Colin Crombie is a composer with compositions uploaded to MusicHub. Read below to find out more about them.
I’ve been writing songs (and other works) for about 50 years now, but the ones I’ve added to MusicHub are mostly from the last 20 years or so. I lived abroad for a long time – leaving Scotland when I was 16, then living in Italy, Texas and Belize – and found a new inspiration on my return. My songs are almost entirely for a solo unaccompanied voice (mine, in particular), mostly in (or using a lot of) Scots. Though perhaps not strictly traditional, I strive in my songs to evoke a timeless spirit in my style. I’m not that prolific a writer, not being commercially driven or approaching songwriting like a task or school lesson. The topic today is… No, I write when the muse whispers, when a distant, faint voice on the wind brings a story to be told.
Unlike most songwriters, I am not a musician. I don’t play an instrument, and chords and keys and harmonies are foreign languages. (You’ll find that my “music sheet” uploads on MusicHub are lyrics only – the tunes can be heard through the audio links, since I’m unable to provide the musical notation. This was cleared in advance, by the way.) My songwriting is purer, I would say – I’m not bound to conventions. Intuitive, even – in a truly naif sense. When I have the “donnee” – which I probably misinterpret as the given, or the gift of the idea – songs then tend to come to me in one whole – words and music together as one. Well, for me, words have an innate musicality anyway. I don’t put music to words, or words to music. Heck, I can’t. I write a song fairly quickly, though I’m tempted to constantly hone and polish, working with words or phrasings or expressions. Even years after the writing – and to my ears, a small change will make a world of difference.
Occasionally I’ll share my songs at singaround sessions at a folk club or festival (most fairly local, as I live in Fife) – at least I try to though most clubs meet quite late on weeknights and that’s not the easiest when you work with an early hours start – or I’ll consider singing when the sessions aren’t overwhelmed by musicians, and when a singer can be heard and listened to and not just tolerated while the players take a break.
I’ve entered some songwriting competitions – my song Dull the Glintin took first place at Newcastleton and at the Aberdeen TMSA competitions. I’ve had numerous runner up places at Newcastleton too, and a judge’s commendation at the Edinburgh Folk Club contest. I’ve even been red carded and banned at the Glenfarg Folk Feast.
However, I don’t consider myself a performer in any amateur or professional sense. I don’t write for fame or profit. My songs aren’t particularly commercial, I fully realise – and as I also fully intend. Newly written, strongly traditional-sounding acapella Scots songs aren’t to the popular taste, after all – even at some folk events. Even competitions with criteria for songs “in the traditional style” or “in Scots” select winning entries that are perfectly contemporary or with not a word of Scots. Or whose wife happens to be the judge. Sour grapes? Me? Nah… Just my observations.
If my songs were to have more exposure, to appreciative audiences, I’d be perfectly content for any of them to become part of the great public domain folk canon, taken from the Book of Anon. And that, I hope I share with most other songwriters in the folk idiom, whatever the tradition they carry forward.
Check out Colin Crombie’s music here.