Brian Ferguson: Give young female Scots musicians a hand

Aberdeen singer Kathryn Joseph (right)

Aberdeen singer Kathryn Joseph (right)

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IF, like me, you had no idea who Taylor Swift was this time last year, her remarkable rise to prominence has been something of a jolt to the system. Although it is nearly a decade since the former country star released her debut album, it is only in the last 12 months that she has become a truly global phenomenon.

By the end of 2014, she had become the most popular recording artist in the world, with the release of her fifth album, 1989. Within months she had been named one of the most powerful women in the world, after making her first appearance on the Forbes Power Women List at the age of just 25.

By the time she swept into Glasgow last month on tour, there was little doubting she had become one of the most influential figures in the global music industry, after much-publicised run-ins with Spotify and Apple.

Nonetheless, I was still stopped in my tracks at the number of newspaper and magazine front pages that Swift – who has now notched up 40 million album sales – was gazing out from the day after that show in Glasgow, which opened her UK tour. I could fill this column with a list of the awards Swift has lifted during a career which can be traced back to when she was just 14 and moved to Nashville after signing a record deal.

I was therefore somewhat surprised to learn it was a home-grown artist that had beaten Swift to be named the best performer to appear at The Hydro this year.

It was no mean feat for Paolo Nutini, who was up against not only Swift, but other female stars like Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande. His achievement did, however, get me thinking how likely it was that a young female singer from Scotland would get anywhere near Nutini’s level of profile or following in future years.

While they are perhaps not capable of filling The Hydro, it is surely telling that Eddi Reader and Lulu have plum slots at festivals in Scotland this summer. And a decade on from KT Tunstall’s breakthrough, in a music scene still dominated by male indie bands, it was refreshing to say the least to see largely-unheralded Aberdeen singer Kathryn Joseph – described on her own website as “criminally underrated” – claim the Scottish Album of the Year title.

Thankfully, Joseph is not the only decent prospect. Rachel Sermanni, the Highland singer fêted by Mumford & Sons and Elvis Costello, is attracting rave reviews for her second album. By coincidence, this month also sees the release of a debut from Siobhan Wilson, who has already won comparisons with no less than Joni Mitchell.

With some shrewd promotion, championing by Scottish festival organisers and broadcast exposure, all three should be in with a decent chance of making a real name for themselves.

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