Skye musician Alan Murray says he is relishing a return to the island and Lochalsh alongside his wife Grace as part of the duo’s tour for their new debut record which is set to be released next month.
Known musically as Mist and Wing, Alan and Grace are set to perform their new EP ‘Step Into the Light’ at Skye Bridge Studios tonight (Thursday) while supporting acclaimed singer-songwriter Jill Jackson ahead of the record’s release on 18th November.
Grace, and Alan will then travel back to Alan’s home village of Kilmuir on 3rd December for their only live show on the island as part of the EP tour.
The indie-folk band – whose moniker takes inspiration from the Gaelic names for the island -have a sound that has been described as a blend of The Jayhawks, The Chicks and Angus and Julia Stone.
Alan, a former pupil of Portree High School, is an applied music graduate having studied at the University of the Highlands and Island in Benbecula, while Grace is a graduate of the Royal College of Music in London.
The two met in Glasgow, where they are currently based. They’ve been playing together since 2016, with performances ranging between The Cavern Club in Liverpool and Stornoway’s An Lanntair.
Speaking to the Free Press, Alan and Grace talked about the long process involved in bringing the record together, the harmonious relationship they have as a duo and couple, and their excitement at performing live for audiences across Skye and Lochalsh.
“We started making the record pre-Covid, so it definitely feels like it is time to get going with it, it is exciting, ” Grace told the Free Press.
Alan added: “Just when Covid hit we were planning launch gigs, and the plan was always to have a gig or two, so it is nice to be getting to the stage where we can be doing that.”
Explaining the complexities involved in the process of putting the record together, Grace explained: “We were writing for about two and half to three years sporadically.
“We were living in separate places when that was happening. I was in London and Alan was between Glasgow and Uist.
“I guess that meant the song writing and putting together the arrangements took longer than if we had been in the same place.
Alan said: “I started the applied music course at UHI in 2016 and had track one of the EP – ‘Step into the Light’ done by that stage, and then I wrote the second track – ‘Dance Tonight – as part of my course in the song writing module.
“Part of Country Mile was written in Skye when we were up for a holiday, and ‘I Will Go’ and ‘Duntulm’ were written around 2018 between me being in Glasgow and in London and were inspired by being back home.”
Touching on their secret of balancing their work and their relationship, Grace said: “We have never really had any massive fights and we are really good pals.”
“Having a long distance between us at the start of our relationship might have helped us. Being hundreds of miles apart, you have a lot of the big, important conversations quite quickly, so I think if we worked out then we would be able to work with each other fairly early on.
“Al is really good to work with, we have different musical learning styles which complement each other. I come from a classical music background, while Al comes more from a traditional one. We have different roles – Al is the song writer, he produces the lyrics and the melodies, and then I will arrange it in terms of the chorus and the harmonies.”
Alan agreed, adding: “Grace does a fair bit of teaching, so when I am writing the songs it is generally just me on my own. It is not like we are side by side all the time. It is more like a standard working from home situation that many people have these days.”
While there are no shortage of hooks and memorable lines across all five of the EP’s tracks, ‘Country Mile’ has all the makings of an instant hit, with a catchy chorus that won’t relent.
In an eye-catching video which accompanies the track, Alan, and Grace travel from Bridge of Orchy to Borneskitaig in a Triumph Herald, which features drone footage of Trotternish capturing a blustery but beautiful day on the island.
Commenting on the song’s appeal, Alan said: “We have been able to play it live for a spell now, so it has been good to know that it has had a good response, so it makes sense to have that as the lead single.
Grace added: “I think in the social media culture, we are always told that people have short attention spans, so you should give them the instant gratification that comes with the nice hit that people can sign along with and then they’ll maybe check out your Spotify or YouTube channel and listened to your other songs.”
Looking ahead to playing back home, Alan went on to say: “Quite a few of my earliest music memories are of Kilmuir Hall.
“I remember going to see Duncan Chisholm and Ivan Drever when I was around five or six. It was quite inspirational in terms of me getting into the fiddle.
“It will be a strange but nice experience going back to Kilmuir Hall with all the memories I have.”
‘Step Into The Light’ will be released on November 18th, 2022, and can be pre-ordered on Mist & Wing’s website – mistandwing.com
Tickets for the Kyle gig tonight ( Thursday 27th October) can be purchased via the Skye Bridge Studios website– while tickets for the show at Kilmuir Hall on 3rd December will be available on the door or via the Mist and Wing website.
Article by Adam Gordon, images courtesy of Analog Film Company.