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The Ballad of Body and Soul
SONGWRITER Mike Nisbet kicked off his European tour with an intimate free show at Oban Chocolate Company on Thursday, March 31. The Dunbeg performer played the first of a series of gigs in houses and small venues with Glasgow artists Rosie Bans and Anna MacDonald, jointly known as The Artpackt Collective.
After captivating the crowd with his own style of introspective blues, Mike closed the night by performing ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ and other traditional Scottish songs with his touring partners.
Meeting in Glasgow but now based in London, The Artpackt Collective are set to embark on their fourth tour together, travelling to England, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands.
‘The idea was that pulling our resources together would be much more fun,’ said Mike. ‘The unplugged vibe works really well for us and playing in smaller places like this mean it’s easier to make it look full.
‘We didn’t initially know if a tour together would work. We were worried that our styles would clash as Rosie does power pop, I’m more bluesy and Anna is closest to Scottish trad. Luckily, the gigs have been a great success because everyone usually finds something they like from one of us.’
Mike released ‘Vagrant’, his first solo project, in 2011 thanks to funding from Creative Scotland. The album was aptly named as the Oban-born musician earned a following in the underground scenes of Glasgow and London.
‘I’ve travelled around a lot and my sound has changed with it,’ said Mike. ‘I’ve become more and more blues-influenced since ‘Vagrant’. I don’t know what it is that attracts me to that kind of music.
‘I think it’s the power and the pain of the music that appeals. I love a lot of these finger picking guitarists from the American deep south, guys with guitars sitting in a field drinking whisky, singing about troubles I’ll never fully understand.’
Singing in a gravelly voice and playing guitar and harmonica simultaneously at points, Mike’s set was something of a tribute to the earthy genre. On top of his transatlantic inspirations, Mike was also keen to emphasise the influence of his home town.
‘I think there’s a romantic connection with Scottish folk music,’ said Mike. ‘I enjoy Oban a lot more than when I was a kid and it’s great playing here again. Tonight’s a nice and simple DIY show and I think there’s more of that starting to happen in Oban.
‘I remember music being a big deal when I was in school. There used to be regular gigs at Corran Halls but then everybody kind of moved away afterwards. I saw Citizen 9 in the winter and they were great. I think there are signs of a scene developing again.’
As well as recording a new compilation album with The Artpackt Collective, Mike has just finished his latest solo album. The unnamed LP, his first project since last year’s ‘The Ballad of Body and Soul’, is set to be released in June or July.