Thursday, August 11, 2011

Outlander the Musical - Interview with Kevin Walsh

Thank you for the wonderful response Another Look Book Reviews received for the interview I held with Allan Scott-Douglas, Jamie from Outlander the Musical. I was over-the-top pleased with the comments and traffic to my blog. 

Having said that, let me tell you how excited I was when I logged into my computer and found an email from Kevin Walsh, the composer of Outlander the Musical. Words cannot express how appreciative I was that Kevin had contacted me. I jumped at the opportunity and asked Kevin Walsh if I could interview him as well. He kindly accepted.
Today I am most delighted to bring to you an interview with one of the masterminds behind Outlander the Musical, Kevin Walsh.

Kevin, thank you so much for answering some questions for us today. Welcome!
In my introduction I indicated you are one of the masterminds behind Outlander the Musical. The other mastermind is Mike Gibb. Can you tell us what role you played and what role Mike played?

Thanks very much for having me today and for giving me the the opportunity to discuss Outlander the Musical with you and some of the fans. Since I’m in Scotland and Outlander the Musical is now sold all over the world, it’s nice to be able to touch base internationally. I have to admit that I’ve been overwhelmed at how supportive and positive people have been since the CD was released.
To answer your question,  having written two previous musical plays together our roles have now become fairly well defined. Mike provides the bulk of the lyrics for the songs and the libretto for the play while I compose, perform and record the musical score. I tend to lock myself away in my studio for months on end coming up with music which I hope conveys the feeling and emotions behind the situation each song refers to. I wouldn’t describe what Mike and I write as typical “musicals”. I prefer to think of them as plays with songs that underline and accentuate the story that’s being told in a subtle and hopefully sensitive way, rather than being opportunities for lots of showbiz razzmatazz.

How many instruments do you play and what instruments were used in Outlander the Musical?

I bet you think because I’m from Scotland you’re going to think bagpipes right ?  I play acoustic guitars (6 and 12 string), electric guitars, bass guitar,some mandolin and mandola, some penny whistle, bodhran, drums and various keyboards. Thanks to modern technology and a big powerful computer I can sound like I’m playing lots of other instruments up to a full orchestra and even a choir too. This may sound like I’m cheating a bit but I see it more as a way of allowing me to create the music I hear in my head and to try out various arrangements before deciding on the final version. I still need to play all of the various parts and “instruments” I just do it using electronic versions rather than the real thing. It’s also obviously much cheaper to do things this way, I dread to think how much it would cost to hire a full orchestra and they wouldn’t fit in my little studio anyway !

I’m not sure this is a definitive list, but the instruments featured on the CD include, 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, bass guitar, bodhran, penny whistles, great highland Bagpipes, small Scottish pipes, Uillean pipes, Fiddles, Violins, violas, cellos, double basses, French horns, piano, choir,  flutes, oboes and various types of drums.

Wow that's a lot of instruments. Ok, let’s rewind to the beginning. What can you tell us about the conception of the musical? Who approached Diana Gabaldon?

It was Mike who originally suggested the idea to Diana. I think she was slightly taken aback at first but having learned that Mike and I did have some track record in producing musical plays on Scottish themes she asked if we could produce a sample of the sort of thing we had in mind. Mike then went off and wrote the lyrics for “I Am Ready” and passed them over to me. I fiddled about with various ideas before finally settling on the tune and arrangement on the CD. I then recorded a demo version which we let Diana hear and she loved the result. Based on that , and after various legal things were sorted out, she told us to go ahead and produce the CD.

Outlander The Musical

What happened first – lyrics or music composition (or a combination of the two)?  Can you walk us through the process of producing Outlander the Musical?

The FIRST big thing that had to be done was to select which elements of the plot we could use to give us a coherent set of songs that accurately portayed the overall story. “Outlander” is of course a very large book and we realised that it would be impossible to cover everything in a single CD. So Mike took on the job of working out how that could be done. Before too long we had an initial set of songs that we felt picked out key moments and just set to work. There’s no simple rule about what comes first in terms of music or lyrics but there are probably three general things that can happen.

1 – Mike writes a lyric and asks me to come up with a completely new tune and arrangement. He’d usually have some thoughts about what kind of “feel” it should have but basically just lets me get on with it. “I Am Ready” is one of those.

2 – Mike writes a lyric and suggests another song or piece of music he thinks it could sound like. I then go away and come up with something completely different but which works just as well. “Such A Fool” would be one of those.

3 – I’ve written quite a lot of music over the years and Mike has obviously heard a lot of it. Now and again he’ll write a lyric to fit one of those pieces of music. I then go and adapt the music to turn it into a song rather than instrumental “Falling” was one that fits that category. It was originally a tune called “By The Shores of Loch Lee” and is actually on Youtube under that name.

There is usually a LOT of to’ing  and fro’ing with the lyrics. Mike will come up with an original version and I generally make  small changes to make the words fit the music a little better or suggest alterations that would make the lines easier to sing. (There’s a big difference between speaking a line and singing one, some words just don’t sound right when sung)  Eventually we come up with something we’re both happy with, though that can take a while sometimes.

Another part of this process is producing demo tracks of the songs as we go along. These are useful as they allow Mike (and in this case, Diana too) to hear what the song will sound like before we get to the stage of finally recording it. These demo tracks can be quite a challenge sometimes as I have to sing all of the parts myself ! I have to say that “Why Did I Marry A Fraser” was just about the most complicated one I’ve ever had to do from that perspective.  However, by the time the demo tracks are all done, the music for the song is pretty much there for the artists to come in and record with.  

The recording process was also quite a technical challenge since all of the singers had different schedules and different times that they could be available. The final recordings were all done over a 6 week period. Cait, Annie, Ross and Michelle recorded all of their parts in single sessions, Allan did his over three or four days, while Sue came to the studio quite a few times over a two week period as she had more parts to sing than anyone else. I added my vocal parts as we went along.

Finally with all of the music and vocal parts recorded, I then “mixed” all of the tracks and created the master CD ready for duplication.. the rest as they say is history. 

BONUS - Kevin has so kindly shared the original demo of "Is Tu Fuil'o Mo Chuislean" which has only really been heard by Mike Gibb and Diana Gabaldon before. The team decided to use Cait and Annie to provide some variety to the CD. Plus as Kevin says, "they have the voices of angels" 

Each song in Outlander the Musical has such a unique feel. For instance “Falling” is so mystical. “I Am Ready” has a proud if not patriotic feel. “Is Tu Fuil’o Mo Chuislean” is very moving and it transports me back in time. When I first heard “Safe” I cried. It starts out so soft then the horns begin and suddenly I’m moved to tears. The piano in “Say the Words” has a real melancholy sound. The pain is so profound in the music.  Do you read the lyrics and literally “feel” the mood?

I’m really pleased to hear that the songs moved you. Judging from some of the lovely reviews and fan mail that we’ve had it seems that many others have also been touched by them. I always try to write music based on how it makes the listener “feel” more than any other thing. There are a lot of elements that help me focus on what that “feel” might be. The lyrics on their own are only part of that. The context of the situation, the emotions the characters might be feeling, even something like imagining the physical location of the characters all help me come up with arrangements that I hope reflect some of these things. As I mentioned Mike does also supply hints about how he might hear a song sounding. For example “I Am Ready” needed to  be Anthemic and “Safe” should be Hymnlike and uplifting so that gives me a starting point too.

In my interview with Allan Scott-Douglas (here) I asked him how long it took for him to record the songs. Obviously before Allan and the other artists could even enter your studio, the lyric writing, composition, and about a hundred other tasks needs to be completed. Tell us, Kevin, from start to finish, how long did it take for Outlander the Musical to be ready for purchase by the adoring fans?

The Demo version of “I Am Ready” was done in June 2009 and the Cd was available at the end of July 2010. So that’s just over a year.

BONUS -  NEVER BEFORE HEARD DEMO of "I Am Ready". This was the demo that only Diana Gabaldon herself had listened to. As just in the sample demo track above of "Is Tu Fuil'o Mo Chuislean", the music is all sung & played by Kevin Walsh himself. 

Have you read any of the Outlander books? 

Yes I have. I’ve read “Outlander” or “CrossStitch” as it is here,  several times now and also “Dragonfly in Amber” I’m currently more than halfway through “Voyager” and am determined to read all of the others as soon as I can find time.

Do you have a favourite song from Outlander the Musical or one that you are most proud of?

I don’t think I could pick just one. I am very proud of “I Am Ready” as it was the first one and allowed us to go ahead with the project. Overall my favourite is perhaps “Say The Words” I think it does convey the darkness, pain and malevolence of the situation but ultimately shows that despite all of that Jamie and Claire have a love that can never be crushed. I also have to say that Ross Croll’s performance as Jack Randall surpassed anything I had even imagined for the song (and I have a pretty good imagination ! )

Ok, let’s learn about Kevin Walsh!  So, who are Crescent Moon Music?

Crescent Moon Music is both my music production company and record label. I set it up to allow me to produce and release my music professionally. Since I set it up, as well as writing and performing the music for three musical plays with Mike, I’ve created music for radio and TV adverts, Historical Documentaries, Educational Cds and hypnotherapy and Yoga CD’s. I also released my first CD “Clarinda’s Reply” through Crescent Moon Music in 2005 and am currently working on my second solo album.

Can you tell us a little bit about your musical training?

I’d love to say that I was formally educated at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama but sadly that’s not the case. I’m completely self taught and have had no real musical training. However, I have ALWAYS been interested in creating and playing music. 

One of my earliest memories is being taken to my grandmother's house and being sat in front of her piano and being shown how to play “Chopsticks”. Much to everyone’s amusement and amazement I was playing it myself within about 15 minutes. I did have some piano lessons while I was at school but was “persuaded” that I would be much better off pursuing scientific subjects such as physics and chemistry rather than music. I did however teach myself to play guitar and played in various rock bands in my teens and while I was at university. 

I was distracted from music for a while with a career as a software project manager with a large multi-national company but eventually in 2003 we parted company and I decided to try to make a living by creating music. Ever since then I’ve done all I can to create the music that imagine in my head and I have to admit I’m getting a bit better at it now. There’s always room for improvement though !

Wow that is so inspirational to learn that you taught yourself music! What is a musical misconception that people have about the music of Scotland? Every song has a bagpipe solo, right?

Sadly we can’t ALL play the bagpipes but yes it’s true that most Scottish songs have a bagpipe solo. It’s just one of those things that you have to do.  Seriously though, the music of Scotland is incredibly rich and diverse. It would be impossible to pick one particular style or genre and say it represents Scottish music as a whole. If you hear unaccompanied Gaelic mouth music, massed pipes and drums, any selection from hundreds of years of beautiful fiddle tunes, the sound of the clarsach playing music that’s sometimes a thousand years old, Solo pipes wafting across the still of an evening, the beauty and passion of any of the songs of Robert Burns, to name but a few, you’ll instantly recognise it as “Scottish”. 

So I guess the misconception is to think that ONE type of music is Scottish ...we can do quite a few.  

What was your first album? 

I released my first album “Clarinda’s Reply” in 2005 after spending around a year working on it. It’s a mixture of instrumentals and songs some of which are traditional and some of which are my own compositions. As with “Outlander” I played all of the instruments myself but this time I also wrote the lyrics too. 

There’s a bit of a story behind the title track “Clarinda’s Reply” that I should probably explain here. The Scottish poet Robert Burns and Edinburgh beauty, Agnes (Nancy) McLehose conducted a passionate love affair through a correspondence that lasted several years. Nancy was often referred to as “Clarinda” in their letters. On 6 December 1791, Burns met Nancy, in Edinburgh, for the last time. She had decided to join her now prosperous husband in Jamaica. After returning to Dumfries, Burns sent the immortal love song `Ae Fond Kiss' to Nancy, capturing the pangs of lost love in his words in a way that has echoed over the centuries. Burns and Clarinda never met again though she remembered the day of their parting forever. At the age of 72, in her journal, under the date 6th December 1831 - 40 years to the day after they last met - she wrote
"This day I never can forget. Parted with Burns, in the year 1791, never more to meet in this world, Oh may we meet in Heaven."

In writing "Clarinda's Reply" I hope to have captured what Nancy might have said in response to "Ae Fond Kiss", as she sailed to Jamaica. I’m very glad to say that the song and the album in general have been very well received by fans and aficionados of Robert Burns and there is now a copy held in the world famous Ross Roy Collection of Burns memorabilia at the University of South Carolina. The Cd is one of the very few modern artefacts to have been added to the collection and I’m proud to say it sits beside original handwritten copies of Burns’ poems  and some of the original “Clarinda” letters.

Besides the Burns related songs “Clarinda’s Reply” also contains two versions of my Scottish “Anthem” “The Lion and The Cross”. There’s both a bagpipe version and a sung version. Again I was very proud to discover that some people think it should be a contender for a new Scottish National Anthem. But I won’t hold my breath on that one.

Overall there are 15 tracks on the CD and I hope there’d be something that would appeal to lovers of Celtic and Scottish music the world over.

Oh, Clarinda’s Reply sounds interesting and because of the Outlander books, many people are  interested in finding our more about Scotland's history. Where can we find out more information about Clarinda's Reply and possibly hear some samples?

For information on Clarinda’s Reply I have a website at  There is specific information and lyrics for each track.

I also have a website for “The Lion and The Cross” here

There are videos and samples on both sites.
I’m currently working on my second solo album and hope to have samples and videos available for that soon too.
ADDITION from Mike Gibb  Here is an added link to the Clarinda the Musical website. This is not the same as Kevin's own CD but quite similar to "Outlander" as it is a CD of the stage musical that I wrote with music by Kevin and one that is still being produced in different forms. It will be staged in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in December. 
Flash round Q & A
Most played song(s) on your iPod or MP3/electronic device?
“The Pan Within” by The Waterboys

When Kevin Walsh was a little boy he wanted to grow up and become a _______?
Songwriter  .. honestly J

Favourite singer or band? (any country)
I’ve always liked Pink Floyd, but Mike Oldfield is probably my favourite musician. He’s the person who inspired me to try to play lots of different instruments myself. His third album “Ommadawn” is a piece of music which never fails to leave me in awe.

Favourite instrument to play?
I’ll probably always go for one of my acoustic guitars first.

Favourite type of music? Jazz? Folk? Rock? Classical? …Hip hop?
I enjoy and listen to just about any kindof music but I’m not particulary keen on Jazz and Hip hop.

Favourite place to create music?
My Studio, which just happens to be overlooked by an iron age hillfort. So it’s a very nice place to be.

What’s one question that I didn’t ask you today that you hoped I had?
Hmmmm, let me see ….. how about  “If you didn’t live in Scotland where in the world would you like to live” ? The answer would probably be the Pacific West Coast of Canada. I visited Vancouver for just a few days around 8 years ago and was so busy working I didn’t get a chance to enjoy it. Luckily though, I had to travel by ferry to Vancouver Island and, other than the West Coast of Scotland, I’ve never seen such spectacular scenery.

Ok so the million dollar question I think most fans are hoping I ask is....Is there any chance that Outlander the Musical will be turned into a full out stage production? Would fans be able to see it in New York or Toronto? 
That's something we're actively working on now and would dearly love to happen. However, there are a lot of hurdles to be overcome first. If it's at all possible we'll do all we can to make sure it does. 

I’m just starting to get to grips with Twitter, but you can find me there as @Balnamoon1. I’m not on facebook at the moment.


Update Aug 14/11- Thank you for the lovely comments. The winner selected by was *Christine*

Although the CD giveaway is closed, please feel free to continue to comment. I will make sure Kevin receives your kind words. 


Unknown said...

That was a wonderful interview, a special look into the man behind the Outlander Musical. I have listened to the songs many times and I think that I always come back to Is Tu Fuil ‘o Mo Chuislean as my favorite. This song seems to encapsulate all the deepest aspects of the entire series of books. The deep love, the language, the depth of the commitment, and Scotland all mix together in this mystical tribute.
Chana Katz

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

I was lucky enough to attend the live showcase of Outlander The Musical in Aberdeen and was not disappointed.

Must say though....I really enjoyed Kevin Walsh's versions of the tracks. I think his voice has a lovely emotive quality to it.

So...thank you so much Kevin for sharing those with us! :0)

Connie said...

Thanks Michelle and Kevin! Fun and interesting to hear more about how the CD was conceptualized and put together.

OUTLANDER THE MUSICAL is the best music by a software project manager I've ever heard. :-) My very favorite song is SAY THE WORDS for the emotional power that comes through. When I first heard it, chills went up my spine. I think Ross's voice is amazing, and his performance as Jack Randall was gut-wrenching. I couldn't believe what he could convey using just his voice!

Glad to know we'll have more music from you and Mike, Kevin. Now to go check-out CLARINDA....


Sarah said...

Thanks for letting us know about the interview. It was great *smile*. And that you got the demo tracks from Kevin was such a bonus, I loved listen to them.

Deniz Bevan said...

A wonderful interview, Michelle and Kevin!
Thanks for sharing so much of the process with us, it's great to get a behind the scenes look.
I love music but am tone deaf like Jamie - I'd be happy to be able to play any instrument at all!
You're welcome to Canada anytime; Montreal's closer to Scotland than Vancouver anyway :-)
And yay for The Waterboys!

Juliazun said...

I loved that interview!! I find the whole process of songwriting so interesting, so I especially loved reading how the lyrics and music came together to create the beautiful music of Outlander the Musical. Thanks, Kevin and Michelle for a great entry on the blogsite. Favorite song...I think it would be Could I Surrender My Heart; such a beautiful duet between two very talented singers.

Kate said...

Lovely interview, you're quite the star now too! <3

Love love love the musical tracks, I was just listening to the album yesterday!

Anonymous said...


This is a great interview. I have been reading the Outlander Series for almost 10 years now and was so excited when I heard that there was a muscial score out there. I really hope it does become a full on production before long and I think the combination of the music and story would be great on stage or even film!

Je Suis Prest is a brilliant song and totally incompasses the feeling you get when you read that portion of the book!

Can't wait to get my hands on the CD...hoping to purchase in the next week or so.

Thanks for making this a reality :)

Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed your interview and it was a treat to hear these demo versions. I really liked Blood of My Blood! Nice voice!

Vancouver Island is a beautiful place and I've spent many vacations kayaking on the West Coast though I've seen photos of the beautiful kayaking in Scotland and it is on my list!

Anonymous said...

This looks fantastic! I can't wait to hear the rest of the songs. My favorite at the moment is "I am Ready". This music is so different from anything I've ever heard before. I'm so excited!


Anonymous said...

Hi. Very interesting interview - thank you! I've had the CD for quite a few months now and I listen to it just about every time I'm in my car - it makes me look forward to running errands. ;-) I have several favorites, but #1 has to be "Say the Words" - which ranges from chilling (Black Jack/Jamie) to terribly moving (Jamie/Claire's wedding vow). Best of luck on getting this produced as a play on Broadway or London. I will be first in line for tickets. Thank you!!
Terri in upstate NY

tlsmoker said...

Great interview!!! Your questions were awesome and his answers were very interesting. I would like to learn how to play the piano, but any instrument would be fun to play.

Margaret said...

Thank you for a lovely interview, Michelle, and thanks to Kevin for taking the time to talk to us!

likichk said...

Lovely interview and very interesting behind the scenes information. I would love to see a full production!

Very beautiful CD. Very gifted team.

Thank you,

ForgeyJS said...

I was happy to get to hear some of the demos from the CD. The songs sound beautiful! I didn't think I'd like it, but apparently I was wrong!
I don't know which song is my favorite, as I haven't heard them all. If I could play an instrument it would be piano.

Unknown said...

That was a wonderful and fun interview! Love the kilt picture! Is it a REAL kilt pic? Ive listened to the demo and liked the music very much. If I had to pick a musical instrument to learn it would be the harp. Weird I know but Ive always thought they sounded beautiful.

Christine said...

Great interview. :)

I wish I could pick a favorite song, but I haven't heard the whole CD (since I don't have it), so I can't answer that.

But, I have always wanted to learn to play the drums.

- Christine

Darlene said...

I love the music and I am a huge Outlander fan. I hope we get a chance to see the musical here on the west coast of Canada. (and I hope Kevin gets to come back here)

Thanks for sharing this interview.
Darlene Foster

Karen Henry said...

That was a terrific interview! Thanks for posting it. It's really interesting to learn about how the CD was put together. I was one of the first to get a copy of the CD, back in August 2010 (wow, has it really been a year ago? time flies!) and I have listened to it many, many times since. My favorites are "I am Ready", "Is tu fuil", "Could I Surrender My Heart", "Such a Fool", and "Say the Words". Kevin really captures Jamie very well, and also the relationship between Jamie and Claire.


Kevin said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments so far. It's really nice to get such positive feedback on a project that is very dear to my heart. Nikki, if you mean what I think you mean by a REAL kilt pic .. then the answer is yes, of course :-)


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the interview and the peak into the creative process. I also like Kevin's demo of Blood of my Blood with the deeper voice for the into. However my favorite has always been I Am Ready. Found myself humming it when I woke up this morning.

Catherine said...

Thank you for the wonderful interview and the opportunity to hear some the original versions of the songs. My farorite is Blood of my Blood.

Kathy C. @Heartsonycgr said...

Thank you for the wonderful interview with Kevin Walsh...I am a HUGE fan of his work! So delighted he is pursuing his passion for music. My favorite track on OTM is "Say the Words" Kevin says it is powerful, dramatic, dark and Ross gives an AWESOME performance!! If OTM does become a musical, I want to be first in line for a ticket for opening nite!! @Heartsonicgr aka Kathy :)

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to play piano. I would really love to have this CD I have read every book Diana has written many times over. I can smell the heather and hear the pipes when I read. I am Scottish on my mothers side.

Unknown said...

The above Anonymous comment was left by @zobac2 as she tweeted to let me know "great interview"

Nice and thank you all for the lovely comments. I love reading them almost as much as Kevin.

Kate B said...

What a fantastic interview both Kevin and Michelle. It's so nice Kevin for you to go into such detail with your writing process. I love the demo song, will it be available on the musicals You Tube channel also?

You know here in Vancover some of us refer to it as... The Wet Coast of Canada!

Kate B.

Julie said...

Such a fascinating interview! Wonderful job, both of you! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, Kevin!

Laurie said...

The first go round it ate my comments.

Great questions, Michelle and insightful answers, Kevin. Being someone who hasn't read the books would I still understand the 'story' that is being told in the CD?

Theresa said...

Je Suis Prest is the song that I like the best. Haven't heard all of them yet though.
Loved that Kevin is self taught and is really following the passion in his life. So inspiring.

Anonymous said...

That is awesome that Kevin taught himself music like that. Very impressive.

I havent heard the entire CD but the tracks on here are interesting for sure.

Cool interview and I liked hearing about things behind the scenes like that.