Creating a blend of traditional, world and electronic music

Gill Sherry

I’m intrigued by the title of Lauren Collier’s debut album, Uddevalla. It is, I discover, the name of a town in Sweden so I begin by asking Irvine-born Lauren about its significance.

“It’s a place that I went to as a teenager for a world music camp where we were taught tunes from all over the world. It was my first exposure to anything trad that wasn’t really Scottish or Irish and I just thought it was brilliant. I was really intrigued by it. I’ve gone back to that town a few times since and it’s just been a grounding place for me to be, I’ve always felt myself there. It felt right to call it that.”

The album was released in December and features songs and tunes which Lauren has collected from around the world, including her personal favourite, ‘Kouman Nou Ye’.

“It’s a song from Haiti. I learned that in Uddevalla in one of the first years I was there and it’s just been bouncing around in my head for about 20 years since. It’s just a really catchy tune, it’s lovely.”

The album also includes a song from India as well as tunes from Greece and Macedonia.

“It’s not really deliberate that they’re from all over the place,” Lauren says. “It’s just that that’s the sort of music I listen to myself. It’s just a nice wee place to disappear off to in your head. That Indian song I learned literally under a mango tree sitting in the north of India in the sun, and whenever I’m singing it that’s exactly where I am. It’s a nice wee journey.”

Talking of journeys, I ask Lauren how her own musical journey began.

“I asked for a violin from Santa when I was about five… and learned classical violin until I left school. I also joined the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, that was an incredible thing. Wallace Galbraith did such a good job of inspiring us all and he took us on these amazing tours. We went to Australia and New Zealand and all over Canada and America… it was mad the opportunities that we were given through that. So I think that got me hooked on trad music and made it a lot more sociable which is probably partly why I stuck with it.”

Why the violin?

“I don’t think five-year old me had any good reason for that to be honest. I probably just liked the sound of it. Now that I understand it more, it’s one of those instruments that you can play literally anything on. There’s just no limit to how many notes you can play or the range of tone that you can get, or the different styles that you can play. It’s such a versatile thing and it’s all there for you if you want to figure it out.”

And figure it out she did! Although, surprisingly, her background is science.

“I went to do medicine in Dundee… I haven’t actually studied music until quite recently. It’s just always been there for me I guess.”

But whilst music has been a constant in her life since she was a child, singing is something that’s quite new to the former Greenwood Academy student.

“I’ve only recently started singing so it’s quite a scary thing! It’s good fun but it feels so exposed. It just feels so much more personal than playing an instrument. It feels like if you get it wrong, it’s way more personal. It’s quite scary but I am enjoying it and I’ve had really lovely feedback so I’ll try and do it a wee bit more.”

There are two songs on the album, one in Hindi, one in Haitian Creole. The other tracks are instrumental and what Lauren refers to as “tunes”, combining flavours of traditional, world and electronic music. The overall sound, though, is Global Contemporary Folk.

“It’s played in the style of a Scottish person playing, because that’s what I am,” Lauren clarifies. “I’m certainly not attempting to imitate any of the countries that the music’s from, but the origins of the music and the context of the music itself is maybe more global.”

And what about Lauren’s musical goals? How global are they?

“There’s maybe some goals in terms of festivals. Things like Cambridge or Knockengorroch where I feel like there would be a larger crowd that might appreciate the global nature of the music.”

At the time of our conversation, she’s looking forward to performing at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on 26th January along with her live band, namely Paul Jennings (drums and percussion), Ali Hutton (guitar), Tiernan Courell (whistles/flute) and Gus Stirrat (bass). Further ahead, there’s the FreshAyr Folk Festival which unfortunately had to be cancelled last year but which is set to take place in Ayr on 9th, 10th and 11th August 2024.

Meanwhile, Lauren reflects on her favourite past performances.

“It’s more about the crowd,” she tells me. “The best place I think I’ve ever played was probably in the Lotus Temple in Delhi. It looks like a massive lotus flower… like the Sydney Opera House but in the shape of a flower. It’s absolutely incredible. It’s from the Baha’i faith so there’s not usually any music inside the temple, it’s actually completely silent, but they let us play music. That was probably the most mad gig that I’ve ever done!”

But there were other memorable shows too.

“We’ve had some lovely ones. Mull was a real stand-out one for me. We played at An Tobar and the crowd were just so lovely. And also The Ceilidh Place up in Ullapool. But I’m hoping that Celtic Connections will be brilliant.”

The Glasgow gig allows Lauren the ideal opportunity to promote her debut album. She does, however, have a day job to consider.

“I teach biology part-time in high school. The other part of my time is made up playing music. I think it’s possible to have both.”

Lauren is certainly proving that to be the case, and with three singles already released in December as well as her new album, there’s plenty to be excited about.

“We’re just trying to play as much as we can. We’re having a load of fun playing. It’s a brilliant live band so we’re just trying to book more and write some more new material and we’ll see what happens next.”
In the meantime, she’s already feeling the pull of music from elsewhere…

“I’m likely to be at a world music camp somewhere in Europe or somewhere around the world.”

Uddevalla, perhaps?