A great Scot; Julie Fowlis' magic is in mixing Gaelic language songs with a thoroughly modern mentality, as she tells Kirstie McCrum.
IN an echo of the misty landscapes of her home on Scotland's Hebridean island of Uist, Julie Fowlis has a most haunting voice. Singing in Gaelic, the diminutive singer has carved out a career far beyond Scotland's shores, collaborating with a list of impressive artists, from Alison Krauss to James Taylor.
Currently on tour promoting her thirdmusicalbumUam(meaning 'From Me'), Fowlis is still delighted with the response of fans.
"It's always surprising the kind of people that come out. There's a core of folkmusic fans who like what we do and then there are new people that come.
"Nearly every night there'll be someonewho'sneverseenGaelic music before and has really enjoyed it, and that's always really gratifying to hear."
A concert experience in a very traditional vein, the musicians joining Fowlis on the road include her husband, Irishman [ETH]amon Doorley, who plays the bouzouki, Highland fiddler Duncan Chisholm, driving guitarist Tony Byrne from Dublin and awardwinning bodhr[sz]n player Martin O'Neill.
This time round, Fowlis has an extramember of the team on the road with her - her five-monthold baby daughter.
"My focus has shifted from the usual touring nonsense to looking after the wee one. In a lot of ways it's made me feel more relaxed.
I used to get quitenervousabout the concerts and now that's the easiest part of the day.
Allthelads arebrilliant,theyfulfil their uncle duties very well."
Critics have swooned at the sound of Fowlis' voice since her first record,MaraThaMoChridhe (As My Heart Is), in 2005. Since then, her fanbase has grown and, with it, her sphere of inspiration, even seeing her this time round recording an old Breton song.
"It'swonderful to be able to go and explore other cultures and themusic of other countries," she says.
"As well as bringing in new material, it also makes you look at your own home music from a different angle."
The current single, Wind And Rain, showcases Fowlis' inventiveness, taking an Irish American song and translating it into Gaelic for a bilingual duet with the celebrated Glaswegian singer Eddi Reader.
"Myself and Eddi had a great time singing together and we found this song that worked in both languages so we tweaked it a bit to make it something new."
Singing in Gaelic has made Fowlis notable in her native Scotland,whereshesaysthefutureof the language is by no means assured.
"I think we've come to a really important point in our history.
"People will look back at this point and it will be up to us who are here right now and have the chancetodosomethingaboutthe language.
"We've so much to learn from the Welsh. There's a pride there and I thinkwe have a longway to go to reach that. It's amodel that we aspire to on many levels."
English is Fowlis' first language, but she says that her daily life means communicating in both Gaelic and English.
She couldn't be more thrilled that, despite the supposed language barrier, fans still enjoy her music.
"I getpeoplecomingupsaying, 'Oh,weplaythis inthehouseand my kids sing it, and none of us know Gaelic but we all sing along'.
"To be honest, the same happens in our own house, when we listen to different styles ofmusic like folk music from Sweden or the northern regions of Spain or from Brittany.
"It's clichd, but in that sense music does cross the barriers.
"Sometimes it can enrich your experience, because it opens a door to your imagination. You're not worried about the meaning of the words, you can just let the music wash over you.
"It's not going to be everyone's cupof tea, but it's something that we've had a most amazing response to.The great thing about any folk tradition is that the songs arealwaysmuchgreaterthanthe singer.We're just a vehicle to pass these songs on, so therein lies the power."
Julie Fowlis plays St David's Hall Cardiff on Tuesday. The box office number is 029 2087 8444
Singer Julie Fowlis plays St David's Hall in Cardiff on Tuesday