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Colin McEwan – A Scrapbook of Songs & Stories

Last changed 1 month, 2 weeks ago.


The title of this performance, A Scrapbook of Song & Stories, is inspired by how I put together a set list, and the stories that surround the words and melodies.

I realised that, when I was thinking of ways to introduce the songs, each one had a story, and every story has more stories, and all these stories create pictures in my mind, so I decided my approach to gigging would be an evening of music accompanied by anecdotal tales.

This way of thinking, but dealt with in a disciplined way, was what started me song writing in a concerted manner, and I remember the event that kicked this off. I was sitting in a room full of people, ostensibly for a discussion group. After the usual introductions the moderator asked if anyone had anything to say. Nobody spoke.

“I’m comfortable with silence,” she said, too which another member of the group replied, “So am I.”
“I’m not!” I said, and walked out.

On the back of that experience I signed up for a counselling skills course, to deal with the fact that I found silence hard.  I knew I needed to be able to listen, to hear and pay heed to other people’s stories.

Part of the course involved written work, which helped me be disciplined with my writing. I experimented with penning children’s books, having worked on a project with authors and illustrators, but instead out came songs. I persevered, thinking if I kept at it, eventually a book would form, but no, just song after song after song…

I’d written one or two songs already, and performed them, so I knew that they worked for an audience, but I have always had a deep restlessness that makes sitting down and finishing things tough.

By tackling that restlessness, I found there was a great deal that I wanted to say. The constraints of saying something coherent within a three or four minute song meant I could reach an ending, by simply setting out sketches, giving glimpses of scenes and leaving out the mass of detail that could overwhelm me and the audience.

My song examples include Radio which explores war from the perspective of a child stuck in the middle of conflict, Gone Fishing which looks at how loss impacts on a family, and Save the Universe discovers feeling safe in a child’s world within a surrounding darkness.

Heavy topics yes, but I found I could use humour to deal with matters too serious to deal with seriously, Significant Bastard being a case in point.  Some things make me so angry and frustrated (relationships, jobs, the state of the world) that the only thing I can do is adopt gallows humour and face it all head on with a cheery smile.

It was greatly therapeutic to set out that which had, at one time, been raw and painful, without getting lost in the negativity and frustration it induced. Instead of ranting, I could depict what I wanted to rant about, frame it in a song; include just enough to say what needs said and no more.

I realised that focusing my thoughts and stories through songs changed them from something that would turn people off into narratives I’d be asked to sing again and again.

Playing to an audience is really important, even just one person. Having someone to respond to, interact with and paint pictures for, because that’s what I do. I paint pictures in the air. In stories and in songs.

Colin takes his Scrapbook of Songs and Stories on Tour around Scotland:

Fri 4 Oct, 9.30pm: Aikmans, ST ANDREWS KY16 9UX

Mon 7 Oct , 8pm: Glenfarg Folk Club @ The Glenfarg Hotel, PH2 9NUFri 11 Oct, 7.30pm: Luthrie Village Hall, KY15 4NU

Fri 15 Nov, 7.30pm: Scottish Storytelling Centre, EDINBURGH EH1 1SR
Book Tickets Here

Thu 12 Dec, 8pm: Houston Folk Club @ The Carrick Centre, PA6 7HD

Music at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in November

Before and after Colin’s visit – we have a host of fantastic music events which showcase music and song with something to say…

Sat 2 Nov, 8pm
Perthshire singer-songwriter Sophie Ramsay launches her long-awaited album The Glassy Mountain – a powerful personal exploration of grief. The songs vary in their style from intimate, folk songs that feel a bit European, to moments of visceral lamenting, to gently upbeat pop songs.
Listen to track The Song I Never Wrote for You:

Cafe Ceilidh: St. Andrew’s Day
Tue 26 Nov, 2pm
The Storytelling Centre’s free music event organised by Linten Adie and friends from the Scots Music Group.

A Harvest of Songs: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
Sat 30 Nov, 7.30pm
Frieda Morrison, Aileen Carr, Steve Byrne, Lucy Pringle, Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre, plus special guest Fraser Fifield, share a treasure trove of songs associated with the North East of Scotland. Plus, there’s a fantastic workshop that afternoon.

Watch Frieda Morrison singing The Present Time is Oors from the Greig-Duncan folk song collection: