YOU could get homesick merely by looking at Simon Kempston’s tour schedule for 2019.

The much-admired singer-songwriter, who is based in Edinburgh, is currently playing a string of dates in New Zealand, followed by gigs in Germany and Switzerland. There are five shows in Scotland and England in May before he returns to the continent. In late October he will play in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan; he plans to extend his tour into China or Russia, or both.

Hard-working doesn’t even begin to describe it. But then this is an artist who has already played in 32 countries.

Kempston, who is also a noted fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, recently released, to some acclaim, his latest album, Broken Before. Like its predecessors it highlights his intricate guitar style and an approach to subject matters that steers clear of “the usual themes of love and attraction” in favour of more unexpected topics, many of them political in nature.

The title track of an earlier album, The Last Car, examined the fate of a worker dumped on the scrapheap after the closure of the Linwood car plant in 1981 (the song included the striking line, “Thatcher, I despise you/ as only someone with decency can”). Among the songs on 2017’s Vanishing Act, was one inspired by the story of a pro-Russian soldier and Putin loyalist on the frontline on eastern Ukraine.

Where do his guitar skills come from? “I was about eight years old when I first picked up the guitar,” he says by phone from Bad Godesberg, Germany. “I’d been learning the piano for a year and my parents were keen for me to learn a second instrument, and that transpired to be the classical guitar. I studied that and worked through all the grades while I was still at school.”

After leaving school, his style began to be influenced by such guitarists as Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and John Martyn. “What you hear now is a fusion of my classical training and the folk-based style I picked up in my late teens and early twenties.”

This year marks Kempston’s first decade as a recording artist. His 2009 debut, Beyond Desolate, was released under the pseudonym of Man Gone Missing. He had recorded it in the “awe-inspiring landscape” of the Cairngorms, armed with a microphone and a four-track recorder. “I’d been dilly-dallying for quite a while, trying to find the right musicians to make a debut album under my own name,” he says. “I got frustrated with the process of auditioning musicians and not quite finding the right match. Going into the studio is quite a long process and in the end I just decided I was going to take my old four-track and my guitar and disappear up north for a couple of weeks and see what I could manage to do. It was quite liberating.”

Beyond Desolate came out to good reviews, as did its follow-up, Carefree Prisoner, released under Kempston’s own name just six months later.

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His albums and constant touring since then have earned him much discerning praise. Alan Morrison, writing in the Sunday Herald, described him as “One of Scotland’s very best singer-songwriters”; the musician Tom Robinson, on BBC Radio 6, singled out his “beautifully authentic guitar style and heartfelt vocal.”

His lyrics, as already mentioned, defy easy categorisation. “Especially as a singer-songwriter, I think lyrics are half of the work, really,” he says. Though he sometimes plays live with a fiddle-player, it is generally just him on the stage. “I have the guitar, and I have the words, and it’s so important to pick the right subject matter. To be able to believe, and to be able to stand behind a microphone and have complete conviction in what you’re singing about … For me, that means that the lyrics take a lot of work. They’re the thing that I spend the most time over.

“The music pours out of me but it takes a lot of time to come up with words that I’m happy with. I need to think they’re good to be able to present them. A lot of my lyrics are inspired by my travelling. I do take a lot of risks and I travel to a lot of bleak and strange places beyond where most singer-songwriters would travel. It’s important for me to go to different places and find out about the political and social and economic issues that other people are faced with. It’s not just about what is happening in Scotland. The more widely I travel, the more I can find that inspiration.

“I toured Serbia last year, and Belarus in the summer, and I found those experiences really eye-opening. When you’re sitting in one of those places and you pick up a guitar your mind is somewhere completely different from where it would be if you picked up a guitar at home in Edinburgh.”

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Last year saw Kempston perform some 160 concerts, the most he has has ever done in one calendar year. He spent time in Canada, and also visited Georgia and Azerbaijan. As he writes on his website: “The freedom of travelling without a guitar was incredibly liberating, and the experiences I enjoyed there will only serve to inspire the next burst of music which will, in time, flow from my pen. Needless to say, in both countries I managed to forge friendships with musicians which I hope will allow me to return in the future to give concerts in these wonderful places.”

Excerpts from his latest album of guitar instrumentals, Onwards She Travels, were used in an upcoming Canadian short film; and his visit to Serbia led to what he believes is the world’s only Scottish-Serbian collaborative music video, bringing him together with filmmaker Milos Itic.

Kempston’s next gig in his native country is on May 4. The Port Charlotte Hotel, on Islay, is the venue. Whether it’s there or at the New Edinburgh Folk Club, Dunedin in New Zealand (he’s there on Sunday), he is well worth going to see.

* Broken Before is now available.