By ALEXA GERBER
When Disney Pixar created their 2012 hit movie “Brave,” the filmmakers decided that the film needed a soundtrack with Gaelic flair to match the movie’s setting. One of the artists they found was singer-songwriter Julie Fowlis, whose song “Touch the Sky” became the iconic anthem of the movie and a Disney fan-favorite. Now, the Scottish folksinger is set to perform at MSUM’s Hansen Theater as part of her U.S. tour.
There’s much more to Fowlis than her Disney past — she’s also an award winning Gaelic artist, and the Gaelic Ambassador for Scotland. Raised on North Uist, she grew up speaking Gaelic as her first language.
Fowlis released her first album, “Mar a tha mo chridhe” (As My Heart Is) in 2005. That same year, she won an award for Gaelic Singer of the Year from the Scots Trad Music Awards. She released her second album, “Cuilidh” (Retreat), in 2007, and her third, “Uam” (From Me) in 2009. Both albums won Album of the Year.
When the singer took a four-year break to study Gaelic culture and tradition, she earned a Masters degree with digital archives project Tobar an Dualchais. This past February, she returned to the music scene to release her long awaited fourth studio album, “Gach sgeul” (Every Story), to much critical acclaim.
“There’s always been something about Julie’s whole approach to her music and culture that betokens an uplifting experience and a joyful reassurance for the listener,” Fatea Magazine said of the new album. “Gach sgeul” proves worth the wait.
While her most famous song stateside is an English Disney song, most of Fowlis’s songs are written in her native tongue. Wary Americans need not be too concerned about the language barrier, though. Chris Long, in his review for BBC Music, ensures that this cultural difference needn’t bar the English speaker from enjoying her music.
“In truth, trying to pin down the beauty of her music is like trying to grab the Highland mist,” Long said. “Her voice rings out with a joy and gentleness that is enhanced by the non-Gaelic speaker’s need to rest simply on the sound.”
Accompanying Fowlis on tour are husband and co-producer Éamon Doorley, Celtic musician Tony Byrne, and award-winning fiddler and composer Duncan Chisholm.
Fowlis traditionally performs solely in Gaelic, though the songs might not be entirely unfamiliar – she released a Gaelic-language cover of the Beatle’s song “Blackbird” in 2008.
The show promises to be a unique experience and an unforgettable night. A review from the Guardian described her performance style as “easy-going … with clear, gently thrilling vocals.”
The show takes place Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for MSUM students with ID. The concert is also open to the general public.
In addition to the concert, Fowlis will also be part of an hour-long Gaelic singing workshop, working with MSUM voice students on traditional singing techniques. The workshop is free to observe, and begins at noon the day of the show.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit mnstate.edu/perform or her personal website: juliefowlis.com.