Camden Close - Up: Iona Fyfe
Love Camden loves its local talent. We aim to celebrate everything cultural in the borough, from Hampstead to Kilburn, from the British Library to that little café around the corner - we are always out to show what Camden has to offer. As part of this, we launched our Camden Close-Up series: interviews with artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs and downright interesting figures that live, work or are inspired by the borough.
This month we interviewed Aberdeenshire folksinger and reigning MG ALBA Scots Singer of the Year, Iona Fyfe.
- What would you do if you weren’t doing this? What would your parallel life look like?
If I wasn’t a touring and recording folksinger, I’d probably be an academic. I studied Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and always found myself drawn to the ballad collections, getting lost in them for hours researching balladry and how songs are found in several different regions and how they historically differ. If I wasn’t performing these songs, I’d probably be studying them in some sort of ethnology or musicology degree or maybe I’d be a lecturer?! Although, I spent a large portion of my teenage years wanting to go into musical theatre, but unfortunately, two left legs do not make for a good dancer.
- What do you think is most important: luck, chance, opportunity or hard-graft?
Hard-graft is definitely the most important. The more you put in, the more you get out. Seizing opportunities if they arise is brilliant, but creating your own opportunities is better. I mean, we’d all like a bit of luck too, I guess!
- What has been your most career defining moment to date and why?
I think winning the title of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2018 was a real highlight – as well as being put on the front cover of The Living Tradition, a magazine I’ve been reading for years and a dream come true to be featured. Of course, a career defining moment was when a track from my album and EP was played on Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show on BBC Radio 2 – having that stamp of approval gave me such a confidence boost.
- What are you most proud of and what are you least proud of……and why?
I studied Traditional Music at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and started touring, recording and teaching at the same time as well as working as a National Director of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (www.tmsa.org.uk). Trying to strike a healthy ballads between all of this was exceptionally difficult, and I became susceptible to several infections due to being so ran down and exhausted. I ended up having a tonsillectomy in December 2018 – but was set to perform at Celtic Connections in January and I certainly didn’t want to give up the gig! I was asked to sing at the World Premiere of Disney Pixar’s Brave in Concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. As you can imagine, going from surgery to full vocal recovery for a big performance in under a month was challenging, but I did it and it made me so happy – to know that with determination, I can set my mind (and vocal cords) to anything!
- What does Camden mean to you?
Whenever I’ve had the pleasure of playing in London, I’ll most likely ALWAYS visit Camden – it has amazing coffee shops, venues such as the Green Note, not to mention Cecil Sharp House which is home to hundreds of ballad collections that the public can access – it’s a place of wonder and excitement, and is a total oasis. If you want to get lost in 15th century Scottish literature, Camden is the place to go!
Artist bio (please produce below):
Aberdeenshire folksinger, Iona Fyfe, has become one of Scotland’s finest young ballad singers, rooted deeply in the singing traditions of the North East of Scotland. Winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2018, Iona has been described as “one of the best Scotland has to offer.” (Global-Music.de) With a number of high profile appearances under her belt, Iona, a mere 21 years of age, has toured throughout the UK, Poland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Canada and Australia. Iona has performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as part of the World Premiere of Disney Pixar’s Brave in Concert at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Released in 2019, Dark Turn of Mind is Iona’s first EP entirely in English and features six ballads and songs found in both Appalachia and Aberdeenshire and has been described as “a new interpretation to the country genre” – Maverick.
A sell-out show at Edinburgh Fringe Festival for two consecutive years, Iona was a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year and won the Molloy Award at Birmingham Irish Trad Fest. In 2018, Iona performed at Interceltique Festival De Lorient where she was described as “a Scottish folksinger, magical and charismatic” (Rolling Stone, France). She was nominated for “One to Watch” and “Best Live Performance” at the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards 2018.
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