30 Under 30: Claire HastingsWritten by The Young Women's Movement
Most of the musicians that 26 year-old Claire Hastings studied with came from musical backgrounds: pipers, singers, fiddlers and more, many from families where music was central and who had been surrounded by it since birth.
But that hadn’t been Claire’s experience; she came from a farming family, a background which was not particularly musical. For her, school (and Robbie Burns!) played a big part in her musical development.
Being from Dumfries, Claire and her classmates would learn Burns’ and other traditional Scottish songs in school, and it was through these sessions that teachers first noticed that Claire could sing. When she got to secondary school, she was further influenced by another Scottish folk singer, Emily Smith, who had gone to the same school.
But it wasn’t actually music that Claire pursued at first. When applying to university, nearly every programme she applied to was for theatre and performance; she only applied to one music programme.
Luckily (for us at least!) it happened to be her first interview. Claire didn’t think she had much of a shot, but she was told on the spot that she’d been accepted to do a degree in Scottish Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It was a programme that she says she found a bit intimidating at first.
‘When I started, my musical knowledge was very minimal. My teachers would ask “do you know this musician? Or this one?” and I was like, “no…” I felt at a complete disadvantage, but I powered on.’
Um, yeah she did! Last year, Claire was named BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year, which is pretty incredible considering she hadn’t even released her debut album yet (Between River and Railway, out now, btw. You should get a copy! Okay, enough promo).
Now living in Glasgow, Claire has spent much of the past year touring in Scotland, England, and New Zealand. She also works with the brilliant Live Music Now Scotland, performing and running workshops in day centres and care homes.
‘I love bringing music to both children and adults. Through performing in care homes, I particularly notice the difference that music makes in the elderly. Often there will be people who aren’t very responsive, but after an hour’s concert you can really see a positive change in them. Especially if they know the songs, and even better if they can sing along! It’s a very special thing to be able to do.’
Claire has also worked with Glasgow Association for Mental Health, running a singing workshop for adults with mental illness, and works with a programme to bring traditional Scottish music into primary schools in Dumfries and Galloway.
An avid traveler, she would love to have an international career, but with her focus on Scottish folk music, it’s likely Scotland will always be her home base.
‘I’ve done other styles; I sang in a wedding band, so I did lots of pop there. On this album, half of the songs are my own, and some are written in a traditional style and some are more pop, but I think I’m really most connected to the folk music.’