With huge amounts of experience touring both the UK and abroad, we caught up with Skerryvore to get some valuable tips and advice, and to find out what life is like in a touring six-strong band.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Skerryvore are a Scottish band who first formed on the tiny lsle of Tiree off Scotland’s west coast in 2005. Originally the band consisted of Tiree-born brothers Daniel Gillespie (accordion) and Martin Gillespie (bagpipes, whistles & accordion) with Fraser West (drums & vocals) and Alec Dalglish (lead vocals & guitar.) Following our 2005 debut album, ‘West Coast Life,’ Barry Caulfield (bass & vocals) and Craig Espie (fiddle) were added in time for our second album, ‘On The Road’, in 2007. Our self-titled third album, ‘Skerryvore,’ won a string of prestigious awards. In June 2012 we released our fourth album ‘World of Chances.’ Uplifting and reflective, the result is a brighter, breezier, feel good sound that looks set to broaden the band’s appeal even further.
We play throughout the year at a wide range of venues ranging from small halls to major international festivals. We manage our own record label, Tyree Records, and agency, ‘Ringingstone.’ We also work with music charity ‘Live Music Now,’ and were PSYBT ‘Young Entrepreneurs of the Year 2009.’
2. We understand that you tour abroad quite extensively. Can you share with us some of your experiences?
Skerryvore have had the pleasure of performing in over 20 countries worldwide and have built up extensive experience of touring abroad and performing to a wide range of new and different cultures and crowds. We also have experience of the difficulties involved with touring abroad such as airline issues, obtaining US visas, and coping with travel fatigue.
The band have toured Europe quite extensively with performances in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Holland, Czech Republic and Denmark. Several of these performances were at some of Europe’s leading festivals as well as tours which were set up by our German agents, Magnetic Music. We have visited the USA to play at some of the large Festivals including performances in Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, New York, La Crosse and Kentucky. The USA market is particularly hard to break mainly due to the vastness of the country but Skerryvore are working hard at gaining more dates there and are actively seeking agents to set up longer tours.
Skerryvore feel very lucky to travel to so many different countries. Sometimes it’s only a short visit and most of the band’s time is spent in a hotel or on a stage, with little chance to experience what the city really has to offer. There are the odd occasions when there is more time to go out and do things, like standing on a glass ledge 1450ft up in the Sears Tower in Chicago or swimming with turtles in Turtle Reef in Oman.
3. What is the most enjoyable thing about touring abroad?
The most enjoyable thing about touring abroad is being able to see the world and learn about other peoples’ cultures. Skerryvore also enjoy educating people in Scottish and British culture and it’s amazing to find that you can be miles away from home but still have so much in common with people on a cultural and social level. It is amazing to see how the various cultures and people react differently to music.
For the most part, the band enjoy how they are treated abroad, both by audiences and by organizers, which is often ‘better’ – more professional – than in many UK venues.
4. Will you be doing anything differently for future bookings abroad?
Skerryvore are constantly learning about the best way to do things and every country has its own particularities. One of the hardest things about touring abroad is making it financially viable for a band with six members.
The band has a number of agents that represent them in various parts of Europe. The main change in bookings for the US will hopefully be in gaining an agent over there. Several promoters have indicated that it would make the band much more bookable if the person they were dealing with was in the US.
Travelling can also bring up a few issues so you are constantly learning what is the best way to travel.
The band are learning every time they perform abroad. Having just returned from the USA, they are all aware of how their show can be improved to suit the American audiences more, not necessarily in terms of the music being performed but more how they, as a band, interact with the audience and each other to be more entertaining on stage. There’s a lot to learn from watching bands at some of the US festivals to see how they interact with the American audiences.
Merchandise needs to be tailored for different markets and it’s also important, for financial reasons, to think about having albums and merchandise produced there.
5. Based on this experience, what would you say is the single most important thing a new band must consider when embarking on their first tour abroad?
It’s hard to pick something which is the single most important thing. The legality of how bands enter certain countries, as well as how they pay tax on the money earned, are both very important. The US is particularly confusing to deal with in terms of entering the country and making sure that musicians don’t get left paying a ridiculous amount of tax on the money they may have earned. Seek good advice on what type of visa is needed because there are several, and make sure that earnings are declared correctly, or bands could find themselves in difficulties and even face a lengthy ban from entering the US.
A band’s music is the key aspect of any tour but be prepared that it might be completely new to the audience as they may never have heard the band before. Bands want people to remember them. Not for falling onto the stage drunk and not being able to play, but for performing to the best of their ability. Take time to talk to as many people as possible before and after the shows. Make sure people know the band’s name. Make sure there are plenty of materials to support the promotion of the show i.e. albums, posters, stickers, etc. It is important when playing to new audiences that bands are clearly promoting their name/logo/brand/etc – don’t be afraid to say it and don’t be afraid to punt merchandise as much as possible.
Make the most of every opportunity to watch other bands’ and musicians’ performances and use this to learn a lot about the type of crowds and their cultures, etc.
6. Anything you would like to add?
We couldn’t have done it without the support of Creative Scotland too. It’s a good idea to look at all the different funding sources available to you when you start out and to not be afraid of asking people who know about the industry for advice.
And it’s an amazing opportunity to perform abroad so grasp it with both hands. Give the best show you can and enjoy yourself – many people would bite your hand off to have the opportunity.
Thanks to Skerryvore for the really good advice.
You can find out more about Skerryvore at www.skerryvore.com and on Facebook and YouTube. For information contact email@example.com. All four of their albums are available on iTunes.
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