Ewan McLennan: Classical guitar was one of my foundations I’d say(Interview)

Ewan McLennan, Scottish singer/songwriter,scotland,folk singers,celtic,scottish

Winner of the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award and named FATEA Music Award’s ‘Best Male Vocalist of the Year.’

Meet one of  Scotland’s new breed of moving voices, Ewan McLennan. The elegiac and stirring combination of his voice earned him a massive following all over Scotland and the rest of the  Scottish diaspora. In the vein of Dougie McLean and Donovan, he can hold his own with a style that’s fresh and distinctive. If none of the songs from The Last Bird to Sing can move you, then you must have a wooden heart. Because these songs resonate what is spiritual and sensual in all of us. The things that make us human, sincere and loving. His singing is such a warm blanket in  the midst of familiar stirrings all around us. If we magnify the language of the leaves and flowers then listen to each bloom softly, then such is the music of Ewan McLennan.

The poetry doesn’t end in the sounds. They also lie deep in his lyrics which talk of longing for home, the love for tradition, people and places. And he sings with that Scottish lilt that we all come to recognize and love. In the midst of such expressive singing is his style of playing the guitar. He adds that intricate delivery to simple melodies creating a balance of simplicity and refined musical skills. Such richness of music is a blessing to weary ears. He is our featured artist and what an amazing exchange of messages resulted to this interview.

You sing with this distinct style. How did you develop your haunting and beautiful voice?

It’s always a difficult question to answer. I guess the singers that I’ve heard over the years are big influences on how my voice has developed – singers I, at one time or another, tried to mimic or adapt parts of their style. I sing a lot now these days, practice exercises and scales etc. but also sing a lot of songs. I stick to the opinion that technique is important but that it is only a means to express, not the other way round.

Your guitar playing is fascinating. Will you tell me more about it?

I began by playing classical guitar at the age of 18, though I’d already been playing music for years by this point. Classical guitar was one of my foundations I’d say. But after a few years I started playing steel-string guitar and more and more folk guitar. Someone who has been a real influence on me is Martin Simpson, who I have been getting tuition from for some years.

How did you decide to call the title of your album “The Last Bird to Sing”? This is your second album right?

The Last Bird to Sing is indeed my second album. The name of the album comes from a track on it that I wrote. I thought that it worked nicely as a title for the whole piece.

Let us discuss about song Architecture. How do you lay down the foundation of a song? What is the structure you base your songwriting to?

It really depends on the particular song I’m working on. But usually the first thing is when an idea for a song, a story will come to me – that sets the ball rolling. I then begin to put together a melodic line that reflects this story. And from there I begin, separately, to work words into the melody, sometimes changing the melody to fit the words, sometimes the opposite. Finally I begin to work on the guitar part, to arrange the melody and accompany the vocals.

Are you the type who records a lot of demos and then just filter the songs that make into the album or do you sit down and really work in the idea of creating songs that all make their way into the album?

For the first two albums I recorded I chose a specific number of songs that I knew I wanted on the albums. It was then a process of getting those songs sounding just as I wanted them to. But at the moment I am beginning to work, gradually, towards a third album and I am working in a slightly different way. I’ve been writing a lot of songs lately, as well as coming across, unearthing and arranging a lot of tradition material, so I already have too many songs for one album. I will carry on this process and then begin to whittle down the tracks to what I believe are the strongest individually and what work best together on the album.

Your status post says: “On the train home from London. You know you’ve been doing a lot of travelling when you and the conductor are on first name terms.” Musicians work hard(probably harder than people realize) and do a lot of travelling. What do you think can be done by the government, not just in the UK but all over the world to make it easier and better for every musician?

…I do do a lot of travelling. I guess being a musician, like any job, has its ups and downs. But overall it is a fantastic job to have the privilege to do and earn my keep that way. I think there are lots of interesting ideas around about how to make it easier for musicians to pursue their skills and talents and more generally to help develop a really vibrant national musical culture. The musicians wage, adopted to some degree in countries like France, is one such idea, but there are many. I think we should try to think of ways by which we can support musicians and develop strong and diverse musical cultures without continuing to turn music into merely another commodity.

Are you satisfied with the feedback that the second album is getting?

I’ve been really pleased with the feedback my second album, The Last Bird to Sing, has been getting. As well as the reviews, it was nominated for FATEA album of the year and I’ve also just been nominated for two Spiral Earth Awardswww.spiralearth.co.uk/spiralawards2013

The beautiful acoustic guitars that Ewan McLennan play are custom made, built by Ralph Brown. Below are pictures of the singer/songwriter and his guitars.

Notice: Ewan McLennan has  been nominated for Spiral Earth Awards ‘Best Male Singer’ of 2013. The voting for the nominees is all done online by the public. It’d be great if you would consider casting your vote his way! But also if you could pass this on to anyone else who might vote for him too that’d be much appreciated!

You can vote here: www.spiralearth.co.uk/spiralawards2013


Video courtesy of Peter Simmonds

From the album ‘The Last Bird to Sing’

  • Buy “The Last Bird to Sing” on


Celtic Twist Game:

The Celtic Music Fan would  like offer a free copy of Twist in the Tale to the winner of a competition which will start now. This is how it goes. All you need to do is find an answer to a question which in the animated picture blow. all you need to do is go to their official website http://www.wix.com/hollandandpalmley/celtictwist to look for the answer. A winner will be announced at the end of this month.  Phil and Dave could send it directly to you with a short note of congratulations. How’s that? For those who are new to this album, here is the link to the review I did back in June 27 of 2012.

celtic twist,game,albums,



How is everyone this week?As of this writing I am still listening to The Last Bird to Sing by our featured artist Ewan McLennan. Like I said above, his voice simply gets to you in a way one can ever imagine. And there is such palpable beauty in his rendition of new and traditional songs. This week is kind of relaxed. As you see not much feature other then the ongoing game of The Celtic Twist which I hope you take part. They make awesome recordings!

My friend Paula made an amazing discovery. This artist is harpist Mark Harmer. She posted this video on my wall. The track on the video is called Sir Arthur Shaen Carolan played by Mark Harmer on Celtic harp. I am not sure if it is me who will convince Mark to have an interview for this site or Paula. May the lucky person wins. As always, I am grateful for Paula’s enthusiasm for Celtic music even though she makes a different kind of music which is electronic. She did cover a number of Celtic inspired tunes like this one. She also sewed me those amazing frame Celtic designs and send them all the way from Yorkshire England. They proudly  sit on my working table!

I am currently doing an interview with John Breen for www.67music.net. Yes yours truly is now affiliated with the amazing guys who run this wonderful site and its owner Skot Cranmore became my first interview artist for American Made Insider.

It is wonderful to know the lives of the artists who became part of this site. That discovery is a continuing process because I still get updates and they appear in this site every now and then. For me, a musical relationship is a lasting relationship. More lasting than anything I have known…other than my relatives hahahaha.

I wish you all an amazing week and watch out for my updates on the John Breen interview. I would suggest you check out my tweets which are found on the lower right of this site. That way you will see my retweets. I don’t really like to tweet about my stuff but I like retweeting relevant updates on my feeds. Take care and see you soon.


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