I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. There was no internet then. The local pig farm was on the decline. From the back of the house the last prefabs, relics of the war, gave way to wastelands that splayed on to the park. There I hunted pheasants with makeshift bows, jumped the Devil’s Leap and popped the Indian balsam that grew in profusion by the Figgate burn.
For many years I’ve played Scots and irish traditional music. I also write my own songs. I have tried, for several years, to fill in some gaps in the historical conundrum of Scotland but now I am just writing about what I see.
My musical traditions stretch back across several generations. I’m the son of the Edinburgh band leader, Ken Herbertson, who gave gave me an early introduction to Swing music. I was bottle fed to ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers ‘, which explains a lot of the contradictions in my music. My uncle Doug, played harmonica in a Skiffle band. My mother always sang in the kitchen. On my father’s side of the family, my grandparents performed in theatre and vaudeville, on my mother’s, they were self taught musicians and like most of Scotland could always sing a bit if pressed. My grandmother was a friend of Harry Lauder, folk world nemesis, but I’ve always thought a bit more Music hall would send a refreshing breeze through the Traditional music scene. (Plenty of people are glad I’m in the minority). My grandfather, Jock, played the fiddle and English concertina. He was a journalist. One of his Edinburgh Evening News articles reveals that my Great Grandmother’s favourite party piece was ‘The Rowan Tree.’ This kind of thing makes me feel very humble.
In my youth I played in experimental bands including the Scottish New Wave band ‘The Androids’, reviewed in NME and called ‘surprisingly good’ in the definitive guide to punk, ’45 Revolutions’. The Late John Peel, was kind enough to give us air play on BBC Radio 1. I met him in Liverpool once and had the chance to thank him. After The Androids split up I played with a variety of bands including ‘The Keltix’ whose songs were featured on BBC radio and television.
In the 1980’s I went through a spell of extra work and cameo roles in various TV productions: Prime Suspect, Kavannah QC, Peak Practice and the like. My acting talents could best be summarised by my role as a German police officer in the German Blockbuster ‘Das Wunder von Bern’, where I managed to avoid the cameras and hide in the actors’ catering room where I wrote a song or two.
Latterly, I was invited to join the spectacular dance show ‘Celtic Life’. It toured Germany and also afforded me the opportunity to sing Loch Lomond at Hopetoun house supporting Chris De Burg. As an exile, this is surprisingly more fun than you could guess and there is nothing like a free trip home to make the job seem worthwhile. After years in an artistic vacuum the show stimulated me to record solo CD’s. The most recent being a Scottish Trilogy: ‘Hearts of Glory’, ‘ ‘Lord of Whisky’ and ‘A Health to the Ladies’. Thankfully, they have all received good critical reviews. In 2011 I had the pleasure of working with Andrew Cadie on my latest CD titled ‘Communication Breakdown’.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play before various Irish and British Ambassadors, multinational corporations, Highland Games, festivals, millionaires’ parties, big and wee weddings, birthdays and street parties. Music is the thing that drives me.
I suppose I’ve been pretty lucky.