We talk to Scottish singer Kerri Watt ahead of her gig at Glengoyne Distillery on 20 March about music, meeting your heroes and the best ever song about whisky.
Whisky and music have a long history together. Dave Broom’s recent film, The Amber Light, is as much about his love of music as it is about whisky. Continuing in this grand tradition is Glasgow-born singer-songwriter Kerri Watt. She shot to fame with her single ‘Long Way Home’ which was all over the radio in 2015. Since then she has played Glastonbury, opened for Coldplay, and played with legendary Latin smoothie Julio Iglesias at the Royal Albert Hall. Her latest track is the excellent ‘Kissing Fools’.
On Friday 20 March she will be playing a special gig at the Glengoyne Distillery near Glasgow aptly-called ‘The Spirit of the Song’ (tickets available here). It will be a special all female line-up with Liv Dawn (runner up of the BBC Scottish Songwriter Award) and Beth Keeping (founder of movement ‘Write Like A Girl’). When we discovered what an enormous whisky fan she is, we jumped at the chance to talk to her:
Master of Malt: How did this event at Glengoyne come about?
Kerri Watt: I had the idea after touring round Scotland last year. There was such incredible history and things to discover during the day but most of the little towns went quiet at night. I thought it would be so cool if there was something happening in the evenings. Some of the distilleries I visited had great entertaining spaces where you’d start off the tour. It got me thinking they could be perfect for a small intimate gig. I think music and whisky often go hand in hand and when I started floating the idea to a few people they thought it was great! Ultimately, I’d like to take ‘The Spirit of Song’ on a tour of Scotland hitting as many distilleries as possible. But I thought Glengoyne was a good place to start. When I approached them, they loved the idea! I’m so excited it’s finally happening.
MoM: Can you remember the dram that made you fall in love with whisky?
KW: I think it was Laphroaig when I was 25. Definitely a late starter, but I used to really not get the fascination. I met my partner in 2015, and every time he’d have a whisky in the evening, he’d go through the ritual of offering me one. I eventually gave in and the rest is history. I love that it’s something we can enjoy together – especially when we’re travelling. He’s English so it’s been so much fun visiting places like Laphroaig since we moved up to Scotland together.
MoM: What’s your favourite everyday whisky?
KW: The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old. It’s accessible and affordable no matter where I am, which makes it great for an everyday whisky.
MoM: And what’s your dream dram?
KW: Hmm tough one! Anything rare that I might otherwise not get to taste. But if I had to name one that I’ve had my eye on, it would be Dalmore Constellation 1973.
MoM: Do you have a favourite distillery that you have visited?
KW: Last year, I had some American friends come to visit, so I took advantage of a holiday in my own country and took them to Islay. It’s crazy because I grew up here, but it really was such an adventure driving down to Kennacraig and getting the ferry across. We visited Laphroaig, Bowmore and Lagavulin. It was amazing to walk through the whole process. The guides are so knowledgeable and passionate about whisky and many of them have been associated with the distilleries for generations. Despite growing up five minutes down the road, I’d never actually visited Glengoyne until recently. My uncle was a tour guide there for years, so that has to be my favourite! They also sell incredible Glengoyne whisky-infused tablet which is to die for. If you haven’t been to Scotland you might not be familiar with tablet – it’s much like fudge but less soft and a bit grainier.
MoM: How important are whisky and music in Scottish culture?
KW: Stories of music and whisky are woven into the fabric of our history and both have been enjoyed on Scottish soil for generations. It’s the reason so many people from around the world come to visit us. So many cultures can relate to enjoying music while sharing a drink and Scotland is one of the best places to do it!
MoM: What’s your favourite song about whisky?
KW: There are so many! Especially if you’re into country music like me. But when Chris Stapleton’s album ‘Traveller’ came out in 2015, ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ was the track that made me fall in love with him. If you’ve never heard the song, check it out. Or even better, look up the duet he did of it with Justin Timberlake at the Country Music Awards a few years ago… amazing!
MoM: What did you miss most about Scotland when you were in California?
KW: Well I definitely missed my family. We’re really close so moving to the other side of the world at 16 years old was definitely a bit of a shock. But they came to visit and Skype had just come about around that time. Although i’d never complain about the sunshine, at times i did miss the rain! I’m big into hiking and you can’t wait for a sunny day here in Glasgow, so I’m used to braving the stormy skies for some exercise. There’s no feeling like it!
MoM: And what do you miss most about California?
KW: So many things. The people for a start. I think the sunshine just puts people in a good mood. Everybody was so friendly where I lived – a little beach community called Dana Point in Southern California. I miss that you could get up at 5am to go down and watch the surfers catch the first waves (no I wasn’t one of them!) The tacos, the frozen yoghurt and the sunsets.
MoM: Who is the biggest influence on you musically?
KW: Sheryl Crow. I loved her growing up and she has stood the test of time. 30 years in the business and she’s still a total rockstar. Amazing lyrics, incredible stage presence and she’s just the definition of cool. After being a superfan much of my life, I finally saw her play live a few years ago and was totally blown away and very inspired. Her classic songs from the 90’s still regularly feature on my playlists and I always play her ‘C’mon, C’mon’ album on a roadtrip.
MoM: Do you ever get nervous playing with or meeting your musical heroes?
KW: Luckily, most of them are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met so I’ve always felt welcomed. Chris Martin must be the biggest super star I’ve rubbed shoulders with backstage – he was really kind! And getting to share the stage with Keith Urban last year was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. His stage presence is second to none. Funnily enough, I was at a music event recently and got talking to this American guy. About half way through our conversation it clicked with me that he’s the dude who co-wrote all of Sheryl Crow’s biggest hits! Suddenly he was a totally different person to me and admittedly I did feel a bit star struck – but I had to tell him I was a fan.
MoM: Finally, do you have a favourite whisky cocktail and if so what is it?
KW: You can never go wrong with an Old Fashioned. It’s a timeless classic that’s relatively simple and I love it with Woodford Reserve after coming off stage. But I’m always up for trying exciting new brands!