Flying solo with Horse McDonald for Fife ‘homecoming’

Horse McDonald (pic by Kris Kesiak)
Horse McDonald (pic by Kris Kesiak)

“Was I doing the wrong things? Was I not being Fife enough? I was in Pittenweem at the weekend, does that help?”

Horse McDonald is jokingly wondering aloud why, as a Fifer, it has taken until now to be asked to play at ‘Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer’, the series of shows at the Adam Smith Theatre curated by singer/songwriter James Yorkston.

Kaviraj Singh

Kaviraj Singh

She will be joined on a richly varied bill with traditional Irish singer and bouzouki, Daoirí Farrell and Kaviraj Singh who sings and plays the Santoor.

“It’s the first Tae Sup show I’ve done which is incredible being a Fifer that I’ve not been asked before now!” she laughs.

“This is going to be quite unusual because it’s a three header, but fits in with my ‘Flying Solo’ tour which is me on my own with my guitar.

“When you see someone else doing it you appreciate that it’s not an easy thing to do, especially if you’re telling stories or pouring stuff out.”

Daoiri Farrell

Daoiri Farrell

Horse admits to some self-doubt when playing solo shows, but says that she enjoys the contrast from playing with her full band.

“I do find it quite hard because I just want to sing really and now I have to play my guitar. So I have to dedicate some of my attention to my guitar so I don’t hit loads of bum notes.

“There’s a song of mine for example called ‘Sweet Thing’ and when we were recording it I sang the whole thing and it was exhausting. Then when I did one of these solo shows for the first time, I thought ‘oh my God, I’ve got to sing the whole thing’, the main vocal, the backing vocals, the ad-libs then back to the backing vocals – it’s a real workout!

“So even though the songs are stripped back you do have to do a bit of work for people to make sense of them.

“But people are always shouting out at my shows and joining in. It’s good when you interact.

“That’s something I’ve always done. When you come to see me it’s an experience, it’s not just some singer up there going love it or hate it.

“I really want people to like the songs and I sometimes like them to know the story behind it. I’ve been touring and travelling for nearly 40 years now – and I’m still standing – so there are so many things to talk about.

“Someone will shout something out and it’ll make me think of another story, there are so many attached to each song. When I’m singing I might think of the story behind the song and then I’ll have a little chat about them.

“People sometimes ask questions too. It’s a bit like a Q&A.”

She admits however, that there are some people at her gigs who don’t always appreciate her monologues.

“Oh, the band get way fed up with me!

“The drummer clicks for the song to start and I’ll go ‘Oh, that reminds me’ and I see him going ‘oh no, what now?’!

“So we made it that we have two or three songs that segue into each other otherwise the audience will be there four hours later!”

Horse is no stranger to the Kingdom having been born in Newport-on-Tay and says any gig in Fife “feels like being at home”.

“I never really lived in Fife very long. I was born there and I think we lived for a bit in Anstruther and Crail, the family moved to Lanark after that and I’ve spent most of my life in Glasgow.

“But there is something about Fife, it draws me back.

“It feels like family, I’ve been coming back for so many years. After being in Pittenweem last weekend I was like I think ‘I could live here’.

“There’s a little seed of something and all the villages up that part of the coast are just beautiful.”

The gig comes just as Horse finished her tour celebrating 25 years since her hit album ‘God’s Home Movie’ in a varied year which also saw her singing with jazz musician Janette Mason as well as performing the songs of Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey along with David McAlmont.

“I’d love to do more, but it’s physically impossible,” she says, “And with those sort of tours I do all the organisation myself so it’s really hard.

“So in between tours, playing solo shows keeps me out there and keeps people interested because next year is the 30th anniversary of my first album ‘The Same Sky’, so what I’m trying to do is keep in touch with people and it means I don’t have to take the whole band and production out.

“I can just rock up with my guitar – which is both scary and good.”

Horse will celebrate 30 years since ‘The Same Sky’ with a tour and says she has begun writing an autobiography and is working on new material.

“The autobiography will be finished when it’s finished, there’s no rush for that,” she says.

“But next year I want to tour ‘Same Sky’ so it would be daft putting out new material then but after the tour I will make a start on a new album.

“It’s long overdue, but I have got some new songs. In fact I’ll be playing one of them at the Tae Sup show.

The Kirkcaldy show is at a venue that Horse says she knows well and is looking forward to coming back to.

“I love the Adam Smith Theatre and I know the staff there very well,” she says, “I’ve been playing there for many years and it is a bit like coming home.

“Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer is really incredible and I think people have to support it and come to it.

“It’s kind of like, why are there no High Streets? People have to keep going, they have to use their local trades, so James has started something there which is incredibly cool, and you would never expect it to be in the location it’s in.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the two guys I’m on with.

“I think James has really captured something that lets people try a few new artists out, so people have to come out to it and then James will keep it going.

“My only surprise is that he hadn’t asked me before now – but there you go!”

• Tae Sup Wi A Fifer with Horse McDonald, Daoirí Farrell and Kaviraj Singh is at the Adam Smith Theatre on Saturday, August 24 at 8pm.

Visit for tickets.