PILGRIM SOULS – by Megan Henderson

📷 Photo by Elly Lucas

Making an album is a daunting process, no doubt about it! There is so much to think about; finance, studios, creating the music, the list goes on. It can be overwhelming and I imagine these feelings lead to people being put off, for a long time I certainly was.

In 2019, I was given the opportunity to take part in the Celtic Connections ‘New Voices’ series, in which I came up with the idea to use artwork by Christine Clark, a fellow Lochaber native, as my inspiration. I have always had a strong connection to art, and was straight away drawn to Christine’s style. ‘Pilgrim Soul’ was one of the first pieces of hers that I came across, it evoked such strong emotions in me and I felt that I wanted to explore more. I loved the journey of writing this music. For so many years I had played and learned other people’s music, and now I was giving myself the time and space to explore what my music and sound was in a way that suited me.

From this commission, I was left with an entire suite of newly self-composed music, and after a positive response from audience members, I wasn’t finished. 2 years on, lockdown and a new born baby, I felt life wasn’t challenging enough (haha!) and so I decided now was the time to record my music.

The first step in the process was figuring out how to finance such an operation so I applied (successfully) to Creative Scotland’s Open Fund for Individuals. I feel very grateful to them for supporting my project and I’m not sure it would have happened without them.

In June 2021, as restrictions in Glasgow were easing, I headed into GloWorm Recording Studios to start the process. I wanted to create as live a sound as possible and Euan Burton (sound engineer and my co-producer) was the person I tasked with helping make this happen. Making up the musical team were Jack Smedley (violin), Su-a Lee (Cello/Saw) , Mairi Campbell (Viola), Anna Massie (Mandolin), Alistair Iain Paterson (Piano/Harmonium) and Laura-Beth Salter (Vocals/Mandolin). I was not able to have Olav Luksengard Mjelva (Hardanger) in person due to travel restrictions but thanks to the wonders of technology he still features on this album.

Somhairle Macdonald did a wonderful job of putting the album artwork together (and building me a website) which includes a booklet featuring the 7 pieces of Christine’s artwork on which the tracks were based. A great deal of the post-production work still feels like a blur to me and I had to lean on a few friends to help me with this area. Generating barcodes, ISRC codes, registering with PRS and the legalities was all new to me but Alison at Maxwell Music guided me through this side of things and took a lot of the stress from this away. In terms of PR, I employed Innes & Campbell Communications and they were excellent in helping arrange interviews and secure radio plays. I set up a Bandcamp page for online orders and approached Proper Music to help me with physical distribution of the CDs. I suppose I’m at the fun part now, posting out the CDs!

Making this record and self-releasing was a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience, although stressful at times I would encourage anyone considering undertaking such a project to absolutely go for it. Assemble a reliable team that you can trust to deliver and don’t be scared to ask for help to reduce the workload. I’m so happy that I pressed ahead and made this happen, I had great support and a fantastic team around me and I hope the album is able to bring listeners a little enjoyment.