Innes Watson (27) was born to musical parents and grew up listening to an extremely eclectic mix of traditional Scottish and Irish music, folk, rock, alternative rock, pop of all eras, jazz, orchestral, soul, blues, funk, latin-American, Cuban and of course the Beatles! Learning guitar from the age of four from his father gave Innes an early start to developing an ear for music. His sister joined him on the violin at 7 and later Innes would follow her footsteps to learn violin in school.
He grew up in the Scottish Borders which, at that time, was on the cusp of something that would grow to be a thriving traditional music scene when "the Watsons" teamed up with three or four other families and created what is now known as the Small Hall Band. This is now somewhat of an institution rearing young musicians into fine traditional and contemporary musicians. The Small Hall Band took part in the Borders' entry to the Our Towns series at the Millennium Dome in a piece written by Ian Lowthian. The piece was then recorded and put on a CD released by Scottish Borders Council called "A Land of Creativity".
Playing in the Small Hall Band for ceilidhs led to joining an adult band created for such occasions that happened on a school night when younger kids had to get home to bed! The Clarty Cloot was formed and still plays for ceilidhs in and around the Borders.
Learning violin in school from Simon Johnston and out of school by Lucy Cowan, Innes also had a hand in orchestral playing. Joining the Scottish Borders Junior Orchestra at 12 years old and moving through the Scottish Borders Orchestra's programs in the next few years saw Innes gaining experience that has proven invaluable in playing in groups and sight reading in ensembles. Those were the Intermediate and Chamber Orchestras of the Scottish Borders. Ending up in the Scottish Borders Chamber Ensemble at 16 years old Innes had also achieved the qualification of Grade 6 violin with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and studied for but did not sit (regrettably) Grade 8. He was also notably leader of the Berwickshire High School Orchestra in 5th year.
After 5th year Innes gained a place in the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton to do his 6th year. There he studied with Iain MacFarlane on fiddle and Jack Evans on guitar. He also achieved an Advanced Higher in Music which set him in good stead to be accepted for the BA in Scottish Music course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.
By now a group called Borders Young Fiddles had been formed by Lori Watson to record the fiddle music of Jimmy Nagle, Bob Hobkirk and Tommy Hughes. A CD was also recorded and released on Isle Music Scotland, a record label set up by Innes's father Sandy. The third CD Innes would record would be the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music's end of year project called "Now That's What I Ceòl Music!"
At the RSAMD Innes studied fiddle with Iain Fraser, Pete Clark and Alistair McCulloch and guitar with Jack Evans. Whilst there he appeared on Gaelic tv series Beolach, at Tønder Festival in Denmark as part of Young Musicians Crossing Borders who later had a Celtic Connections gig also, and various gigs for Visit Scotland and the Scottish Parliament including a trip to Toronto with Jack McConnell, Scotland's first First Minister.
During this time his sister recorded her first album entitled Lori Watson: Three with Innes, Fiona Young and Barry Reid. Just before completing the degree course Innes achieved a childhood dream of his and joined Croft No Five a group whose first album Attention All Personnel had inspired him to take his love for Traditional Scottish music as far as he has.
Innes started his teaching career at Glasgow Fiddle Workshop, an organisation which allows children and adults to attend night classes with some of Glasgow's best trad and folk musicians. He also taught for the RSAMD Junior Academy, the Youth Works program and numerous Fèisean.
Since acquiring a degree in Scottish Music Innes has returned to Tønder Festival with Croft No Five and has appeared countless times at Celtic Connections in Glasgow. Some of these include concerts with Lori Watson: Three, Master and Apprentice with Gordon Duncan and Ali Hutton, Calum MacCrimmon's New Voices, the Fred Morrison Band, Maeve MacKinnon's Classic Album, Lori Watson and Rule of Three, Treacherous Orchestra and Lori Watson's New Voices. Innes also accompanies the 2010 Young Traditional Musician of the Year Daniel Thorpe on his brilliant album "The Curiosity Shop".
Innes was awarded a commission for Ceol Mor, a trad big-band of young musicians in summer 2010 at Aberdeen International Youth Festival. The piece is entitled Red Squirrel. This opportunity came about after being allowed to attend Distil 2009, a weekend hideaway for composers of new and contemporary music in the UK. A piece was then chosen to be played by Mr McFall's Chamber at Distil Showcase 2009 alongside pieces by Lori Watson, Corrina Hewit, Aidan O'Rourke, Simon Thoumire and Karen Tweed. Innes would return to teach at Ceol Mor and Splore at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival in the following few years.
Four more CDs to mention from Innes's collection are "A Tale of the Howe", Lori Watson and Rule of Three: "Pleasure's Coin", "Borders Tunesmiths", "Man's Ruin" and "Health and Safety". Fiddle on "A Tale of the Howe", a project spear-headed by Roger Lyall celebrating the history of The Mearns in music and song, punctuated with readings. Guitar and vocals on "Pleasure's Coin", the first CD of Lori's new trio Rule of Three with Duncan Lyall and Donald Hay on bass and percussion. Fiddle, guitar and cajon on "Borders Tunesmiths", a project put together by Shona Mooney locking 9 Borders tune writers together in a house to create some brand new music. The CD was recorded live at Heart of Hawick. Guitar, fiddle, lap-steel and vocals on "Man's Ruin" the outcome of Calum MacCrimmon's new voices, and now a live band playing mainly songs and funk tunes with a new album named "Health and Safety".
Innes was the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year 2011. Tours to date include several in Sweden, namely Göteborg and Halland, Norway, Northern Spain, Berlin, Austria and Cape Breton at Celtic Colours. Maeve MacKinnon's album "Once Upon an Olive Branch" features Innes as guitarist and string ensemble working alongside producer Angus Lyon. Innes was employed to play with Mike Vass in December 2012 to tour his solo CD "Decemberwell" and recorded Angus Lyon and Duncan Lyall's New Voices "3G" and "Infinite Reflections", both launched at Celtic Connections 2013. He also plays fiddle with Ross Ainsley & Jarlath Henderson in their "big band" soon to be playing at a festival near you!
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