Tolbooth live with James Yorkston

james-yorkston-stuffHello Tolbooth blog readers – Earlier this week I had the great pleasure in speaking to James Yorkston – a singer songwriter belonging to Fence Records. I managed to ask him a few questions about his upcoming show at the Tolbooth, where he’ll be playing alongside some of his Fence label mates. Here are his answers which I’m sure will be of interest ahead of his performance on March 16th.

Are you looking forward to the forthcoming tour with your Fence chums, and are you looking forward to coming back to the Tolbooth?

Most definitely. The Tolbooth is one of my favourite Scottish venues, although once I made the mistake of parking my van full of gear at the bottom of the hill and we had to carry everything up, but that aside, all good. Touring with the Fence boys will be a luxury – Johnny is amazing on stage and I’d cut off my left toenail to have a voice like his. Seamus is a newer prospect on the Fence scene, I’ve probably only seen him playing 5 times or so, so that’ll be interesting. He’s my 2nd favourite Irish songwriter of the last 10 years and a great interpreter of traditional song.

 Do you think where you grow up influences your musical style?

Of course, but so do friends, family, etc. I’ve never noticed the Fence “sound” to be particularly Neukian, or even Scottish, but almost every review I’ve had mentions it, so I guess it does. I doubt if I’d grown up in New York I’d be singing songs about the damp Fife coastline, certainly.

You started in Punk outfit Miraclehead . How does that experience
compare to being a solo artist?

It was wonderful and horrible in equal measure. We were a real gang, full of love for one another and the music. But, as ever, it turned sour due to, ahem, musical and personal differences. If we’d ever “made it” I doubt very much we’d still even be talking to one another at this stage. Being solo is a lot more fun as it means I can tour solo, play whatever I like, eat wherever I like, etc, but I also have a pool of musicians I can dip into for shows, so I get the best of both worlds – some shows solo, some with band and pals. Afterall, there are only so many curries you can eat by yourself before you start talking to the naan bread.

And finally if you could do a duet with any artist (DoA) who would it be and why?

I’ve been lucky to do duets with some great folk; it’s mostly a fun experience. Who would I like to? Skip James would be funny, just to see the look of disgust in his eyes as I tried to play along with him. Who else? Bess Cronin would have been fun, though I’d have ruined that duet – I’d have been the whole in the boat, for sure. Anyone alive? Erm… Serafina Steer I like, Natalie Merchant, Lisa O’Neill. A’ sorts o’ barry singers oot there.


What’s On: Jan – Apr 2013

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A fantastic start to 2013 at the Tolbooth with performances from Blazin’ Fiddles, Miniature Dinosaurs, Martin Simpson, Donnie Munro and Paul Brady and comedy from Robin Ince, Jimeoin and Pete Firman. We also welcome the sensational John Cooper Clarke.

Have a look through our brochure or go to our website… http:://


Tolbooth Live talks to Aidan Moffat…

Aidan Moffat

Aidan Moffat

Earlier this year, the lyrically astounding duo Bills Wells and Aidan Moffat won the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year award for their 2011 album Everything’s Getting Older, they bring their award winning music to the Tolbooth later this month.

I managed to catch a few words with Aidan about their winning album and his thoughts on what constitutes a good record.

Have you ever been to Stirling before?
Many, many times – I’m from Falkirk, and used to come through all the time when I was young. When I was 14, me and some mates used to get the train through and buy Playboy at the train station, then buy American comics at a stall in the bus station. I’ve even played the Tolbooth a couple of times too.

Did you write “Everything’s Getting Older” with things like the SAY awards in mind?
Ha, no! The SAY Award didn’t even exist when we made the album, so we couldn’t have known, and the award was a big – and very welcome – surprise. I don’t think it’s even possible to try and write with an award in mind, indeed I’m absolutely certain that an attempt to do so could only result in abject failure. You always just try and make the best record you can, otherwise you might as well not bother.

You’ve clearly worked hard on the record, as it shows through your SAY awards win. Would you say that you always take particular care when choosing where or with whom to record an album?
Choosing someone to work with is pretty easy, you just need to use your instinct and it’ll be quite clear right away if something’s working. I’ve rarely abandoned any collaboration, they always result in something, however small. You’re naturally drawn to people of a like mind, so as long as you like each other’s records then it should work out fine.

I heard through the grapevine that “Everything’s Getting Older” had been in the making for eight years. Was this because you wanted the record to be absolutely perfect or are there hidden reasons behind its lengthy birth?
That’s been slightly exaggerated, in that we weren’t working constantly or toiling away on it for so long. We recorded our first song in 2003 and were simply too busy to make the album until 2009 / 2010, when we finally got our act together and booked a studio. I think I put out about five other albums during that time, and Bill probably made more – so it’s not as though we locked away and obsessing over it, we’re just too busy doing other things.

Collectively, it probably took about a year to write and record.

What would you say makes a good album?
I don’t think there’s anything specific musically, but I think a great record has a consistent, strong personality. Other than that, I couldn’t say; it’s a wholly subjective experience.

Would you say that maturity comes with age in regards to writing music?
I think my writing’s certainly a lot more sophisticated than it used to be, but whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m not so sure. Sometimes a band’s best music is the simplest, earliest recordings, before they learn how to be professional.

That said, I’m very proud of the Everything’s Getting Older album and I think it’s the got the best lyrics I’ve ever written – but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat
support from RM Hubbert
Thu 22 Nov, 8pm
Read More/Tickets…

Interview by Andrew McAllister

In Pictures: Kathryn Tickell: Northumbrian Voices

Kathryn Tickell brought her performance of Northumbrian Voices to the Tolbooth and our photographer was there to capture it.

This magical show is based on interviews and recordings Kathryn has done over the years with family members and the shepherd musicians from whom she learnt including mouth organ player Will Atkinson and fiddler Willie Taylor.

Photos: Johan Sandberg McGuinne