steve byrne

singer · ethnologist · record producer · arts worker · educator · archivist · advocate for traditional arts

From Arbroath in Scotland’s eastern lowlands, Steve has been immersed in traditional music since early childhood, and continues to write and arrange songs in his native Scots tongue. He is one of Scotland’s most sought after accompanists, especially for traditional song.

Best known as a founder member of innovative Scots folksong group Malinky, he's worked with Scots songstress Emily Smith (2002 Young Traditional Musician of the Year), Gaelic singing star Julie Fowlis, and as an occasional accompanist for stellar piper Fred Morrison.

A trained ethnologist - as a graduate of Edinburgh University's School of Scottish Studies - Steve applies his deep knowledge and love of Scottish traditions to all aspects of his musical career, whether as a performer, teacher or workshop leader.

Steve was a finalist in 2001's inaugural Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition. In the years thereafter he guested on bouzouki with top Scottish folk outfit Deaf Shepherd. His recording credits include four volumes of the acclaimed Complete Songs of Robert Burns series as both featured singer and accompanist, as well as solo albums by Scots singers Jim Malcolm and John Morran. And of course, four Malinky albums, two of which featuring fellow founder member Karine Polwart, now pursuing a successful solo career.

He has appeared in Dr Fred Freeman's live shows of the Burns series and the Hamish Henderson tribute 'A the Bairns o Adam'. An experienced folk music tutor, he has taught in the UK and Canada.

Steve's solo project of songs and poetry set to music from the Angus region, 'Songs from Home', was released on 1st Feb 2006 on Greentrax Recordings. Click here to read more. Following the release of the album and its subsequent critical acclaim, Steve was nominated as 'Best Scots Singer' in the 2006 Scots Trad Music Awards, and again in 2009. In 2010 he won the Scottish Folk Band of the Year award with Malinky, and himself was named Scots Singer of the Year in 2019.

Steve has had a long involvement in Traditional Arts development and advocacy work. For five years from 2002-2007, he was Traditional Arts Officer for the City of Edinburgh Council, with the city's Cèilidh Culture festival launching in 2003 under his stewardship. During this time, he also worked closely with Edinburgh's Gaelic community to bring about greater respect and visibility for the language in the city in recent years, culminating in the Edinburgh Gaelic Partnership which is now taking forward the capital's Gaelic Language Plan.

From 2009-2013, he was the Chair of the Traditional Music Forum, a national network for traditional music advocacy which represents over 50 organisations nationwide.

From 2007-2010, Steve was part of the cataloguing team at Kist o Riches / Tobar an Dualchais, which digitised and made available online over 26,000 tracks of songs, tales and other folklore field recordings from the 1930s onwards from the archives at the School of Scottish Studies, BBC and the National Trust for Scotland.

Steve has also turned his hand to writing, being published in two volumes on the life and work of Hamish Henderson, 2010's Borne on the Carrying Stream and 2011's 'Tis Sixty Years Since: The 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival and the Scottish Folk Revival, alongside an emerging career in lecturing, training and workshops in Traditional Arts, particularly on folksong, revivalism and cultural memory.

In 2011, Steve helped found the Hamish Henderson Archive Trust, a body seeking to oversee the fate of the personal papers of the famed folklorist, poet, political activist and peace campaigner, which were acquired by Edinburgh University Library, following one of the first successful crowdfunding campaigns in Scotland.

In 2013, Steve and fellow singer & folklorist Chris Wright founded the community interest company, Local Voices, which went on to undertake a range of public folklore projects in schools and communities across Scotland, with clients including local authorities, landscape partnerships and the National Library of Scotland. As part of that work, Steve authored a major piece of work for national bodies on Intangible Cultural Heritage, looking at Scotland's role in relation to the UNESCO ICH Convention 2003.

In March 2023, Steve was appointed as Director of TRACS, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, working with traditional musicians, storytellers and dancers to advocate for and celebrate Scotland's traditional arts and intangible cultural heritage at home and abroad.

A strong believer in the 'Lomaxian' tenet of cultural equity, [], and a keen student of languages, Steve sees his Lowland Scots background as but one part of the rich Scottish - and world - tradition. Like many Scots, he is something of a hybrid himself in any case, with a paternal Irish heritage that also inspires his music.

Steve writes about himself in his native language [click here]


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