Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis performs selections from “Alterum,” her newly-released and fifth studio album, and her previous four albums during her appearance with Performance Santa Fe on October 18.
“This is the first album I’ve made where all the songs are not entirely sung in Gaelic,” explains Fowlis, who also sings in English and Galician, a Romance language spoken by approximately 2.4 million people in the northwest corner of Spain.
“Most of the songs on the album are either traditional tunes or were composed in the 1960s.”
Éamon Doorley (guitar and bouzouki), Duncan Chisholm (fiddle) and Tony Byrne (guitar) accompany Fowlis, an award-winning singer who learned to speak Scottish Gaelic during her early childhood on the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist.
“Those formative years really shaped who I am and what I became interested in,” says Fowlis, whose mother’s native tongue was Scottish Gaelic. “North Uist is the last place in Scotland where you can still find many Gaelic speakers.”
Fowlis returned home to learn the traditional Scottish Gaelic tunes, some of which are from 500 to 700 years old, featured on her five albums. In “Alterum,” Fowlis pushes her own musical boundaries so she could do some experimentation and exploration. Rather than sing every tune alone, she decided to work with collaborators, including her good friend Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter.
“I was obsessed with her when I was a teenager, so to have her sing with me in Gaelic is such an honor,” Fowlis adds.
Nominated as Folk Singer of the Year at the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and Best Artist at the Songlines Music Awards 2015, Fowlis is best known for singing the theme songs to “Brave,” Disney Pixar’s 2012 award-winning animated film set in the highlands of Scotland. She made history when she became the first Gaelic solo artist to win a Scottish Music Award in 2014.
“My music is all about connecting with people,” she says. “I’m interested in performing songs that carry a sense of truth, authenticity and honesty about them.