Scottish cèilidh band Skipinnish, with their patented blend of rip-roaring traditional dance music, carved out a niche for themselves over a 20-year career. With their own venue, merchandise, and multiple strong-selling albums on their own completely independent record label, they slowly but surely built their brand to become one of the biggest folk bands in the country.
Skipinnish were formed in 1999 by Angus MacPhail (accordion) and Andrew Stevenson (pipes, whistles, fiddle) while the pair were studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Both hailed from the Gàidhealtachd, the Gaelic-speaking region of Scotland's Highlands and Western Isles -- MacPhail from the Isle of Tiree and Stevenson from Lochaber. Their eponymous debut album, self-released in 2001, was just them as a duo, but it featured guests such as singer Rachel Walker and fiddler Jenna Reid. Their first few albums stuck largely to this template, with occasional guitar, drums, and female vocals. As time went on, the band grew to encompass more members -- including a second piper, a guitarist/vocalist, keyboards, electric bass, and drums -- resulting in a much punchier, folk-rock sound. Later albums also featured self-penned songs in English by MacPhail.
By self-releasing all their albums on their own label, Skipinnish kept control of all their earnings and were able to realize their dream of opening their own venue, the Skipinnish Ceilidh House. Initially in Oban on the Isle of Mull, it later moved to Fort William in the Highlands. A brace of live albums recorded there, Live from the Ceilidh House and The Scottish Music Show, sealed the band's reputation. The label became a going concern in its own right, releasing albums by other artists such as Deoch 'n' Dorus, Rachel Walker, and Skerryvore. Skipinnish even released their own brand of whiskey. The studio albums Atlantic Roar (2013) and Western Ocean (2014) showcased the full band lineup and featured Robert Robertson on guitar and lead vocals.
By the time of 2017's The Seventh Wave, Robertson had left to form his own band, Tide Lines, and had been replaced by ex-Mànran frontman Norrie "Tago" MacIver, who brought with him a whole new set of young fans. The addition of former punk rock bassist Charlotte Printer also added a new vibe to the band. In 2017, "Wishing Well," their song for 14-year-old Barra native Eilidh MacLeod, killed in the Manchester Arena bombing, became a viral anthem, going to number 24 in the U.K. singles chart. Skipinnish began to see even greater success, selling out huge venues like the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom. Their eighth studio album, Steer by the Stars, was released in 2019. ~ John D. Buchanan