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Finn Anderson – A Life on Stage

The Byre Theatre is trying something new, stepping boldly in to the 2018/19 academic year with…a blog! We’ll be talking about everything from Scottish theatre to spending time with the family, and everything in between – if you’ve got an idea for something you’d like us to chat about, just drop us a message through our Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll do our best to slip it in to our schedule.

And what better place to start than an interview with Fife’s own Finn Anderson? Born and bred in East Fife, he’s been performing on the Byre stage for as long as he can remember, singing, dancing, and even writing musicals from the age of 8 – and he’s back next weekend with his signature blend of songs and storytelling to warm your heart and put a smile on your face. We sat down with Finn to chat inspiration, song-writing, and how it feels to be the prodigy of St Andrews.

Q: So Finn, you’ve been performing in St Andrews for a while – can you tell us about your first few shows in the Byre?

A: Absolutely! So when I was eight years old I was in the first Christmas show in the ‘new’ Byre, right after the building had been refurbished. You know, I think being around when the theatre opened was really important to me – it sparked my interest in the whole idea of performing, but it also exposed me to lots of different behind-the-scenes elements that I think a lot of people don’t get to see when they’re performing at such a young age.

Q: And what did your career trajectory look like from there?

A: After writing and putting on a few plays and musicals at school and local town halls, I was twelve when I then put my first show on in the Byre studio. Looking back I was so lucky to have that opportunity at such a young age. I remember sitting in the lighting box with the professional designer that worked for the Byre at the time, and him telling me about all the lights that I could use. I was making rehearsal schedules and organising everyone and I was in it – my mum actually got a phone call from someone’s parent saying that I was being a bit too bossy! Probably true.

I wrote my first musical for the main auditorium when I was fourteen – called Rowan’s Quest. I tend to cringe a bit when I listen to the stuff I wrote back then, but it’s all good experience.

Around that time, I also started writing stand-alone songs. Writing musicals doesn’t make you very cool at 14, so I found an outlet as a singer-songwriter, and I think that’s been really good for me.

I left school aged sixteen to study music and then moved to London, where I stayed learning and working for three years before moving back up to Scotland. I’m based in Glasgow at the moment and my work is really building momentum, which is really exciting for me.

Q: And now of course, you’re also a singer-songwriter. How does that compare to writing musicals – do you have a preference?

A: Yeah, so this performance I’m doing in the Byre will be the individual songs that I’ve written.

That’s a really interesting question – I don’t think I have a preference as such, but both styles of writing offer me very different things. Working on an individual song there’s a lot more potential for intricacy on a micro scale – precision and playing about with really small details. And I have a lot of freedom with these because the story can go in any direction. I get some immediate release and don’t have to focus so much on fitting the story in with something else.

Writing musicals is a little bit more restrictive in that sense, because the songs need to slot in to an over-arching narrative. But then there’s a lot of freedom on a larger scale, crafting story that I think is important and using music to tell that story. And that’s really exciting because you’ve got to think big – and writing a bigger piece naturally allows you to address bigger, more complex ideas.

At the end of the day, I think what I do all boils down to one thing – whether I’m writing just one song or a whole musical, I’m telling a story. I’m a storyteller, and that’s what I love about this work.
 

“Whether I’m writing just one song or a whole musical, I’m telling a story. I’m a storyteller, and that’s what I love about this work.”

 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the show that you’ve got coming at the Byre next weekend?

A: My concert next weekend – called Finn Anderson and Friends is basically an evening of some of my songs, and the stories behind them. I’m going to be performing with a fantastic band – David Bowden, the bassist won BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year last year, and Ivan Sveda on drums who is also brilliant. I’ll be joined by Amy Rayner (from Strathkinness), another singer songwriter and a close friend, who’ll be sharing some of her work, and I’ve also been working with a group of young singer-songwriters who’ll be performing with me as well. I love collaborating and I love working with other people, so this is a really exciting project for me mainly for that reason!

It’s mostly a fun and honest talk through the music that I’ve been working on recently, and an exploration of why I think writing music is important.

Q: Finally, can you tell us something you love about the Byre?

Being in this theatre reminds me why I make theatre, it reminds me why I became passionate about theatre in the first place. Every time I perform there, I’m eight years old again, seeing the auditorium for the first time. Waiting in the wings to go on, I’m always reminded of that joy and excitement I felt when I was a child, and how that energy has brought me to where I am today.

I also just think it’s a beautiful building. I think it’s one of the most beautiful theatre spaces and auditoriums in Scotland, and the sound is really excellent, and St Andrews is a beautiful space, so it’s always really special for me to be here!

Finn Anderson will be performing ‘Finn Anderson and Friends’ in the Byre Main Auditorium on Saturday 29th September at 7:30pm. Tickets are £14, and can be purchased through the Byre website or by calling the box office on 01334 468 807