Sutherland Brothers star proves self-recording is rocking all over the world

Gavin Sutherland performing with the Sutherland Brothers in 1977. Photograph: Andre Csillag/Rex/Shutterstock
Gavin Sutherland performing with the Sutherland Brothers in 1977. Photograph: Andre Csillag/Rex/Shutterstock
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One of Scotland’s vintage rockers says living in a remote location is no barrier to producing CDs and working with world-class musicians over the internet.

Gavin Sutherland, 67, from Gardenstown, near Banff, formed The Sutherland Brothers with his brother Iain in the early 1970s. One of their singles ‘Sailing’ was covered by Rod Stewart.

Gavin Sutherland has just released a new album, A Traveller's Tales.

Gavin Sutherland has just released a new album, A Traveller's Tales.

The brothers later joined with rock band Quiver where they had the international hit ‘Arms of Mary’, since recorded by a range of performers from Keith Urban to Boyzone.

Sutherland, born in Peterhead, has just released A Traveller’s Tales, his sixth solo CD in recent years, working with musicians both in the UK and the US.

The CD has tracks covering a range of contemporary issues including the refugee crisis, Trump and his US-Mexico border wall, friendship, love and walking in the hills near his home.

Sutherland says his music has become more reflective with age. “An angry young man is cool, an angry old man is a pain in the arse,” he said.

Describing how the internet has changed music-making, he said: “I’ve got some recording gear at home so I don’t need a flash studio. I’ve worked in top studios around the world with top people so I don’t need help.

“With this latest CD I’ve used musicians such as Nancy Dillion in Seattle, Dave Sutherland in Birmingham and Heidi Brown in Shropshire. If you find the right person the notes take over. The best part for me is writing the song. I just start with a basic track, send it to Dave the bass player and then a pal puts the piano part on.

“Being out in the wilds is not a deterrent for anyone making music these days. In fact, people round here got into e-mailing in the early days because of the connection with the oil industry in Aberdeen when people didn’t think it would catch on.”

Sutherland said he had reached a stage where he was reflecting on life. “I’m not steaming forward thinking , ‘This might be a massive hit’.

“My track ‘Voice of Reason’ came from my personal feelings about the global situation, how we need to have freedom of movement and not let people be hemmed in by Trump and his wall. The same process is going on with us leaving Europe.

“‘The Weary Traveller’ track is about the refugee crisis in the world, people being forced out of their homes and getting on boats to try to get to freedom. It’s a sad reflection on the way things are.”

Glasgow-based musician and digital technology expert Paul Murdoch said the digital music scene had expanded significantly over the past 5-10 years. “People can send digital files of music to each other by email or file-sharing which are compatible with their software.

“Say someone wants a sax solo put on a track they can email someone they know in America and say, ‘Here’s the backing track, send me an isolated saxophone track. ‘After that you need to know how to put tracks together and blend them.

“It means more musicians, especially young people starting out are being included in music through their lap tops, iPad or iPhone.

“Apple Mac, for example uses GarageBand, a software programme that lets anyone layer music. You need to learn how to work it which could be an hour’s work on YouTube.

“Way back you’d have the expense of booking a studio, then the race was on to get three tracks recorded in three hours. That pressure made some of the best music. Mind you they’d have rehearsed like hell for hours beforehand.

“I still go to studios sometimes. It’s a real buzz playing off someone’s line, and having the luxury of an engineer so you only have to think about your performance.”