By Mike Ritchie

TV talent shows are brash, dramatic affairs with showers of glitter, high-tech light shows, excitable audiences, multiple camera angles, high profile judges and acts with stars in their eyes.

But in complete contrast, the spotlight is set to shine on an intimate, more personal showcase solo slot for upcoming singer/songwriters, starting this weekend at the new Lanternhouse venue in Cumbernauld in the hope individual music careers can be helped in some way.

Behind the idea is award-winning singer/songwriter, Elaine Lennon, a winner of a Danny Kyle Open Stage award at Celtic Connections in January 2019 and rated as ‘one to watch’ by Nashville Songwriters’ Association International.

It comes as a natural follow-up to the hugely successful online events, The Homebird Sessions that Elaine started when the pandemic lockdown began in 2020. She attracted international acts and homebased songwriter guests and the show was quickly dubbed ‘A must for music fans and writers everywhere.”

The Homebird Sessions create a relaxed, warming and welcoming space for Elaine and her guests to connect with audiences as they take turns to perform acoustic versions of their songs, sharing the stories behind them alongside little gems of wisdom from their musical journeys.

“I was after an easy-going, informal vibe and I tried to make the show’s audience feel like part of the musical family, as if they were part of a living room conversation between friends,” said Elaine, whose self-titled debut album won the first-ever Album of the Year Award in 2020 from Celtic Music radio, Glasgow-based community radio station.

“The big appeal of the Homebird Sessions was that online audiences could identify with, and embrace, any imperfections in the solo acoustic performance.

“There is a closeness and inclusiveness that you won’t find anywhere else, satisfying fans and aspiring writers’ desire to experience live music, while connecting with and learning from the writers in a fun way.”

Now an in-person version of the Homebird Sessions’ online show is being offered to festivals, musical theatre and arts venues, and the first to jump at the chance was Cumbernauld Theatre Trust at its new Lanternhouse venue with shows lined up there for October and November this year.

“The Lanternhouse show will feature a ‘Homebird Showcase Artist’ slot. A ‘new to our ears’ songwriter will join me and my guest on stage to perform their original song,” said Elaine, who said she wanted to nurture a community of musician and fans alike.

“This could be their first time in front of a live audience, so I’m looking on it as an opportunity to break down live performance barriers for aspiring songwriters of any age or background.

“I believe it will help grow and promote our songwriting community both locally and internationally.”

Elaine’s guests for the first 90-minute show are fellow Scots, Yvonne Lyon, who is regarded as one the brightest and best songwriters in the country and showcase artist, Fergus McNeill.

“I was delighted to perform as part of the Homebird Sessions online during lockdown and it is a privilege to be part of this very first live event,” said Yvonne.

“Elaine has fostered a sense of community and inclusivity in the Scottish songwriting scene and the live shows will be a lovely reflection of that.

I’m looking forward to singing songs from my new album, Growing Wild, recorded under lockdown, hearing Fergus’ brand new material and collaborating with Elaine on the night.

“It will be wonderful to be in a safe space connecting with others through song.”

Fergus, who recently won a Talent is Timeless songwriting competition, is looking forward to his spot in the show. “It’s a real honour to be the first Homebird Showcase Artist,” he said.

“I’m delighted I’m able to perform my song ‘Bloodrush’ to a live audience for the first time.

“The emergence of online communities of songwriters and music lovers, like the one that Elaine has developed, has been one of the saving graces of lockdown, but – as we’ve all learned – there’s no substitute for the experience of sharing music together in person.

“Being given the chance to share a stage with people who I admire and whose music I love, like Elaine and Yvonne, will make it even more special.”

For Elaine it’s all about caring for fellow musicians.

“To be perfectly honest, I wish someone had done something like this for me when it comes to breaking down live music barriers,” she said. “That would have been invaluable.”

The second Homebird Sessions show is on November 7 when Boo Hewerdine will be Elaine’s guest with Showcase Artist, Falkirk-based Graeme Campbell joining them.