FolkWorld article by Christian Moll:

Jim Malcolm one of Scotland's rising stars

Crazy great songs about politics, environmental things and love


"Jim Malcolm is one of Scotland's rising stars. He is a good songwriter, great singer, good guitarist, good mouthorgan player and he is learning the business in the proper fashion. I think he is definitely a name you will hear of." This is what late Danny Kyle, one of Scotland's best known persons in the folk music scene, said about the 34 years old full time musician from Edinburgh, who has just brought out his second excellent album. A new album is always a good reason to feature a musician so here you have an interview with Jim, recorded already several months ago in Edinburgh...

Jim Malcolm in a session; photo by The Mollis

How did you start? Do you have a traditional background? "My family is very interested in traditional music, especially my mother. She has been involved for a long time with the TMSA (= Traditional Music & Song Association in Scotland), and she still is. She used to go to folk clubs when they started in the Sixties; she used to go to see people like Danny Kyle and Billy Connolly and Archie Fisher, you know, all these people. In fact I once went to see Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty, they used to play together, and there were six of us in the audience, and now Billy Connolly would play in the playhouse, which is the biggest venue in Edinburgh.
"I think a lot of people who like folk music have a family background. I don't think it's too easy to enjoy folk music when you first hear it. I think you have to be exposed to it over a long period. It seems to me that most people have a background.

Tell us some more about your songs. When did you start to write your own songs? "Well I have written songs since I was a teenager, but they were never very good. I used to be more interested in rock music, and I used to write a lot. But I think, maybe as I grew older, I started to be more interested in the words. And now I usually come up with the idea for a song, because I feel strongly about something. So, I think many people like that in the folk scene, being inspired by things, which people in the folk music wouldn't write about. As you can hear in the songs, very strange songs.
"I usually start off with a concept, an idea, either it is a story or a message. And the song begins to build around the one idea, usually it is a chorus line, in pop music you call it a hook, you know, it is the bit that you remember. It intends to be how it happens - although I sometimes start with an instrumental and then the words appear. Songs are all different, they all build up in different ways, you can't, I think, have a formula for writing a song. But it intends to be one central thing that a lot of other things are bound to.
"I have written songs about politics, I am very interested in environmental things as well, because I am very worried about what is happening. I would like to write a song now to encourage people not to drive cars, I am working on a song at the moment. Another thing is love, I write love songs, usually about relationships that have failed - for some reason it is easier to write about feeling bad, feeling blue, than happy.

Jim Malcolm in a session; photo by The Mollis

You have also written quite a few Edinburgh based songs? "Yes, I have written a couple of songs about Edinburgh, it is a very interesting city, it is also - people feeling very attached to it, it is a good subject for songs. People sit up and listen; it is a very old town and has a great deal of history. One of the songs I wrote was also based on a famous tune, 'The Flowers of Edinburgh', which is my favourite tune. Although the trouble with tunes is that they are fast, the words have to come out very quickly. I have also written songs about my - although I live in Edinburgh, I was brought up in the countryside, and I have written songs about the area, Perthshire and Angus, which is a part of the country I was brought up in. I also like to sing songs that other people have written from that area.

Music takes most of his time; still if he finds some free time, he loves to go fishing. "Music and fishing is about as much as I have time... - and golf, I like golf, and drinking and - its about that I am afraid. I am very interested in politics. I like watching football...


Photo Credit: Jim Malcolm, harmonica-playing/Cider drinking in a session; by The Mollis


Latest published CD: Rohallion (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX 150); reviewed in this issue!
Jim's Homepage

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