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Scottish folk band to perform at Carroll Arts Center

The members of Scottish folk band North Sea Gas have performed together in the U.K. and across the globe for more than years. This Saturday, they will perform at the Carroll Arts Center as part of a U.S. tour. The Times caught up with Dave Gilfillan, founding member, to discuss folk music, Scotland and the value of touring around the world.

Q: How did North Sea Gas first come together?

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A: We started in a small pub in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh. I was singing there when Colin McKenzie came in with his mandolin. He sat down beside me and started playing along. Later on, we talked and decided we should start a band. After that, we were joined by Wally and Allen and that was the start. Since then, there have been quite a few members, all of them contributing to the success of the band.

Q: What can people expect from the performance Saturday?

A: We'll be doing a variation of songs and tunes in different styles. We pride ourselves on our harmony work, and we play quite a few instruments, including the guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, foot drum and more. We also like to have fun with our audiences, and get them involved and participating. All in all, it's a good night for everyone involved.

Q: What defines Scottish folk music, and what differentiates it from other kinds of folk?

A: It's a hard question to answer precisely. Needless to say, it's about Scottish history and Scottish points of view. Like all music, it has its roots with the people. I also think who is playing the music makes a big difference, as there are lots of interpretations of what we call folk. There are new songs and new styles, but they are always linked to one another by the common denominator of what we recognize as folk music.

Q: What is the value of performing internationally?

A: Well, it makes you work harder, that's for sure. We seem to be traveling all the time. It seems like there are not enough months in the year, but it's a nice way to make a living, that's for sure.

Q: How did you first come to music?

A: When I was young, I think around the age of 13 or so, I got ahold of a guitar and started teaching myself how to play. Fortunately, around the same time a local folk singer started giving lessons to anyone who was interested, so I went along.

Q: What first drew you, specifically, to this style of music?

A: When I was learning to play, it was mostly contemporary folk music I was playing. Then, once again, fate took a hand. At the age of about 15, I was given a ticket to the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh for a show given by The Corries, a Scottish traditional duo. I was totally blown away, not only by the music, but by how two people could entertain so many others with acoustic instruments and banter. I was hooked.

Q: You mentioned many of your songs encourage audience participation; what's the importance or fun in having an audience dance, sing or clap along?

A: We do aim to entertain, but not all of our material is about audience participation or reaction, never has been. We tackle lots of different material. There are always songs in our concerts that are for listening alone, and always will be.

Q: Who are your musical influences?

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A: We are three individuals who play music together, so there are different influences for all of us. I can only speak for myself. There have been so many people who have made me stop and listen to their music, so all of them would have to be called influences. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Beatles, The Corries, Simon and Garfunkel were important to me. Closer to home and more personally, Iain MacKintosh, Alex Sutherland, Ali Watson and Bill Purves all steered me along the path.

Q: What is the importance of keeping folk music alive?

A: Folk music interests all ages, and all ages take part. This is why the old folk songs will be kept alive and reworked. The things in life don't change, and the things that folk songs are about is life. Because of that, people will always relate to folk songs, old and new.

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go

What: North Sea Gas

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: 91 W. Main St., Westminster

Cost: $18 general admission, $16 Carroll County Arts Council members, children 18 and younger and seniors 60 and older.

For more information: Visit http://www.carrollartscenter.org or call 410-848-7272.

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