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Singer/songwriter Martha L. Healy on her new album, recording in Nashville and the buzz of Glasgow Americana

Martha L Healy album cover

Scottish singer-songwriter, Martha L. Healy, says she was raised on a diet of Americana music. Now, she’s producing it on an international scale.

On 5 October, Healy releases her new album, Keep The Flame Alight, which was recorded in Nashville. The record will be launched at Glasgow Americana festival on 6 October.

“The title of the new album is a bit of a mantra for me now,” the artist says, discussing her inspiration for writing the new music.

“It came to me a couple of years ago when I realised that I felt burnt out, emotionally and creatively."

I feel strongly that I wouldn't have been able to achieve the sound on Keep The Flame Alight anywhere else but in Nashville- Martha L. Healy

Healy explains that she was finding it hard to devote time to her music whilst holding down a full-time job. As such, she felt that she wasn't getting enough time and space to be creative.

“I looked around at my friends, family and colleagues, and I realised they were all doing the same - trying to keep their own individual flames alight through illness, personal challenges and, more generally, struggling to deal with the pace of life in the 21st century. I felt I had to explore this theme, and the album was born.”

"Absorbing the energy" of Nashville

This merry musical birth occurred in 2016, during a period of time that Healy refers to as a “life sabbatical” in Nashville (a place she says she’s loved long before the TV show of the same name made it famous).

“My husband and I went there on honeymoon and instantly were taken over by the musicianship, the devotion to songwriting and the atmosphere of co-working and co-writing there,” she says.

“I think at home there are always distractions and, for me, being away from home is often when I discover things about the world that I feel compelled to write about. Even if it's a train journey or a bus ride - there's something about moving and being on the road that inspires me.

“Writing in Nashville means you absorb the energy and creativity of the whole town: everyone is meeting up for co-writes and doing writers' rounds and collaborating. It was something I was fearful of, but threw myself in anyway!”

Healy says her songs sit “somewhere between Country, Americana & Celtic” - something she believes Nashville players are incredibly sensitive to, genre-wise.

“For instance, I have Eamon McLoughlin on the record on fiddle and strings,” she says. “He is London-born, of Irish parentage and he is now the staff fiddle player at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and goes out on the road with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.

“To me, these are the best players for my type of music and I feel strongly that I wouldn't have been able to achieve the sound on Keep The Flame Alight anywhere else but in Nashville.”

When Celtic meets Americana

Despite this deep love for the American south, Healy says she feels even more connected to Scotland since being away. “That comes across in my song No Place Like Home,” she says, “which is the first track on the album.

“My ancestors were Irish and I feel like the instrumentation on some of the tracks - along with the stories and subject matter - are deeply influenced by the fact I was brought up listening to bands like The Fureys, The Dubliners, went to Scottish country dancing and was in a Scottish choir at school.

“It's also a fact that what we now consider to be Americana has its roots firmly in the Scottish and Irish folk music that people from our shores took with them to America centuries ago."

Playing the 'amazing' Glasgow Americana festival

And speaking of Scotland’s connection to Americana, the Glasgow Americana festival is an important fixture for Healy.

Kevin Morris, who runs the festival, brings such amazing international artists to Glasgow, books out the best venues and also ensures a generous offering of local talent,” she says. ”It gives us the opportunity to play alongside international names.

This will be the 12th edition, and Healy is already looking forward to playing. “The audiences are always attentive, engaged and into the music - it's basically a dream festival to play and attend.”

Tours galore

Her launch gig at The Glad Cafe on 6 October is already sold out, but she’s got plenty of gigging still to come. “I am supporting Emily Barker at Oran Mor on 4 October,” she says, “and I'll be heading out on a mini-tour the rest of October hitting up Scotland and then London.

“An Irish and English tour are in the planning and I'll generally be out and about doing some record-store appearances - all details will be posted on my website - marthalhealy.com.”

As for the future, Healy dreams of touring the States. “But other than that,” she says, “I just want to keep doing more of what I am doing. So, I'll be taking my own advice, and trying to ‘Keep The Flame Alight’.”

Martha L Healy received National Lottery funding via or Open Project Fund, to support her second album, Keep the Flame Alight. The album launches on 5 October.

Glasgow Americana Festival also recieved National Lottery Funding via our Open Project Fund, to support this year's event. The festival runs from 3- 7 October.

This article was published on 26 Sep 2018