Edinburgh Fringe: Dean Owens interview

Rightly hailed as one of Scotland’s finest troubadours, Dean Owens was formerly lead singer of the much-loved Americana outfit The Felsons before going on to forge a successful solo career.

The Leith singer, who counts Irvine Welsh and Russell Brand among his fans, can be seen in live action at the Queen’s Hall on Wednesday, 24 August alongside The Celtabilly Allstars, singing some of his favourite songs by country music legend Hank Williams.

Something of a local treasure, Owens needs no introduction to audiences in Edinburgh, while The Celtabilly Allstars are themselves some of Scotland’s finest musicians – ace double bassist Kevin McGuire, guitar maestro Stuart Nisbet plus singer Sheila Henderson and fiddler Bryan Gear from Shetland.

AAA caught up with Dean for a chat over the weekend…

Tell us about your upcoming show at the Queen’s Hall? 

It’s a celebration of the wonderful songs of Hank Williams.

Have you always been a Hank Williams fan? 

Not always, as I didn’t really hear him when I was younger, but for many, many years now. He’s been a huge influence on me and my writing.

Do you have a favourite Hank Williams song to play?

Ramblin’ Man.

The Celtabilly Allstars are a talented bunch… tell us a bit about each member?

Well, the Celtabilly Allstars is a bit of a moveable feast. People will come in and out. For this special Hank Williams Fringe show we have my old buddy from The Felsons and top session double bass player, Kevin McGuire, lap steel and guitar legend Stuart Nisbet, who has a CV that includes The Proclaimers, Justin Currie and many, many others. From Shetland we have my old friend, singer-songwriter Sheila Henderson. She’s a truly great country singer and I’m delighted she can make the trip for this show. She’ll be joined on her trip south by fellow Shetlander Bryan Gear, who’s on fiddle. Ask any Shetland fiddle player to name a favourite player, and no doubt Bryan’s name will come up. He’s pure class.

How did you come together to form the band?

I’ve known everyone for some time and worked with them in various set ups over the years. The idea for the Hank show came from my dear friend Davie Gardner in Shetland and myself. He wanted to put on a couple of shows up there and asked me to be musical director. So this show is carrying on from there. I’ve always liked the idea of this bunch of musicians – The Celtabilly Allstars that could come together to do some special themed shows with various special guests taking part. Hopefully, this will be the first of many Allstars shows.

What do have planned for the rest of 2016 music-wise?

Well, it’s been a mental busy year so far and there’s still tons to do. Record my next album in Nashville, release a deluxe version of my Into The Sea record, release my new single – Virginia Street – touring the UK with Danny & The Champions Of The World and then a Christmas single and EP with my band The Whisky Hearts. Plus some band shows in the winter months. Jings! Have I got enough time to do all this?

You have a new album, Southern Wind, coming out next year… what can you tell us about it?

Not a lot just now really as it’s not been recorded yet (I’m still working on some of the songs). I’m not even sure I’ll put it out in 2017, due to there being another major project – Buffalo Blood – I’m involved in maybe happening next year. All I can say at the moment is that when it does happen it will be done with the same team I worked on with Into The Sea.

You’ve set up a crowdfunding appeal for the album… where can people go to donate? 

They can donate here, and I really appreciate it: https://www.gofundme.com/southernwind

Being a local, do you enjoy the Fringe?

Of course. It’s a bit mental, but the city has a real buzz while it’s on. It’s also nice when it’s all over too.

What have you been to see so far?

I’ve been to a few things. I enjoyed the play Interiors at the Lyceum and La Clique Encore at The Famous Spiegeltent.

Are there any upcoming shows at the Fringe you’d recommend?

I haven’t seen that many so apart from the above. Settin’ The Woods On Fire at the Queens Hall, August 24th! Oh, and Jason Isbell at Liquid Room on Sunday and Monday night. I’m opening for him on Monday. Both dates, however, may be sold out.

Sell your show at the Queen’s Hall in no more than ten words…

Come along to hear wonderful songs by the Hillbilly Shakespeare.

Dean Owens & The Celtabilly Allstars – Settin’ The Woods On Fire (Songs of Hank Williams) Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street, Wednesday 24 August, 8pm, £16.50, 0131-668 2019

Photo: Louis DeCarlo

Words: Gary Flockhart

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