'Peatlemania' island band crowned best live act at Scots Trad Music Awards
A Hebridean band formed by a fisherman, an electrician and a truck driver a year and a half ago have been crowned the best live act at Scotland’s annual traditional music Oscars.
Isle of Lewis outfit Peat & Diesel – who have sold more than 7000 tickets for their first ever tour after being mobbed at festivals around the country this year – were one of the big winners at the Scots Trad Music Awards ceremony in Aberdeen.
The honour caps a remarkable rise to prominence, which has seen the band propelled from playing pub gigs to becoming social media sensations, getting mobbed by fans at music festivals and selling out Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland Ballroom months in advance.
Fisherman and frontman Callum “Boydie” MacLeod started playing and recording videos at home with electrician Innes Scott and delivery driver Uilleam “Uilly” MacLeod last year.
They have become folk heroes in their native Stornoway, where they were granted a last-minute main stage slot at the Hebridean Celtic Festival last summer to accommodate demand from audiences to see them.
Callum "Boydie" MacLeod: "It was totally unexpected to win the award. I was holding my dram in my hand thinking: 'Please don't announce us - I didn't want to go up there to get it.'
"We're just a small band from Stornoway and didn't expect to be up against these other bands."
The seemingly overnight success of Peat & Diesel has been fuelled by a #Peatlemania campaign on social media and credited to the popularity of their “nonsense songs” which are inspired by modern-day life on Lewis.
Macleod added: "I'm not trying to do anything with my songs. I just write them to get them out of my head. I've been writing since I was at school.
"They're all inspired by island life. It's all I've really known. I don't come off the island very much, although I've been off the island more in the last year than I have in my whole life. It's all been a learning curve."
Peat & Diesel, who will play their first Glasgow gig at the Barrowlands as part of next month's Celtic Connections festival, have added a second show at the venue, as well as gigs in London, Manchester, Belfast and Dublin, to try to keep up with demand from their growing fanbase.
MacLeod said: "We can't keep up with the amount of bookings we're being asked to do now. It's ridiculous. We just don't know what's going to happen next."
After Peat & Diesel's win was announced, Scott told the audience at the "Na Trads" ceremony: "It's incredible - we don't really know what's going on. It's just exploded."
Speaking backstage minutes later, Scott added: "Everything just seems to be getting busier and busier for us.
"All the acts we're playing alongside are full-time musicians - this was just meant to be a hobby for us.
"But it's all it's down to the crowds we've been getting from the day this all started 18 months ago. They wanted to see these three guys do as well as they can and keep pushing things to their absolute limit. We're just holding on for dear life.
"Our first ever gig was in the Lewis Bar in Stornoway about 18 months ago. We were actually panicking that we didn't have enough material to do it.
"The place got so out of control with people wanting to see us that we had to finish an hour and a half early.
"Social media has definitely been a big help for us. We got our first festival booking on the basis of two songs they had heard Boydie singing."
The awards event, which was broadcast live on BBC Alba and Radio Scotland live from Aberdeen’s Music Hall, saw the Tiree Music Festival, declared event of the year just days after it was declared a sell-out for next year.
Islander Daniel Gillespie, artistic director of the festival, which was staged for the 10th time this year, said: "I think the island really was the main impetus to start the event. We have brilliant times as teenagers in the summer on Tiree and we just wanted to share that with people.
"We mulled over the idea and how difficult it would be for a couple of years before we gave it a try. We had 600 people in the first year and 2000 people this year, which is really at peak capacity."
Rising Glasgow-based stars Kinnaris Quintet, who performed at the opening ceremony of the Solheim Cup golf tournament at Gleneagles earlier this year, won the new Belhaven Bursary, Scotland’s most lucrative arts prize.
Launched last year to recognise innovation in Scottish folk and traditional music, the £25,000 award, which was created by Belhaven Brewery in East Lothian, is aimed at helping new bands take their music overseas and includes the chance to perform at the Tartan Week festivities in New York.
Jenn Butterworth, guitarist with Kinnaris Quintet, who was also named Scotland's musician of the year, said of the Belhaven Bursary award: "It's absolutely incredible for a band to have that kind of support behind you. You can think about an entirely different real of what you can do. We actually struggle to get together to make music at the moment - this will definitely support us to do that more often.
Shetland fiddler Jenna Reid was named composer of the year while her band Blazin’ Fiddles won the coveted best folk band title at the awards which are also known as “Na Trads.” Breabach won the best album award ahead of the band's 15th anniversary in 2020.
Man of the Minch, who is billed as “the aquatic alias of Glasgow-based queer galactic folk pop act and multi-instrumentalist Pedro Cameron,” was named best up-and-coming-act.
Other winners include broadcaster Mary Ann Kennedy, who co-hosted the awards ceremony and was named Gaelic singer of the year, Scots singer of the year Steve Byrne and An Tobar, on the Isle of Mull, which was named best venue.
Murdo MacSween, communications manager for MG Alba, who stage the event with promoters Hands Up For Trad, said: “It’s been another wonderful year for Scottish traditional music, and we’re delighted to yet again be at the heart of this celebration of our world-class talent.”
Alan Morrison, head of music at Creative Scotland, said: “Yet again Na Trads prove that Scotland has an age-old music which lives and breathes in the 21st century.”
FULL LIST OF NA TRADS WINNERS
Album of the Year
Frenzy of the Meeting by Breabach
Club of the Year
Composer of the Year
Community Project of the Year
SEALL Festival of Small Halls
Event of the Year Tiree Music Festival
Gaelic Singer of the Year
Mary Ann Kennedy
Musician of the Year
Live Act of the Year
Peat and Diesel
Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year Steve Byrne
Scottish Dance Band of the Year
The Cruickshank Family Band
Scottish Folk Band of the Year
Scottish Pipe Band of the Year
Inverary and District Pipe Band
Trad Video of the Year
Heroes by Tide Lines
Music Tutor of the Year
Iain Ruari Finlayson, Skye Schools
Up and Coming Artist of the Year
Man of the Minch
Venue of the Year Award
An Tobar, Isle of Mull
Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award
Dr. Peter Cooke
Services to Gaelic Award
Janet Paisley Services to Scots Language Award