Internationally renowned singer/songwriter Isla Grant is making an appearance at Port Panthers this month as a part of her Happy Anniversary tour. Scottish-born Isla shares her love of Country Music and tells us just how she stays motivated after producing 15 albums …
You came from an exceptionally musical background, and starting performing in clubs at the age of fourteen. Was that a scary experience for one so young?
Not really, because my brother was in the music business as well. I grew up with it – he had his own Jazz band. So I always had music around me, and it just seemed right that I would perform.
I’d done quite a lot of performing before this – church concerts and things, so I did know how it felt to be out there in front of people. But it was Folk clubs I performed in – and that’s a different kind of atmosphere – it was a very intimate atmosphere.
As you mentioned, you started out performing Folk Music, and then discovered Country. Who were some of the leading Country Singers that inspired you?
Merle Haggard was the one who actually inspired me to start writing songs. I listened to his music – and I think I have almost every one of his albums. I just love the way he puts a song together. I started to listen to them and dissect them and put songs together myself. He tells a story so well … The way that he writes, he communicates very easily – because he tells it like it is.
I hope that’s what the audiences are getting from my songs – that they can relate to the songs in some way.
How many albums do you have now … and given your longevity in the industry, how do you stop your work from growing stale?
I think it’s 15 albums now. I don’t really know, to be honest. I suppose it’s because I’m writing all the time. The world changes all the time; people around you change all the time and the songs, in one way or another, change as well.
I’m writing more in a Country/Blues style now. It depends on the mood … that does help. Going into the studio and recording, the songs can get the same feel every time, album after album – this was starting to happen with the record company. But now, every album is a challenge. I want to do something different to the last one – I think this affects the way I’m writing and going into the studio to produce a different sound each time.
Who’s travelling and playing with you on your current tour?
I’ll be bringing my own guys with me. Johnny Scott is my Musical Director; he was MD with Van Morrison for years and he’s been with me now for three years. Glen Flynn has been with us for nearly 10 years, and plays steel guitar, guitar, accordion and banjo. My husband Al plays bass; Johnny plays acoustic guitar, dobro and mandolin, and I play harmonica and guitar.
You’ll be playing a mix of old and new songs on this tour?
Yes, you’ve got to keep the favourites in – the songs that people are expecting to hear. But there will be quite a few new songs from my last two albums – which have more of a Bluesy feel.
Are you looking forward to visiting Australia again?
This will be my eighth time. I always look forward to going to Australia – it’s like going home. And it will be a lot warmer – we’re expecting snow here!
Interview by Jo Atkins.