician plays music with such intensity and break neck speed. Her band is gaining a wide following all over with their fusion of traditional and contemporary style.



Kernowpods: War an gwyns – remix

Cornwall has her own thriving community of painters, photographers, musicians and people doing their own art. One of those who help define the Cornish cultural identity is Matthew(Matthi) Clarke. He is part of Sue and Phil Aston’s circle and they are doing a LOT of diverse things with music and visuals. This is one of the songs Matt uploaded in his podcast.

Phil Aston,Dan Aston, Sue Aston, Matthi Clarke and James Perkins-An Derow.

Thanks for reading folks. More album reviews coming up very soon.


3 Replies to “Wood Soul: Interview with Scottish Wooden Flutist Calum Stewart”

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