When Isla Grant lands in New Zealand, she feels as if she is coming home.
The Scottish singer-songwriter is soaking up the sun in Wollongong, Australia, when we speak, and feeling just a bit guilty about it.
“It’s really hot – the weather’s just amazing. I can’t get over it.
“We are hearing from people at home – it’s freezing cold. They’ve all got the flu, while we’re here basking in sunshine.”
She is hoping the weather will be equally enjoyable when she heads over the Tasman for the New Zealand leg of her tour, but regardless, she has always enjoyed her time here.
“When I go to New Zealand, it feels like we are going home. It has that kind of feel to it – the scenery, the people themselves. To me it’s very like Scotland. I always feel and say, ‘I’m going to my second home’.”
There is a chance she could meet long-lost relations when she tours here, too.
“Quite a few of my father’s family moved to New Zealand. I don’t know where they went – we lost touch. I could be standing next to relations of my father and I wouldn’t know.”
Grant toured here for the first time in 2000, but has been back several times, and she makes a point of playing smaller centres – as well as Timaru, her itinerary this year includes concerts in Ashburton, Oamaru, Blenheim, Invercargill and Nelson.
She likes the audiences in the smaller towns – “it’s a different kind of audience; the welcome is just fantastic” – but she is also keen to ensure people do not miss out.
“I was born on a farm. We were a dairy-farming family, and we were always away from the city, and I know how hard it is sometimes if there’s something on in the big cities and you just can’t get to it.
“Especially in the farming world, if you’re working with cattle you can’t just leave them to go away for a couple of days.
“People have been so good getting the albums. I went to the promoter and said I wanted to do the small towns. If they can’t get to me, I can take the music to them.”
The bonus for Grant is that she gets to see more of the country as she tours, although with a busy schedule, she doesn’t see as much as she’d like, and she’s yet to succeed in visiting Hobbiton, the film set for the Lord of the Rings films.
“We’d watched all the films and thought it would be great to go and visit the site .. We drove up to it and it was closed, so we had to drive away. But the hill it was on looked very nice!”
While she might not see as much of the country as she would like, Grant makes a point of trying to meet as many people as possible.
“I go out every night and sign things and meet the people at the end of the night. It’s only right that I should – they’ve taken the time to go and see me at the concert.
“I get to hear what songs they liked, or what it meant to them, and I get such a lot of people saying, ‘you really helped me through a hard time, Isla’.
“That means an awful lot to me, that something I have written has made a personal connection. It’s nothing to do with sales, or how many people were sitting in the seats – this is a different side of it altogether.”