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Rachel Newton on her new album, West

Singer and harpist Rachel Newton has been described as 'the sound of modern Scotland' (Herald) - and is widely recognised as one of the most innovative and dynamic singer-songwriters around today.

She is a founder member of The Shee, BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2017 Best Group The Furrow Collective, and also plays with the Scottish/Norwegian group Boreas.

As a soloist, she specialises in interpreting traditional folk songs in both English and Gaelic. Her 2017 album, Here's My Heart Come Take It, was shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award in 2017. Her fourth solo album, West, came out at the end of September, and Newton will be touring in support of the record throughout October.

I hope that people will get a sense of the place and the landscape through the music- Rachel Newton on West

"I wanted to make something that was truly solo - just my voice and my harps," she says of the record. "It felt important to record such an album in a space that held a special meaning to me personally.

"My grandparents' old croft house in Achnahaird, Wester Ross, was where I spent all my school holidays. Growing up, it felt like the perfect setting.

"A lot of the music on the album was improvised at the time and the location was definitely a huge inspiration."

Her approach to English and Gaelic is rooted in her appreciation of Trad. "I like to try and create something different and new with the amazing wealth of traditional songs we have in our culture," she says.

"These songs are timeless and I find them fascinating. I treat them exactly the same as I would any other song.

"I also like to take old poems and set them to music, or add my own lyrics to songs that already exist. I think it's important to be able to feel creative with these songs, as people would've been in the past."

In 2016, Newton received a Hands Up for Trad Ignition Award for Innovation. "I hope that my work is innovative as I am always endeavouring to do something different with each new recording or project," she says.

That's certainly reflected in her output. "I'm about to embark on a solo tour to promote West, then I'll be joining up with my band The Furrow Collective," she says, "as we have a new album called Fathoms coming out in November.

"I'm involved in a new collaborative project based around the amazing The Lost Words book, which will be touring in February, and then in March I'm curating mini festival Trad.Reclaimed: Women in Folk in London."

But for now, the focus is on West, and the way it truly encapsulate something of modern Scotland.

"I hope listeners will appreciate how personal this project was, and that this will come across and connect with them in some way.

"I hope that people will get a sense of the place and the landscape through the music."

This article was published on 02 Oct 2018