From the Scottish Highlands to the Dawson City Music Festival (DCMF), 22-year-old folk singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni has been sharing her craft throughout the world.
Sermanni grew up in Carrbridge, a small village in the Scottish Highlands, where she learned the fiddle and traditional music in school, and Radiohead and Bright Eyes from the local boys. When she decided to pursue a career in music at 17, she moved to Glasgow, finding a place in the local music scene.
“I was surrounded by traditional folkies that I could join in with,” she says. “Also there were a lot of people who were keen on jazz. Going to Glasgow allowed me to spread out to hear ever more music.”
She began songwriting shortly after learning the guitar from a family friend.
“I guess it was a natural progression to learn chords and then put words to it,” she says. “I’ve always written words, so it was quite natural to happen – so that was around age 14. And then I decided to give it a go with music after I left school when I was about 17.”
Her softly sung, acoustic folk music, which invites comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, has been impressing those who hear her. Her early break came while she was attending the Loopallu Music Festival in Ullapool, Scotland, where she met the band Mumford & Sons.
“I wasn’t even playing, I was at it as a punter,” she says. “We ran and found them in a bar and ended up jamming with them on a beach.
“That was just after I left school, so from that came the opportunity to experience a real production, a song in London with Ben [Lovett] the pianist. They looked after me for a while and I was introduced to a lot of musicians and to the industry. From that interest came knowledge and awareness of how far you have to stretch yourself in terms of performance and songwriting, and it also allowed me to find a manager up in Scotland, and probably gave me a good catapulting into touring life.”
Since then, she’s opened for Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith, and Rose Cousins. Last February she performed at Folk Alliance in Canada and followed with a tour and several music festivals, including the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Interstellar Rodeo, and DCMF.
“Going to Dawson was amazing,” she says. “Firstly, to experience the wilderness and the magnitude. Because where I’m from is a very beautiful place and you can feel very small and in awe of the wilderness. It was like that times 100. You were tiny. You were so aware of these ancient rolling hills that are so vast and I loved that.
“So I’ve been given that hunger to definitely return, probably in the capacity of just to be there for a while and experiencing properly the kind of darkness and peace that comes from being in a place like that.”
Sermanni released a full-length album, called Under Mountains, in 2012, and several EPs.
“I’m really satisfied with what the album sounds like,” she says. “And the EPs, the same goes for them. They go in all different directions, recorded very spontaneously in sheds and shacks in the middle of the forest or at the sea front. Others were done in fancy studios, the most recent was done in New York.”
Her live performance at the Dawson City Music Festival was just released this week as Live in Dawson City.
Sermanni’s current tour takes her from the East Coast Music Awards to Los Angeles, and Vancouver before playing in Whitehorse at The Old Fire Hall, Sunday, April 13.
Award-winning local singer-songwriter Sarah MacDougall opens the show.
Barry “Jack” Jenkins keeps close tabs on the Yukon music scene. If you are producing a Yukon CD, please contact him at [email protected]