A 20 20 music vision | A look head to the exciting music coming from the Highlands and Islands

Fresh from the sounds and cheers for all the winners at this year’s Trad Music Awards, we begin to turn our attention to who is next, and what to watch out for in 2020.

So, who are the acts and artists to check out?    

Recognising musical taste is so varied and individual and rather than limiting our predictions to one single musician, we have enlisted the help of music influencers, experts and artists to reveal their new artists we should discover and to chat about future trends.

BBC Introducing

Calum Jones

Whilst studying on the BA (Hons) applied music, Calum Jones has been working hard developing a professional performing and recording career.  He was featured on BBC Introducing November 2019 and has this year achieved 300 global radio plays and 40K streams on Spotify played on 73 different countries.  He has been working with Alex Davies who has produced for bands including Scouting for Girls, Sigrid etc.  Calum was a finalist at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Award Up and Coming artist category with Calum Jones and the Trad ProjectHis festival performances this year included Eden Festival, Belladrum and the Gathering.

Calum is set to have a new single out every month next year (2020) from 10 January until September, when he will release his album.  Mike Curtis (producer for Suzi Quatro’s latest album) will be co-producing along with Calum.

First solo album

At the moment Liam Ross is an unsigned solo artist.  His first album is eagerly anticipated next year.  Having had an early listen, it is packed full of original material.

Liam Ross
Liam Ross Credit: Liam Ross facebook


He recently graduated from the University of the Highlands and Islands BA (hons) applied music degree and the MA in music and the environment. His reputation as a dynamic and versatile performer continues to grow. This first release has a wonderful specific connection to place and a unique sound created through Liam’s hard work in developing his fingerpicking style.


Crowd pleasing

Lewis McLaughlin and Friends enthralled the audience at Celtic Connections on Campus in 2019 with their assured performance of songs and tunes, clearly working from the tradition but adding their own contemporary edge.

Lewis McLaughlin and FriendsCredit: http://www.lewismclaughlinmusic.com

I also had the pleasure of playing with Lewis again with his friends at a session at Perthshire Amber and was encouraged by their enthusiasm to embrace session culture. Lewis is a talented multi-instrumentalist and very amiable guy who is no doubt someone to watch out for. Lewis McLaughlin is a former student at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

International touch 

Battle of the Folk Bands 2018 winners Eabhal have quickly gathered the reputation as a high energy act equally at both festivals and theatres.

Eabhal Credit: http://www.eabhal.com

This emerging Scottish band has released their debut album and has been touring in the UK, USA and China. Selected to represent the British Council and PRS Music Foundation in China they have quickly developed their distinctive sound since their graduation from their applied music degree


Radio 1 play

Keir Gibson from Fort William is a young artist that’s really starting to attract interest from the industry.

His artistic growth has been great to watch and he’s really developing his craft, emerging as a strong, coherent and genuinely individualistic voice.

Keir Gibson credit FB page
Keir Gibson Credit: Keir Gibson facebook


He has a great team working with him to create the right infrastructure to progress to the next level and I’m excited to see what milestones he goes on to achieve in 2020. Above his musical talent, his work ethic is excellent.  For me he looks set to make a real impact next year.


  • Alex Smith, project manager for XpoNorth which returns on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 June 2020

Grand grads

We have had so many fantastic bands and songwriters come through our courses over the years, the breadth of musical talent we see on our campuses is exceptional.

Fourth Daughter is the name given to the creative output of BA (Hons) popular music graduate, Emily Atkinson, whose single ‘Time to Spare’ came out earlier this year and has been all over BBC Music Introducing since.

Emily’s work combines brilliant songwriting, exceptional vocal delivery and highly polished synth-driven pop production. Her music is getting attention as far afield as Japan, where her tracks are being used on hit TV shows. Nearer to home, Scotland on Sunday hailed Fourth Daughter as “an accomplished slice of electropop”.

Domiciles are a very different affair, showcasing some fantastic anti-pop that has echoes of Scottish post-rock legends, Mogwai. Their record, ‘This is Not a Zen Garden’, came out in August and was produced by the university’s sound engineering lecturer, Magnus Collie. The band, which features former popular music and sound engineering students, Jamie Wilde, Nick Young, Rory Cowieson and Sean Harkins, recently signed a deal with LNFG Records and have been championed by the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and The Skinny. Louder than War also named their first LP one of the top 50 albums of 2019.

Sounds from the University of the Highlands and Islands

The university’s music scene is varied and is thriving across the Highland and Islands and beyond, with the artists highlighted here only the tip of the iceberg.

Thinking about a future in the music industry?

The University of the Highlands and Islands can help you find a path that’s perfect for you. Visit us at www.thinkuhi.com to apply for courses starting in January or September 2020.

#thinkuhi #studymusic



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