Pipes, Songs and the Sea: Mariearad & Anna Are Back

Mairearad Green (accordion and bagpipes) and Anna Massie (guitar, banjo, fiddle) are two of Scotland’s most revered multi-instrumentalists and will be taking to the stage at Priddy 2019.

Both are highly skilled folk musicians in their own right but, more importantly they enjoy a sparkling chemistry together which translates into an exhilarating and supremely enjoyable live performance.

Their music, as you can imagine, draws heavily from the rich tradition of Scottish folk, which is given extra intensity by Mariearad’s extraordinary ability with the bagpipes. They mix jigs and hornpipes with traditional dance tunes and haunting ballads – all performed with remarkable agility. And their stage presence exudes fun and joy, too.

Mariearad is well known for her work with King Creosote and Mike Vass while Anna is a member of Blazin’ Fiddles and Rant. Together, the pair have been working together for over a decade and have produced four albums, their self-titled debut in 2009, Doubling (2013), Best Day (2016) and last year’s Farran.

We caught up with Anna Massie to find out all about their special musical relationship.

You have been playing together for over a decade now. How was it in the beginning and how has your relationship changed?

Anna: When we first started playing together it was very much the start of both our professional careers, and the majority of the gigs I was playing were with Mairearad. We were very young, and experiencing everything for the first time. That’s hugely exciting, and I think that built a very strong bond between us – coming from the same kind of place, spending lots of time together, sharing experiences, being equally new to it all I suppose.

As we’ve got older, our careers independent of each other have developed: we’ve both played with many more people and had lots of different influences and experiences. Due to other commitments and living in different parts of the country now, we spend much less time together, but there’s still a very strong bond there which makes it really easy to pick up where we left off after our last gig! So much shared history means that we have an easy understanding of each other, which makes for very easy company.

There is so much Scottish music to draw from. How do you source tunes and do you always agree on what to play?

Anna: It’s not always easy, and sometimes one can be overwhelmed by choice! However, our latest album, Farran, has a real nautical theme. We both grew up by the sea and, in fact, Mairearad had recently moved to the fishing village of Ullapool in the North West of Scotland when we started putting the material together for the album. Rehearsing in her kitchen, looking out at the sea, we realised that we were quite naturally gravitating towards music that was about the sea, or inspired by stories of it.

We’re quite good at sourcing material independently and bringing ideas together when we meet up. That seems to give us the broadest range to choose from anyway!

Your album Best Day featured songs for the first time. Was that a big decision?

Anna: It was a big decision to record songs, yes. We’d already added songs to our gigs a few years before, but it took quite a while to muster the courage to actually release them on an album. I’m glad we did though, because it’s added a whole other dimension to our music, and the more we do it, the more I enjoy performing them.

You both do lots of work with other artists so how do you organise time for the duo?

Anna: We work fairly far in advance in terms of setting aside chunks of time for the duo. After so many years at it, we’ve realised that a 10 day touring period works best for us, so we block a few of those out every year and try to make sure the logistics work out well! We have got to know the roads in England pretty well, and a well-routed tour is a thing of delight!

Q: Can we expect bagpipes?

Anna: OF COURSE!!! BIG ONES!!!!!

Q: What are you expecting at Priddy this year? And what little treat would you like to see in the Green Room?

Anna: We’ve been at the festival once before, back in 2014. We had such a lovely time that weekend, and are delighted to be coming back this year. I know there’s a heavy cider presence at Priddy, but we’re both fond of a nice gin, and would be open to discovering a new favourite if there’s a local tipple to be had!

Check out this beautiful video of Mariearad and Anna

12 – 14 July, 2024