James is from the village of Back, in the Isle of Lewis. His musical interest started when he was eight years old, attending weekly chanter lessons in Barvas on the West side of the Island with schools piping instructor Nick Gordon. James soon moved onto the Highland Bagpipe and received further tuition from Iain Morrison. He began competing at local competitions and also started performing publicly, giving short renditions at piping recitals and ceilidhs in the town of Stornoway alongside some of the Islands finest Gaelic singers and some of the top pipers from mainland Scotland.
As a youngster James competed in piping competitions all around Scotland including the Northern Meetings in Inverness and the Argyllshire Gathering held in Oban. One of his highlights whilst competing was winning the Scottish Junior Solo Bagpipe Championships two years in succession which twice qualified him for the prize of a two week scholarship to the Balmoral Schools of Piping in the USA.
Upon leaving school, James studied for an HNC in Traditional Music at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Benbecula college and lived in Carinish, North Uist for a year. At the college, he received his first introduction to wooden flute, from Iain Macdonald, one of the tutors on the course, and was immediately fascinated with learning the instrument. Many of the students at the college would often get together and play informal tune sessions at house ceilidhs in Stilligarry, South Uist. With lots of great tune players and vast amounts of different tunes played at each of these sessions, there was a constant desire to learn tunes from each other and increase repertoire.
In 2008, James moved from North Uist to Glasgow to Study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where he attained a first class BA (Hons) Scottish Music – Piping.
During his first year of study in Glasgow, James became a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year. All the finalists took part in a two week tour performing at Town Halls and music venues all around Scotland and the North of England. As well as the ‘Young Trad Tour’, James had also been asked to stand in and play pipes and flute with Scottish Folk Band ‘Breabach‘ on their European tour which started the day after the Young Trad Tour ended. That particular tour took place over three and a half weeks and took in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. James had encountered his first experience of touring with two back to back tours over a duration of 5 and a half weeks and this gave him an even greater passion to play music full time.
While at the RSAMD, James also played with the Grade 1 Scottish Power Pipeband for a couple of Years. Chris Armstrong was the Pipe Major and the band traveled throughout the UK to compete at the major pipeband championships and the World Pipeband Championships held at Glasgow green.
Around the same time as graduating from the RSAMD, James became a full time member of Breabach. www.Breabach.com The band incorporates two sets of highland bagpipes, flute, whistles, fiddle, guitar, double bass and both Gaelic and Scot song. They have a busy touring schedule with recent performances in the USA, Canada, Australia, and several countries around Europe. The band were voted ‘Best Group’ at the Scots Trad Music awards at the end of 2012. James features on the bands 2012 album release entitled ‘Bann’.
James has been establishing himself as a tune writer and composer. His tunes have been played and recorded by several bands and can also be heard gradually making their way into the repertoire of tune players in Glasgow’s thriving session scene.
Over the past few years, James has also temporarily toured with a couple of bands including; The Paul Mckenna Band, Mánran, Seudan and Sketch.
To date he has toured and played music in over 20 countries.
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