With Summerhall's beloved music festival back for another year, we speak to those involved and hear from some stars of the future
Through the excitement at bringing back the compact music festival Southern Exposure, it's possible to detect just a hint of regret in Jamie Sutherland's tone. After all, the music programmer of Summerhall's Nothing Ever Happens Here series of year-round gigs witnessed last year's debut event become a roaring success, only for it to be ultimately derailed.
Southern Exposure 2018 was an ambitious, week-long programme of indoor and outdoor shows in association with the National Museum of Scotland's Rip it Up exhibition and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Yet the perfect, enclosed dimensions of the Summerhall courtyard weren't enough to stop complaints about noise. Everything was moved inside before the final weekend to prevent further action being taken.
Even though the outdoor element is not there this year, we can still look forward to performances from 12 live bands alongside bars and street-food in the courtyard. 'By moving it indoors, we can control the space, and at the end of each set head down to the courtyard for hopefully glorious sunshine,' says Sutherland. 'The main premise hasn't changed. Our remit has always been to put on some of the best music coming out of Scotland, and I think our bill does justice to that.'
Among those highlights are Meursault, Callum Easter, Carla J Easton, Shhe, Pictish Trail, Piroshka and Bossy Love, plus Harry Harris and Little King from a new Summerhall initiative to aid rising acts. Launched towards the end of last year, their musicians' associate scheme is a development programme intended to assist artists by giving them practice space, access to the venue's press team and specific showcase events. Sutherland explains he chose both candidates for their sophisticated approach to songwriting and sense of potential.
'I usually describe my music as folk, although it's probably more towards indie-rock,' says Harris, who is from mid-Wales but has lived in Edinburgh since 2016. His third album I Feel Drunk All the Time will be released at the weekend of Southern Exposure. 'This record is a lot more expansive, so calling it folk might give the wrong impression. My main influences are Counting Crows, Jenny Lewis, Karine Polwart and The Hold Steady, but for some of the bigger songs I was thinking about 80s rock, specifically Marc Cohn and Don Henley, and my favourite Springsteen album, Tunnel of Love. Being an associate artist is good ballast against the insecurities that come with being a solo artist, so having the support of a respected institution helps me think I'm moving in the right direction.'
Little King AKA Matt Regan is from Belfast but lives in Glasgow; a composer for theatre whose first major album / stage project was Greater Belfast, he will be releasing his second album The Swansong of Steam later this year. 'My work is usually characterised by the interplay of words and music,' he says. 'I combine the two in an intimate way to make conceptual albums that mix poetry, instrumental music and songs. I'm most inspired by artists who push the form, like Sun Kil Moon or Richard Dawson, but I have much love for pop artists like Robyn and The Divine Comedy. I want my music to be unlike anything else.'
'I have no real expectations for this year,' Sutherland sums up. 'It would be nice to make a niche for ourselves as a specific, venue-based festival, as we have everything here to make a really great experience for everyone involved. I guess we'll see how this one goes and then plan it all again for next year.'
Southern Exposure, Summerhall, Edinburgh, Fri 21 & Sat 22 Jun.