The Youth Music Initiative (YMI) launched the Demo Fund in early 2009 for Scotland's recording studios to engage with young musicians and bands of all genres of music to work in a professional recording studio for the first time. Watercolour was originally asked to pilot the scheme which has now fully flourished into the "Access To Music" Strand.
Shanine Gallagher Location: Lochaline
Comments: Watercolour Music Studios offered a surreal experience to all of us. For all of us, an experience we will never forget. The studio is situated in the perfect spot and elements of the Highlands are portrayed through our lyrics, making the session even more real to us. Nick’s professionalism and enthusiasm made the session worth while, making sure that we used all of our time efficiently to get as much material down as possible.
He offered us new ideas which we felt really enhanced the songs and gave us an insight to new techniques we could possibly use in the future. We were all really pleased with the demos that have come back and from them have recently played Celtic Connections, which for a first gig we felt was really quite an achievement. Mull Music Festival have already booked us for a two hour set this April and we are looking forward to getting more material on the go as well as working together as a band.
This experience has really boosted our confidence as a band and we are really grateful that we could participate in such a fantastic and motivating scheme. The journey has just begun!
Josephine Sillars Location: Inverness
Comments: Recording at Watercolour Studios was a fantastic experience. Nick Turner is an excellent sound engineer who was wonderful to work with - he took the time to get to know me and my songs so that the best quality of sound could be produced.
The atmosphere was really relaxing, and we were able to work to a time schedule that fitted everyone, and it was just really nice to work on my songs in a high quality studio to get the best sound possible. Also the location was lovely. Thank you Creative Scotland for the opportunity - it was a wonderful experience.
Alice Bentley Location: Dingwall
Reece MacKay Location: Ardgour
Comments: This was one of the best experiences of my life, getting the opportunity to go up to the stunning studio that is watercolour, managed by Nick Turner who has the patience of a saint. I had to play some parts about twenty times over for one note! He was hugely enthusiastic all the time and generally great craic.
This wouldn't have been possible without the Access to Music Fund giving me this chance, I'll be forever grateful to them in helping me produce my first demo CD. I would hugely recommend this to anyone looking to try and put some stuff down for the experience of this and I will definitely be planning a return to watercolour to try to make a proper album! .
Imogen Hay Location: Inverness
Comments: I was very pleased to be able to take the opportunity to record at Watercolour studios. As a young musician people often treat me like I am less experienced and know nothing about how to achieve or think of my own ideas. Nick was very nice to me and I was able to lead the production of my songs so for the first time ever I could hear them exactly how I wanted them.
All in all there I recorded 5 tracks in a weekend as once we had started we just ploughed through each song- and I had so much fun! I have had experiences in the past where I have found the recording process very stressful and tiring but my experience at Watercolour couldn’t have been more different. Everything was friendly and chilled out and we could take things at our own pace, there weren’t time restraints or any frustration or bad feeling about taking time to do things. Instead this was encouraged as we would then get a better sound.
Nick offered lots of advice to improve everything I was doing; whether it was annunciating my words more clearly or swapping sections around which was invaluable to me, and he was also open to new ideas. Most people for example wouldn’t put a clarsach with percussion or strange sound techniques (involving a cymbal so a section sounded like a horror movie- which I loved!) but because I was up for trying these things Nick went with them and helped me create the sound I really wanted to achieve.
The studio was beautiful and the accommodation was lovely. The care that Nick took with my music was lovely as well- often spending quite a lot of time perfecting tiny sections so that my music could sound as good as it could.
There aren’t many places this far north that offer that kind of experience for young musicians and I see it as a spectacular opportunity to experience the technology and invention of sound recording in the middle of Glasgow in the middle of nowhere! Cheers Nick, it was AMAZING!!
Morven Cameron and Jessica Baker Location: Arisaig
Comments: We have both benefited from outstanding tuition provided through both the High School and Feis na Ogridh. Living in the small coastal town of Arisaig, with a population of approximately 190 people, this kind of opportunity has been a complete privilege
It is our ambition that we will work part time as semi-professional musicians to help further fund our University courses. A recording session will not only demonstrate our ability as musicians, but provide an invaluable showcase for our music for others .
Duncan Overmeer Location: Lochcarron
Comments: Thank you for an incredibly fulfilling and inspirational time in the studio. I got so much from my time there by way of professional development and experience, and it's been extremely helpful and encouraging to me. Without your help through the Demo Fund there's a very strong chance I wouldn't have been able to arrange any studio time at all, especially of this quality, and almost certainly not before next year or even later.
As it is, I now have some showcase material I'm extremely happy with, and with it the opportunity to approach industry events and professionals who were previously unavailable to me. I can progress my music to a new level which is everything I could have asked for, thank you again.
Katie Davies Location: Sutherland
Comments: For me, the CD at the end of my time at Watercolour Studios was simply a bonus to a bundle of advice found nowhere else -one thing that for a sixteen year old in the middle of the Scottish Highlands can be hard to come by. It was ten o'clock on Tuesday morning that we began (a good thing for late rising spectators) and from the off start I had forgotten that at the end of my stay I would be walking away with a demo CD of my own.
It was hard work, there is no doubt about it, but as I rolled my eyes at my fifth attempt at one line of my song, Nick and his endless patience lulled me back to sanity with his humour and by Wednesday morning jokes were flying all over the studio.
This was a great opportunity to figure out who I was, what I wanted my listeners to gain from my lyrics, and my sound - something I had been struggling with - and equipped with his expertise I am ready to work hard and get my sound out there.
Sorren MacLean Band Location:Isle of Mull
Comments: We were really honoured to be asked over to Watercolour for a few days. The studio is legendary and it was great making music in a space that has been such a big part of the Scottish music scene. Nick Turner - great engineer and really sensitive and easy to work with - knows when to stay out of a band arguement!
The space itself has lots of lovely daylight, inspirational scenery, loads of atmosphere when night falls, great piano and a very comfortable sofa! We were really pleased with the 2 songs we got down and the fact that the second one was written in the studio (Sorren stayed up till 4am with a bottle of port for company) made it extra special.
We thought we were a pop group but late on the last night we had a great free form jazz blow out that was a bit of a surprise! This was a great opportunity for us and I hope you'll get loads more emerging acts like us finding their way to sunny Ardgour.
One afternoon I was sitting in the courtyard - Mary Ann had put out a few chairs round a table with a big umbrella to shade us from the baking sun and the 2 of us were chatting about bits and pieces. She said "You should come over some time for a visit when it's not to do with work". I thought to myself "This is work????"
Manor Park Elite Location: Stornoway
Comments: From the moment we drove off the ferry, until three days later when we unfortunately had to get back on it, our time at watercolour studios was an amazing experience. Set in what I can only describe as the most beautiful part of Scotland I've ever seen (and I come from Lewis, which is no bad).
The studio building has live in accommodation and a living room/entertainment area (SKY TV, play station , amazing DVD collection) for myself to enjoy, whilst the “talent” was busy laying down the music. Nick as an producer was a joy to work with, as the band “Manor Park Elite” were relatively inexperienced in the studio,
Nick guided them through the process in a relaxed and encouraging atmosphere. Capturing the sounds and textures the band had set out to achieve, whilst also letting the band loose on some of the various instruments (piano, moog, almost a fire extinguisher at one point ) housed at the studio.
We headed home with a quality and quantity of tracks that surpassed anything we could have hoped for..
Dan against The World Location: Forres, Highland
Comments: Working with Nick Turner at Watercolour was an absolute joy. We were delighted to have the opportunity to record some fresh songs as part of The Scottish Arts Council demo initiative.
Watercolour is like no other studio I have ever seen. For a start, the scenery is spectacular. Being able to escape to a countryside retreat for three days was far more productive than our usual trips to central belt urban industrial estates. Having our own in-studio living space was fantastic and, even though we all worked harder than ever, it still seemed like a holiday. Nick and Mary Ann also have a rather good DVD collection for an evening's entertainment.
Although we've never worked with him before, Nick quickly understood our sound and was able to bring out the best in our songs. I think one of the most important aspects of our music is our character and Nick was able to bring that out more than any other producer we've worked with in the past. When we were recording the vocals for ‘The Post-It Song', Nick suggested that Harriet and I should sing our vocals together to emphasise the conversational nature of the song. By doing this, we had the most fun we'd ever had in a vocal booth and were able to get across the sense of fun that summed up our three days at Watercolour.
Kochka Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Comments: As you drive off the Corran ferry, the City seems to be a million miles away. It may as well be. It becomes instinct to switch off and let the creative process happen.
Watercolour is not only a studio. With the in-studio accommodation, the beautiful surroundings, the warm hospitality and the great black hound, its so much more.
The creative process is heightened with the relaxed and free atmosphere which saturates the working space which Nick and Mary Ann have created.
Nick is a master at what he does. He quickly understands the music and what the band are looking for and seamlessly gets into the mindset of the band; it was as though he'd been producing us for years. It was a delight and our pleasure to work with such an experienced engineer and producer, not to forget the general banter and often hilarious tales of misfortune.
The equipment is fantastic and the available instruments are also excellent and we made use of the piano, synthesizers, the clarsach and the lovely harmonium. We even had an exciting adventure through the old barn (armed with drumsticks and various other blunt hitty implements) in search of a mystical object that made the sound of percussive angels hitting diamonds with magic wands. We found a big rusty pipe, which was close.
Its an idyllic place to record, play and write music. If the inspiration ever settles, the great black hound will appear from foothills and his enchanting vocal performance and classy fragrance will reignite any lost sparks. Do not try to feed.
Watercolour sits in a perfect location. A remarkable place to work - it's the centre of the creative world. We can not be more appreciative and thankful to Nick and Mary Ann. When more songs make their way to our fingers and we want to record again, we'll already be thinking about our next trip to watercolour music.
Ruby Zajac Location: Inverness, Highland
Comments: My weekend up at watercolour studios working with Finlay Napier and Nick Turner on my songs was definitely one of the most exciting musical experiences I have ever had. It was the first time I’d ever recorded anything in a studio so that was very exciting.
The weekend was inspiring. It taught me a lot and it was a good laugh too. It’s opened my eyes to what I can do musically and as well as giving me confidence by telling me that my songs are good, that I do have some talent, it has shown me all the different ways my songs can be. It has been an important and telling stepping-stone in my musical life I think. I have learned writing techniques and lyrically, instrumentally and rhythmically what’s good for what kind of song (and what kind of audience) but I have also found out some things about the music industry and what life as a recording artist could be like.
Sitting and tinkering with the songs, writing verses and discussing what sounds good and what doesn’t really made me realise the value of a second opinion, of developing songs and writing with someone else. It has encouraged me to be less shy about what I’m doing and try and find someone I get on with well and who has exciting ideas about music with whom I can do some writing. Because even if the songs sometimes take slightly longer to write, I think it’d be great fun.
Being in the recording studio was wicked. It took a while to get used to hearing my voice played back to me but before too long I was dancing around to the different drum samples Nick was trying out. Hearing what the machines (controlled by Nick of course) could do to my music was really exciting and I came out at the end of the day buzzing. I drove home singing along to my own cd and I couldn’t stop smiling, cause the songs sounded so amazing, like proper pop songs and they were my own, but what they had become was more exciting than I could have imagined. Although to be honest I didn’t really have any idea what it would be like.
The Youth Music Initiative is a brilliant thing that totally has to carry on. I feel so lucky to have had that experience and I hope more and more people get to, although I know there’re a lot of young musicians in Scotland so it’d be pretty hard.
Eris Ensemble Location: Orkney/ Edinburgh
Comments: Watercolour is a luxurious, spacious and extremely well equipped studio surrounded by peaceful countryside and stunning views. Alongside Nick Turner’s unfailing patience and sound advice it is the most inspiring place I can think of to make music.
The quality of the end product in terms of recording and editing is amazing and it was great for us to be able to discuss with Nick how to achieve the sound we were looking for. We all came away from Watercolour, not only feeling that we had achieved something to be proud of, but also that we had learnt a lot about working in a studio and about the whole process of creating a recording beyond our part in it.
David Latto Location: Fife
Comments: My time at Watercolour studios was fantastic. I have never been to a studio in such inspiring surroundings. The set up is very relaxed and this helps bring out your best performances. Nick's production techniques and suggestions were excellent and really added life to my songs. Over the three days we were made to feel at home, the accommodation was excellent and we were treated with great hospitality. The finished product sounds wonderful and I will be showing it off to all who will listen. I'm sure this demo will make a good platform on which to launch my songwriting career.
Placid Trip Location: Ardnamurchan
Placid Trip spent three glorious days with Nick at Watercolour music, and neither a more enjoyable nor better sounding three days could have been hoped for. Having broken the days down into a basic plan [recording basic takes, piling up the overdubs, and finally mixing] we set about making 'Here Be Monsters', exactly the EP we had set out to record.
The studio in itself is a fantastic place in which to be creative - the setting is beautiful, the rooms sound great and there is a wealth of top-end equipment there for the disposal of all. It is also a fantastic place to relax: with the great location, Nick's famous DVD/Video collection, a great wee kitchen and the capacity to sleep a small army of musicians in the studio accomodation, one could most probably spend several days there without actually bothering to record anything!
Nick is a great guy, and his experience in all aspects of audio/sound engineering and production made the process smooth, interesting and most enjoyable - from mic-ing up the drums to the mixing and editing stage, not a single major obstacle was encountered. Willing to try out all of our strange little production ideas, the man with the magic hands set to work helping us to produce some fantastic extra qualities to the EP [such as a beautiful reverse guitar solo and a mad-cap interlude featuring random mumbled french words].
Most of these experiments turned out sounding far better than expected, and some became personal highlights for the band [would that we could re-produce a reverse guitar solo live!].
The main thing to be stressed, in reccomending Watercolour music to other musicians, is the capacity to record almost any genre of music. Although Watercolour is well known for its ties to the traditional scottish music scene, Nick is capable of taking on pop, rock, indie and metal [as well as less conventional genres] and making them sound brilliant.
Russian Ninjas Location: Fort William
Comments:Creative scotland giving young bands a chance to record in a studio for the first time meant alot to us. We were unaware of how long it would take to record mix etc. and as a band we were not certain on going as it would cost us a lot of money and we weren't sure exactly how much we would get done in that time.
Getting the grant gave us the opportunity to get to the studio that we wanted and also give us
knowledge of the studio for the future. We have been waiting to get in the studio for months and have just not been able to afford/decide if it is worth it but this experience answered all our questions and gave our band the best experience we have ever had. We truly loved it and didnt want to leave.