If you have frequented any local bar in and around the Falkirk area in the last decade the chances are you have become familiar with a singer called Liam.
Not Liam Gallagher – although this Liam has also been known to do a few Oasis numbers.
No, Liam McGrandles is his name and if the end of 2015 is anything to go by it will be a name on the lips of a lot more people by the time 2016 is done and dusted.
So what’s so special about this 33-year-old father-of-three from Denny?
Anyone who has heard him perform live or listened to the dozen songs on his new fast-selling album The White and the Green released a fortnight ago will tell you he’s got the chops vocally and on guitar and the stage presence to start feet tapping and get ears cocked and listening intently.
He’s also avoided the well worn X Factor, The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent route to stardom to follow the longer, harder path of almost constant gigging in small local venues and now finds himself at a stage where he’s almost ready to jack in the day job for a full-time career in music.
“That’s the dream,” said Liam. “And I’m not far away from it. Things are just not quite there yet.”
The dream for Liam began when he was a pupil at St Patrick’s Primary School in Denny.
“I was seven-years-old when I got my first keyboard. My mum played a wee bit on the piano and she taught me a few songs.”
Things moved on when he moved up to St Modan’s High School and started playing guitar and writing songs of his own.
“I played in a few bands, but they were really just one off gigs for charities and other events and nothing really came from them. When I was about 23 I started doing the one-man band type of thing – just me, my guitar and my stomp box.
“I find I play better when I’m on my own, not as part of a band. My cousin got me my first gig at The Auld Vic in Grahams Road, Falkirk and it just went from there. I was playing songs by everybody from Johnny Cash to The Beatles, just popular songs everyone knows.
“From the start I was slipping one or two of my own songs in there. I don’t actually do that as much as I used to though.”
Counting various folk artists, including Bob Dylan and Christy Moore, as his influences, Liam finds it difficult to put a name to his musical style but admits folk music, especially Irish folk music, plays a big part of it.
That strong Celtic influence stood him in good stead when he began playing the Kerrydale Bar on a regular basis and became Celtic FC’s unofficial musical ambassador. This relationship became more official when Liam went to Tony Hamilton of the Celtic FC Foundation with an idea to make some cash for the charity.
“I knew Tony from a couple of charity dinners I did and I went to him with the idea for the album. I wanted someone to record me playing live in the Kerrydale and then we could release it as an album for the foundation.
“He spoke to Celtic and they were up for it, but they wanted me to go into a studio and record the songs there. I was a wee bit reluctant at first, juggling three kids and two jobs, I thought I might not have the time to do it.”
It’s been an especially hectic time for Liam, wife Fiona and children Erin (8), Ciaran (5) and five-month-old Isla Rose coping with Christmas preparations and Liam’s always packed gigging schedule.
The added burden of recording a charity album for one the biggest, if not the biggest, football clubs in Scotland was not something Liam was particularly relishing. However, he made a commitment and saw it through.
“It ended up being recorded in a studio in Livingston over two days. We were at it from morning to night. After the first day we only had four songs done and I thought this isn’t going to happen, but the guy at the studio was brilliant.
“It was hard to know how it was going to sound, I felt it was a bit rushed because Celtic wanted it out for Christmas. Some of the songs have a band backing me, banjos and mandolins, and the others are just me and my guitar.”
Liam’s concerns about the album vanished almost as quickly as copies of the CD did from the shelves of Celtic outlets throughout the area.
“It’s gone far beyond what I expected. Celtic got it onto itunes, Amazon and everything else. It’s been great for the charity and good for me as well. I’ve done quite a bit for Celtic and I think they trusted me to do this album.”
Liam, who works part-time for IFDS in Stirling, now performs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights most weeks and has his gig schedule full to brimming for 2016. The Celtic FC album has brought him to the attention of a lot more people and he is more than willing to “strike while the iron is hot”.
He said: “I actually recorded an album at the start of the year, but it’s been put on hold because of the Celtic FC album. I think I’m going to try and release it around about St Patrick’s Day.”