The Scotsman Sessions #257: Calum Mason

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Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on, with introductions from our critics. Here, singer-songwriter Calum Mason performs O Sister, taken from his forthcoming album Panopticon

For alt-folk musician Calum Mason, songwriting has been “a compulsive inclination” since the age of sixteen. A captivating storyteller in the folkloric tradition, his poetry is stark and vivid. He writes haunting melodies and sings them with an unaffected woodsman croon. Mason’s music lingers. This is not your standard fireside folkie.

The song he’s chosen to perform for The Scotsman Sessions is O Sister; a chapter, a cinematic scene, from his forthcoming debut album Panopticon. A concept album of sorts, Panopticon dissects the aftermath of a tragedy based in a small-town community.

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“The overriding theme of the album focuses on philosophical ideas,” he explains. “The community’s onset reaction can be seen as a microcosm of what we see around us, expanding out into the world as a whole. Group-think and tribalism are big themes explored throughout the album, alongside musings on free will and even euthanasia. It’s an album of questions and considerations, as opposed to any hard and fast answers or convictions.”

Mason has enjoyed a busy career, mostly as a bassist, writer and arranger, on the Edinburgh and Glasgow music scenes. But Panopticon is his first statement as a solo artist.

“It’s never felt natural to me to plug and promote myself,” he says. “I know many artists and musicians that also feel this way. But at some point, I just decided to bite the bullet and put myself out there.”

And he has plans. Quite “big and even secretive” plans. He’s only just begun.

“Writing the songs for Panopticon has allowed me to process and present my ideas about life so far in a way that I couldn’t possibly have merely as the written or spoken word. The musical and poetically lyrical grounding gives it true context.”

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