Festival royalty doesn’t get much more laid back than the purveyor of Eden’s Rabbies Tavern
Hello Stephen, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Craignure on the Isle of Mull. I’m currently packing boxes in our flat in Clydebank, ready for a move to Balloch, Loch Lomond on Friday!
Where does your love of music come from?
My parents and Grandparents. My dad was a brilliant folk musician. Mainly Fiddle, Guitar and Northumbrian Pipes, but he could genuinely get a tune out of any instrument. Our summers were generally driving around Scotland and Ireland, he played in as many sessions as he could. While my mum wasn’t a musician, she had a great love of music. Fantastic collection of records which I used to love playing. My Grandad played the organ in our local church, and my Gran gave me my first lessons as a child on the piano.
You’ve got three famous musicians from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
I’m crazy into Hans Zimmer at the moment. My wife got me tickets to the Hydro in march and it was incredible. His stories are great too, he’s be a top class dinner guest. Dolly Parton. I’ve always enjoyed country music, and she’s just the embodiment of it. I think she’d be a great dinner guest, really funny and honest. Hasn’t ever forgotten her roots either. Marcus Mumford too. Sigh no More came out just as the band were getting started. Mumford and Sons were a huge influence back then. It really got me back into that style of music, we wouldn’t be the band we are without that record. I’m rubbish at cooking. I’d go Scottish I think though. Stornoway Black pudding and Mull Cheddar salad for starter. I do make a decent steak pie though, so that’s up next. I’d need to ask my mum how to make it, Cranachan for desert. Probably a cheese board too. Love a good cheese board!
You are the founding member of Have Mercy Las Vegas, what’s the origin story?
I wouldn’t say there was a real founding member of Have Mercy Las Vegas. Originally I’d met Crispin through work and went along to a couple of open mics. He was well known in the area and had a load of top class songs to record. He’s an incredible songwriter and a total pleasure to get the chance to play with – it still is. I’d come along to record a bit of Mandolin on a song he’d written (Tear to my eye) He’d been recording them at Phil’s studio, Phil being a drummer put the drums down. We got the offer of a couple of local gigs and Marc joined in on Bass, having previously been in a band with Phil. Crispin and I were playing a couple of tunes on a Sunny May day holiday, funnily enough 7 years ago to this day. She sang a couple of tunes and we invited her to join. That’s pretty much when we became a proper band. Andrew was the final piece of the jigsaw in 2013.
What instruments do you play?
For Have Mercy Las Vegas; Banjo, Mandolin, Harmonium and accordion. I’ve loads of instruments in the flat I can pick a tune on, but not to any real standard!
How has your involvement with Eden Festival increased since the early days?
I’ve generally done a bit more each year really. First couple of years not much beyond playing and suggesting a couple of bands. Phil got me more involved around 2014/15 I reckon though. There’s a lot of admin that goes with this, dealing with all the bands, tech specs etc, a bit of compering too. Maybe since 2015 I’ve gone down early to help with the build, a lot of people work really hard behind the scenes and its good to muck in.
How has the Tavern evolved over the years?
Its grown big time. The Tavern was originally a much smaller army tent. It was brilliantly dark and the sound desk was housed in an old truck. (Ill find a picture) Sadly it succumbed to the elements and the larger and brighter tent was brought in. The build team are so resourceful though, they built wooden walls inside to give it a Barn feel to it. Built chairs and benches from old church pews and added a new snug and rebuilt the bar at the back. It grew on still, the “The Back Passage” was built and programmed by Bob and Cara, it has since become a wonderful venue in its own right. A mezzanine floor was built above the sound desk… there’s loads of wee personal touches too from the build and the décor team. Plenty of Burns poems and pictures. It’s a work of art. Last year when the Back Passage moved locations, we added a replacement called the Diel and Exciseman, after another burns poem and with a “speakeasy” feel, something Chris had always been really keen to do. We had some sporadic jams and performances last year which went down a treat. Thankful to Adam for trusting us to do it well! We’ll expand on that this year.
Can you describe your working relationship with Chris Blackmore?
Chris is brilliant to work with. He’s one step ahead of the game when it comes to the Americana/folk scene in Glasgow. He’s really passionate about it too. We want to give new artists a chance that is sometimes hard to get, Chris is great at finding these acts. At this time of year we probably speak daily about the plans and schedules for the weekend, but all year round his label “Holy Smokes Records” put on great shows. He’s brought the likes of Buffalo Skinners from Sheffield, Lankum from Dublin and JP Harris from Nashville to Glasgow. Well worth checking out his shows.
What have you got for us this year?
We’ve got John Cooper Clark headlining the year, something different to what we usually do, but its going to go down great. We’ve brought in some brilliant poets too keeping with the theme, the likes of Stephen Watt, Mark McGhee, Iona Lee and plenty more. We’ve got the Hoojamamas as the musical headline, formerly known as Harry and the Hendersons. Its been a while since we had them down so really looking forward to that. My own personal picks for the weekend are The Carloways, Beinn Lee, Avocet and Dlu.
As one of the last venues to be open onsite, what are the crowd & the performers like in the early hours of Monday morning?
After the main stages shut most of the smaller venues are usually busy, Sunday is no exception to that. While were on till about 2, the Snake Pit is open later still! I think people want to make the most of it on the last day. We’ve always had some cracking line ups on the Sunday!
Who are you looking forward to in the other parts of Eden Festival?
The Mountain Stage is an incredible feat of engineering. It looks and sounds great too. I’ll look to catch Lau and Old Blind Dogs there for sure. I’m looking forward to the Campsite too. We work hard but still take a bit of time to enjoy the company and have a wee jam and a drink with some pals!
Can you describe working with the Eden crew in a single sentence?
An absolute pleasure.
To someone who has never been to Eden before, what have they got to expect?
I’m sure everyone who is involved in a festival will say that theirs is different to the rest… But Eden genuinely is. Its the reason I wanted to help it grow. With HMLV we’ve been lucky enough to play loads of great festivals in Scotland and England and there are some great festivals out there. Eden’s just full of people who want to get along with everybody. Everyone is there to have a good time, you’ll definitely make some new friends. The music is fantastic and Eden has some brilliant headliners. You’ll enjoy seeing the bands you’ve picked out as favorites before, but you’ll also find your new favorite band! The level of detail that goes into the building of the stages is incredible… the Melodrome in the woods, the towers of the Great Mountain or even the drive in cinema. First time I went as a band member I knew I wanted to be a part of it, I’m grateful I got the chance. But if I wasn’t involved and my band weren’t booked to play, I’d buy a ticket for it.
Raehills Meadows, Moffat
June 6-9, 2019