Julie Fowlis

Julie Fowlis FRSE (born 20 June 1979) is a Scottish folk singer and multi-instrumentalist who sings primarily in Scottish Gaelic.[1][2]

Julie Fowlis
Julie Fowlis Edinburgh's Hogmanay 2011 (pic 8) (cropped).jpg
Julie Fowlis at Edinburgh's Hogmanay 2011
Background information
Born (1979-06-20) 20 June 1979 (age 43)
North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
  • Musician
  • broadcaster
Years active2005–present
  • Macmeanmna
  • Shoeshine
  • Machair

Early lifeEdit

Fowlis grew up on North Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides, in a Gaelic-speaking community. Her mother was a Gaelic-speaking islander from a family of fishermen and crofters which originated on the remote island of Heisgeir,[3] while her father hailed originally from Pitlochry on mainland Scotland. Her parents ran a hotel for many years on North Uist. She moved with her parents to Ross-shire on the mainland when she was 15 years old after her father took a new job. The family lived in Strathpeffer and Fowlis finished her secondary education at Dingwall Academy.[4][5][6] She then attended the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and studied the oboe and the English horn, earning a B.A. in Applied Music in 2000. After university Fowlis attended the Gaelic-language college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye to improve her Gaelic and formally study traditional Scottish music. Following that she returned to Ross-shire, taking a job with the organisation Fèis Rois in Dingwall as music development officer between 2001 and 2004.[4][7][8]


Fowlis had been involved in singing, piping and dancing since she was a child.[1][4] She began her professional music career as a member of the Scottish sextet Dòchas[9] which included Shetland fiddle player Jenna Reid. The group formed while four of its members were students at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Fowlis was a student at nearby University of Strathclyde. Billed as "a young and dynamic all-female band playing traditional music from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Ireland," the band released its first album in 2002.[10] The group was nominated for the Best Up and Coming Artist/Band award at the inaugural Scots Trad Music Awards in 2003 and won the award in 2004. Fowlis herself was nominated for the Gaelic Singer of the Year award the same year.

While continuing with Dòchas and releasing the band's second album An Darna Umhail in 2005, Fowlis also began to strike out on her own. Also in 2005 she released her first solo album Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is). The album was produced by Iain MacDonald and Fowlis and instantly gained her worldwide acclaim. Fowlis's future husband Éamonn Doorley played bouzouki on seven of the tracks. She was also accompanied by Kris Drever, Ross Martin of the "Gaelic super group" Dàimh, John Doyle, Iain MacDonald, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh of Danú, and many other performers prominent in the traditional Irish and Scottish music scenes.[11] The album was remastered and re-released in 2012.[12]

Julie Fowlis performing live, 2007

Her second solo album Cuilidh was released in March 2007, becoming a worldwide top-seller in the Traditional and World Music charts.[2] Her album is a collection of songs from her native North Uist. Doorley again played bouzouki on nearly all the tracks and co-produced the album with Fowlis. She is also accompanied by John Doyle, Ross Martin, John McCusker, Iain MacDonald, Kathleen MacInnes, and many others.[13]

Fowlis won the Horizon award at the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards,[9] won Folk Singer of The Year at the 2008 awards[4] and was nominated for the Folk Singer of the Year award at the 2007 awards.[14] She appeared on Later With Jools Holland on BBC Two on 25 May 2007, and performed Hùg air Bhonaid Mhòir on the show. Notable fans of Fowlis include Björk, Ricky Gervais and Radiohead's Phil Selway.[9]

Fowlis on stage at Analog, Ringsend Dublin, July 2008

In 2008, Julie recorded an album with long-time friends and collaborators Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Ross Martin and husband Éamonn Doorley. The album, entitled Dual, was released in October 2008. Fowlis also toured extensively around Scotland, Ireland, central Europe and America and launched both her solo albums while on tour. Fowlis recorded a Scottish Gaelic cover of the Beatles' "Blackbird" for Mojo Magazine to celebrate the anniversary of the Beatles' 'The White Album'. The song was released as a download single from Fowlis' own website in October 2008.

On 24 April 2009, Fowlis announced that she would begin recording her third studio album in May and that she would preview tracks from the project on her May 2009 tour of England. On 10 August 2009, she announced the album's title, Uam (Scottish Gaelic for 'From Me'). The album was released 26 October.

In September 2011 she performed the hour-long Heisgeir at the Phipps Hall in Beauly. The piece, half-documentary, half-arthouse meditation, celebrated the history, landscape and legend of the now-uninhabited Heisgeir, as part of the six "Blas 2011" concert series.[15]

In 2012, Fowlis contributed to the Pixar film Brave with the songs "Touch the Sky" and "Into the Open Air", sung in the off-screen musical thoughts of the lead character Merida.[16] In 2011 she graduated from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) with an MA in material culture and the environment. In 2013, Fowlis was named "UHI Alumnus of the year".[17]

Fowlis's fourth studio album, Gach Sgeul (Every Story), was released on 24 February 2014. Her fifth, Alterum, came out 27 October 2017.

All of Fowlis's albums including Dual have been released on the Machair Records label which is operated by Fowlis and her husband Éamon Doorley as an outlet for their music. Machair "is a Gaelic word which describes rich and fertile low-lying land. Almost half of all Scottish machair occurs in the Outer Hebrides and it is one of the rarest habitat types in Europe. It is a fragile environment which is under threat, a little like the music which is produced on this label."[18] Their label distributes through Cadiz Music.

Broadcasting careerEdit

Fowlis has a notable broadcasting career to complement her many musical accomplishments. She appeared as a guest on BBC Radio Scotland's flagship traditional music programme Travelling Folk and the world music show Global Gathering, and in 2007 BBC Two broadcast a one-hour documentary on her travels and travails in the music business, Bliadhna Julie / Julie's Year.[19] In 2008-09 Fowlis hosted her first broadcast series, a weekly folk music programme titled Fowlis and Folk on BBC Radio Scotland. She co-presents the annual Radio 2 Folk Awards with Mark Radcliffe and has deputised for Radcliffe on his weekly BBC Radio 2 Folk Show.[20] In 2012, a short documentary on Fowlis, her family, and her band even broadcast on the United States television channel PBS as part of an episode of the program Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders.[21]

In 2015, Fowlis and her frequent musical collaborator Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh hosted a television series Port dedicated to traditional Scottish and Irish music.[22] In each episode, Fowlis and Nic Amhlaoibh travel to a new location to highlight local folk musicians and the local traditional music scene. The programme is narrated by Fowlis in Scottish Gaelic and Nic Amhlaoibh in Irish, with English-language subtitles. It is broadcast on both BBC Alba and TG4. The first season ran seven episodes, and a second season of seven episodes in 2016.[23][24]

Personal lifeEdit

Fowlis lives in Dingwall, Scotland with husband Éamon Doorley, a regular member of her group as well as of the Irish traditional group Danú. The couple married in May 2007[25] and have two daughters, Aoibhe (b. 2010) and Niamh (b. 2012).

Fowlis campaigned for independence in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.[26]


Solo recordingsEdit



With othersEdit


  • Allt (2018 - with Éamon Doorley, Zoë Conway and John Mc Intyre)


  • 7:11 (2000)


  • Dòchas (2002)
  • An Darna Umhail (2005)
  • TBC (2009)


Spell SongsEdit

Guest roles and other recordingsEdit

Muir an Ord—Runrig 40th Anniversary

  • As Long as We Breathe — Alex Mandel
  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids (Original Game Soundtrack) – Max Aruj, Einar Selvik (2021)

Awards and nominationsEdit

Fowlis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in March 2021.[29]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Long, Chris (5 April 2007). "Julie Fowlis, Cuilidh". Folk and Country Review. BBC. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  2. ^ a b "A Gael force in any language". The Scotsman. 26 February 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2015. the 28-year-old
  3. ^ "Celebrated Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis visits Heisgeir in search of her roots". BBC One. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Denselow, Robin (1 August 2008). "Going back to her roots". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  5. ^ "Julie Fowlis". Thistle and Shamrock. NPR. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Julie Fowlis' Homecoming". Northings. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Success is music to Strathclyde's ears". press release. University of Strathclyde. 15 December 2005. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Gaelic organisation Feis Rois marks 25th anniversary with a bang". STV. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Irwin, Colin. "Julie Fowlis > Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  10. ^ "Dochas - Dochas (first album)". Music Scotland. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Julie Fowlis – Mar A Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is)". Discogs. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (2012 Remaster) [CD]". Julie Fowlis. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  13. ^ "ulie Fowlis – Cuilidh". Discogs. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Radio 2 – Events – Folk Awards 2007". BBC. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Blas 2011: Heisgeir | Northings". 3 April 2017. Archived from the original on 3 April 2017.
  16. ^ Bryko (1 May 2012). "First Details on 'Brave' Soundtrack! (UPDATE)". Upcoming Pixar. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  17. ^ "Julie Fowlis named as UHI Alumnus of the Year". Stornoway Gazette. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Mu dheidhinn Machair Records". Machair Records. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Julie Fowlis: Presenter Page". BBC Radio Scotland. Archived from the original on 18 November 2010.
  20. ^ "Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012". BBC Radio 2. 8 February 2012.
  21. ^ "Sound Tracks, Episode 2". PBS. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Port". BBC. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  23. ^ ""1. Julie & Great Friend Muireann NicAmhlaoibh Present a New TV Series – 'PORT' – Starting Monday 5 January 2015 2. 'Songlines' Magazine – Music Awards 2015 – Voting Now Open! "". Julie Fowlis. 5 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Port: Season 2". TG4. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Finding balance in a musical whirlwind". The Inverness Courier. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  26. ^ Richens, Mark (1 October 2014). "Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis brings Gaelic tradition to Buckman Center". Commercial Appeal. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  27. ^ "Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe – Lyrics". Celticlyricscorner.net. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  28. ^ "Cuilidh – lyrics". Juliefowlis.com. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  29. ^ Stephen, Phyllis (29 March 2021). "New 2021 fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh". The Edinburgh Reporter. Retrieved 22 November 2021.

External linksEdit