LIFE is a dance you have to learn in the knowledge that it can never be mastered. A flawless routine is unattainable as we are pulled in every direction by circumstances both inevitable and unforeseen, and the decisions made, and the words spoken - with or without intent - by those closest to us and those distant without connection. The music never stops whether we move with it or against it.

How consequential these moments are can only be measured against our sensitivities. To dull these senses is inhuman, and striving forward in an automaton-esque fashion is mechanical and a denial of one’s emotions. Undoubtedly, when great pressure builds, there is an insidious allure of operating in the absence of sentience, but surrendering to this desire would be betraying and underappreciating one’s capabilities and creativities.

Disabusing yourself of the notion that this machine-state can be obtained offers a fresh yearning for drawing inspiration from every emotion we are capable of feeling as for all the anguish, despair and tragedy of today and all the mental and physical bruising we endure, it need not be the pattern of tomorrow; it could be the designs for something beautiful, joyous, and profound; if you have music within you, it is the song your body creates without instruction, or a data set or any line of code.

Music is for so many the perfect shelter to take refuge in when any one feeling or several becomes overwhelming and, in a series of interviews with musicians attached to Dunfermline, the nature and complexities of loss is explored. As raw an emotion as any, it comes in all forms and can make or break a life in a heartbeat.

By definition, loss is “the fact or process of losing something or someone”, and in 2001, the world lost Stuart Adamson. A revered guitarist, songwriter, and spirit of Big Country and Skids fame, his music has inspired generations of emerging artists and his legacy, deep-rooted in Dunfermline, grows to this day with every airplay and stream of his music, and in every step forward his children, including daughter, Kirsten, take.

With her father a natural inspiration, she has forged her own path in music in her own image with an earnest band of followers in close support, many of whom joined her journey during Covid-19 lockdowns when she performed live sets which featured her own material and her father’s works.

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Speaking to the Press, she says she has felt a “real energy of connecting with him through his music again, which is something I haven’t felt since before he died”, and the release of the single My Father’s Songs – the lead on her record Landing Place, launched last year – is a poignant representation of what it means to be Stuart Adamson’s daughter, she feels. The song had its genesis in the form of one line from the mind of songwriter and friend, Dean Owens, during a morning meditation: ‘I never knew my father until I sang my father’s songs’.

“He said it wasn’t a song for him, but it was for me,” Kirsten recalled. “He sat down and played the line and some of the structure. I immediately understood what it was about. It was one of those songs that didn’t need to be forced. It was clearly a song that was just right underneath the surface for me that must have needed to come out. In about an hour, it was all put together.”

Remarking on the feeling of playing tracks like In a Big Country, Just a Shadow, and East of Eden, during the livestreams of lockdown which helped shape the sound of My Father’s Songs, Kirsten said: “One of the most powerful things that my dad’s left not just for me, but for us all, is his music. Hundreds of thousands of people still feel a connection to my dad through his music. It’s a cosmic thing, isn’t it? It did feel odd to be telling my story through a song, but it just came out.”

On its standalone worth, she commented: “Every time I play it, I appreciate the song. I appreciate being my father’s daughter. I appreciate being able to do this as a living.”

The song has resonated with those in attendance at her shows up and down the country in a way Kirsten, who plays PJ Molloys on May 31, could never have imagined. At the merch desk post-performance, she says it’s “usually grown men who have cried; they have said they haven’t felt like that about music for some time and have almost said, ‘Thank you for allowing me to feel that way’. It’s very cool.”

To Kirsten, “an extremely sensitive person to what’s happening around me, and emotion builds in me over time”, nothing can compare to or ever replace music as a form of escape or expression.

“Music helps us understand who we are and how we feel about the world around us. It guides me. Music is everything to me, without putting it too heavily.

“If I’m feeling a certain way, I’ll pick up my guitar and I’ll feel like myself again. When you are dealing with any emotion or feeling in your life, not just grief, sitting down and playing some songs or putting some songs on, it takes you out of just your own head and adds a different energy to you being you by yourself.

“I’ve often wondered what other people use as a form of escapism. I do spend a lot of time thinking about how people who aren’t immersed in music survive; but that’s just because of how I see the world and I am completely immersed in music all the time. It’s my way of understanding this life.”

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Her sentiments are shared by singer-songwriter Eve Davidson, a Live Music runner-up in this past year’s Dunfermline Press Community Champion Awards, won by Adamson.

While she has been fortunate not to have experienced a “deep, personal loss”, her song Ghosts takes its origins from Dunfermline Abbey, the gravestones surrounding and those who lay below. On an impromptu walk through the grounds many years ago, Davidson started freewriting and noted names and quotes inscribed on the memorials, envisaging the lives they led. Time passed but the words penned never lifted from the page. They would, however, later serve as a prompt for a piece of music that would become the lead from her EP, released in 2022.

“Cemeteries aren’t places people visit often, but I like to wander around them and it’s a lovely way to honour those memories if you don’t know them as you can share in a space where they are, whether their spirit is there or not,” Davidson explained.

“I find it a comforting thought to know that these people who have passed on are still being thought of and remembered.”

“I’ve never written a happy song”, notes the 21-year-old, adding that happiness is simply an emotion she cannot pull from. In contrast, “there’s such a wealth in death and pain and the images attached,” she says. “It sounds exploitative, but as an artist you can draw from that in so many ways.

“When I’m happy, I express that through me being me. When I’m not, typically you are meant to push it under the rug and ignore it, and you tend to push it to the back of your mind, but bringing it to the front and working your way through it with music, and through writing lyrics, is cathartic and healing. When I played some of these songs for the first time, I nearly cried; sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve written until you hear it out loud.”

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Ghosts is delicate and Davidson’s maturity shines as careful consideration to the subject matter is paid, guiding the listener with grace. When writing from an experience not of your own, striking a balance is an art. Jonny Watt, of Dunfermline band Foreignfox, describes this simply as a “tightrope” with an unwritten rule of respect always adhered to in the writing process. This is particularly prevalent in the group’s I Used to be a Bellydancer; a juggernaut piece capturing the ongoing refugee crisis. Seven years on from its bow to audiences, it has not wilted as the lyrics remain true to this day and positions you within the realities of those who have fallen victim to failed systems in their search to realise the promise of a better life by leaving the land they called home and embarking on a journey of great risk.

“The idea is the biggest low-hanging political fruit to pick from, that being refugees (crossings into the United Kingdom and the nation’s foreign policy),” Watt admits.

“It was trying to contextualise it from the perspective of the person it was happening to, but throwing on as many of the situational horrors that you could attach to it. Being a bellydancer is a metaphor for any job in this context, but it’s also an old stereotype of the West’s view on the East’s culture, which could be argued has not changed.”

‘Bellydancer’ describes a loss of place within the world of great depth and its lyrics are cold and probing, asking questions that those in positions of power routinely allow to fall on deaf ears.

“Bellydancer puts forward the idea of this person getting on a boat, with child, and trying to get to better opportunities in different countries. It unfolds with questions raising the fear of perhaps losing the child overboard, maybe the ship sinking midway, and if they do reach the shore the question of whether they will be accepted?”

Watt continues: “With these subjects, it is a tightrope you have to balance on. If you skew one way you can create this unthoughtful and maybe insulting piece. If you go the other way it could be considered as pandering. We created an experience of one person on this voyage and though they don’t represent everyone or everything, if you try to make something too general, it doesn’t mean anything to anyone.”

This eight-minute odyssey has no resolution, simply a musical crescendo of having the pain and anguish laid bare. When played live it is trademark Foreignfox; a barrage of noise in an enclosed space. As stated in a previous Press piece with Watt in 2017, ‘Fox consistently deliver these intense performances with every run of gigs. That intensity, that demand, it takes its toll.

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Promotional material from the time of release features Fraser MacIntyre in the band’s line-up. MacIntyre, a multi-instrumentalist, left in early ’18 and now performs solo due to his disability and only a “dramatic reversal” in his condition would allow for this enforced position to shift.

He developed acute hyperacusis, “it takes any kind of sound and amplifies it right up to an excruciating level”, during his final year of primary school. In the years that followed, he stopped talking as the sound of his own voice and those from the other kids was too painful. Depression took hold, and the hearing disorder would in tandem snatch music out of his life. Noise therapy treatment became the platform for MacIntyre to build himself up from and in-ear re-trainers helped increase his tolerance for varying levels of noise. During a sit-down interview pre-pandemic, 2020, he told the Press that he was continuing to treat these noise sensitivity issues, clinical depression and the Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) which he was diagnosed with in 2014.

Post-Foreignfox he put out music as a solo artist for the first time, with Dance his debut single. He failed to find comfort in releasing under his own name though and has latterly adopted the Linburn moniker - a nod to his family’s first home in Dunfermline – to allow room for growth should a band become a prospect.

MacIntyre, now based in Glasgow, has evolved over the years and now reflects on his early experiences of songwriting before Dance was born.

“Listening back to my first couple of songwriting attempts at the time… it was like pouring a bucket of ice water over my head,” he commented. “There were plenty of clever lines and melodies in there, but you’d need a team of analysts to completely decipher what the song was about. The heart wasn’t there. It was so far removed from what I looked for in music. Dance was a reaction to that, an experiment in giving up control over what I was creating.”

Although he feels the recording showcases the “limitations of my voice at the time”, it “opened the gates” for the writing that came after it.

He went on: “The process of writing it taught me to write about what I feel naturally inclined to write about, and just to go all in, regardless of how insecure or unsure you feel about what you’re putting out there. I just naturally found myself, during the song, speaking to a few family members – and myself, which was a surprise – about separate traumatic experiences we’d had, and they all merged in my head to something universal and fictional.

“That’s the thing with loss – it is universal. Despite the vast differences between the kind and depth of losses that people endure, once you experience and learn to live with something like that, you’ll recognise the loss of others’ more easily. And this builds kinship and empathy, which are essential, of course. Think of old folk songs… so many carry or memorialise something that was once lost, but we’re lifted and brought together when they’re sung, because they speak to us all in different ways, and the act of singing is almost an act of defiance against the loss, in making something tangible/beautiful out of it.

“So, when I took my hand off the wheel and wrote with my heart rather than my head, loss was a recurring subject matter, whether I wanted it to be or not. But it’s not a negative thing. For me, when I’m writing about loss, particularly in the case of other people, it’s because it’s frequently an explanation for why people are the way they are. In knowing other people’s loss, whether it’s been the loss of opportunity / a loved one / loss of good health… you see the greatness they often can’t see in themselves, and their resilience and grace in how they carry burdens and live with them.”

MacIntyre continued: “You’re also reminded of the private struggles that individuals can have, so I think you gain a bit of faith in humanity also and learn to appreciate acts of kindness and good faith more so when you recognise all the reasons people have to become jaded, bitter and insular.

“It’s that old cliché, the light is much brighter when you acknowledge the dark. The good things we have and may have can be treasured more when you remember not to take them for granted.”

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Neither one of the quoted artists takes music for granted as in doing so they would be taking life for granted. The thought of not being able to play or write music is enough to send Jamie Adamson, of Dunfermline favourites Moonlight Zoo, into a tailspin.

To him, the stage is “home”. In this knowledge, a question is posed: ‘How would you react if your ‘home’ was repossessed?’. After a handful of contemplative seconds, the response arrives: “I’d convince myself that it’ll be fine, but a week later it would start to sink in, and I’d probably start having panic attacks.” A hint of a smile breaks through as further pondering takes place. “If I was told I couldn’t be involved in music anymore… I don’t know, it’s a provocative situation; I can’t even answer that,” his voice is now panic induced as a frenzy of fear wipes the wry smile clean off. The thought alone, not the action itself, of having this passion removed evoked the greatest sense of dread.

Dunfermline Press: Ayla Ersoy.

The youngest of the interviewees, emerging song-writer Ayla Ersoy, would not be herself without music to express and process life’s challenges and outcomes. “To create something for the world to hear is one of the most beautiful things you can do in the face of all the pain and sadness you’ll face along the way,” she says with complete conviction. “If you have an emotion, there will be words for how you feel. Without music, I wouldn’t be the same Ayla - I wouldn’t know how to be me.”

It is true that when threatened instinct kicks in and the grip on what you love tightens. In the cases above it’s the fingers around the pen, the idea-filled pad of paper, the guitar, the microphone.

When you care so deeply the hold can feel resolute and unwavering but inevitability dictates that grasp will weaken with time and, eventually, the hand will fall. Nothing lasts forever and the reality is that we are going to lose what matters to us and we are going to be hurting and we are going to have to navigate a maze of pain when it happens.

Finding our way out will take time and there is no right way back to the familiar, the present, the ‘you’ the world knows of. It could take a chance encounter or a reconnection with a cherished memory to start hearing the music once more, and though your dance moves may not be as polished as you remember them to be, the crowd are going to love seeing you on stage again.