COLLABORATION is for many artists a difficult process, whereby co-operation and compromise become the overriding issues. For others, it is a chance to blend styles, to take on board new elements, and, ultimately, to grow.

For Laura-Beth Salter it’s something of a passion. The highly sought-after mandolin player is involved in so many projects it’s a wonder she finds time for anything else. A founder member of The Shee and Kinnaris Quintet, she is also one half of Jenn and LB, alongside long-time musical soulmate Jenn Butterworth, and now she has embarked upon a new project, From the Ground, with another serial collaborator – piper, guitarist and songwriter Ali Hutton of Treacherous Orchestra, Ross and Ali and Old Blind Dogs. It is, however, a coming together that has been years in the making.

“We have actually been working on music together for about four years,” says Salter. “We just use to do it for fun. We’d just go and sit in [producer] Andrea Gobbi’s studio mucking around with stuff and sharing ideas, recording little bits and looping sounds on the mandolin and all sorts of stuff.

“It’s been a really organic process. We’ve just always really enjoyed playing music together.”

Hutton’s stage persona of the leather-clad piper crashing out big brash tunes is, says Salter, something of a red herring. He is, as is evidenced by his work with Ross Ainslie on the two Ross and Ali albums, a searingly sensitive songwriter.

“He’s known for these banging tunes with the likes of Treacherous but he really likes song-based stuff, too,” says Salter. “So I think this is his outlet for that.”

Despite being the member of a duo as well as two groups, Salter is clearly on a continual search for musical inspiration and fulfilment. The creative process is, she says, different for each project and From the Ground provides her with a new approach to composing.

“Although in the other bands we arrange all the music together we don’t necessarily write it together. So I’ll take a tune to Kinnaris, or Aileen [Reid Gobbi of Kinnaris] will bring a tune, or whoever and then we’ll arrange it together. But with Ali quite a lot of the stuff we’ve been working on we’ve actually written together. And the influences are different.

“We’re not bound by any genre with that music which has been really nice for me. So I don’t have to think ‘oh that doesn’t sound very trad, we’d better change it’. It’s definitely different.”

There are plans to release a second From the Ground EP to follow up debut Beginnings, but in the meantime Salter has plenty to work on.

She and Kinnaris bandmate Butterworth have plans to record a second Jenn and LB album, but with both being so busy, that may yet be a year away.

“We’ve got plans but she’s just been so incredibly busy this year,” says Salter. “So we’ve put that a little bit on the back burner while we concentrate on Kinnaris but our plan is to hopefully do another duo album but that will probably be at least a year away. We’ve been playing together for years so the way we work is to play stuff until we like it. And we want to have played stuff live, formally or informally, before we record it so we’re just not rushing it.”

As for Kinnaris Quintet, the band continue to garner fans and award nominations – as well as becoming mainstays on the summer festival circuit. They were recently on the longlist for the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) awards for their debut Free One and they have also been nominated for the Horizon award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Yet the almost instant success has been something of a surprise to Salter.

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Kinnaris Quintet

“I don’t know about the others but I felt really chuffed – I just didn’t expect it all,” she says. “It just wasn’t on my radar. Especially the SAY Award. For an instrumental band to be nominated for that I think is a really cool thing. I just didn’t expect it at all.”

It has been a busy summer for Kinnaris. They played the Pianodrome at the Edinburgh Fringe this week while they are also playing at the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles before heading to Dunbar to play the Belhaven Festival in September. And, for Salter, playing festivals is, along with wearing lots of sequins, one of the joys of playing with the five-piece.

“I feel like Kinnaris are like the festival band for me,” says Salter. “While The Shee do the odd festival a lot of what we do is more art centres and folk clubs so the two bands fulfil different needs. I like having a mixture.

“Kinnaris definitely aren’t as dancey as some of the bands but we really like to play with the dynamics a lot – to build a bit of tension and release. It’s a lot of fun.”

Following Free One is going to be a daunting task given the reception their debut got, but for Salter the hardest part might be finding time.

“We are looking for dates to start writing,” Salter says. “We’re just trying to find some time to get together. It’ll probably be quite similar to how Jenn and I work in that we’ll gig the new tunes a bit and see how they go down and then tweak them a bit. We won’t be rushing it.

“When you’re recording stuff ‘as live’ then it’s really important that you’re totally happy with it. It’s kind of the opposite of how I work with Ali, as we do a lot of recording first but with Kinnaris it’s totally different.”

Despite the accolades it’s fair to say Salter’s path to trad stardom is not a particularly well-trodden one.

Brought up in Lincolnshire, she was influenced first by her mother who played the fiddle and her step father who played the five-string banjo. The pair hosted a bluegrass session at the local pub and it was there that Salter became inspired.

“My stepdad would play bluegrass tunes and Bob Dylan and whatever and since I’d been going to that since I was about 11 I knew a lot of the tunes,” says Salter. “And then I got given a whistle and I tried to start figuring out the tunes on the whistle. And then I was given a guitar. But it was when I saw a bluegrass band called Bluegrass Etcetera and they were absolutely incredible and John Moore was on mandolin and I begged for about a year for a mandolin after that. But it kind of completed the family bluegrass band – Humdinger!

“I had at that time been planning on doing philosophy at university but then I heard about this degree at Newcastle University where I could study the mandolin so I did that.”

It was at Newcastle that Salter began to listen to Scottish folk music and met friends who would later go on to play for The Shee.

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“We’d all been listening to The Poozies and stuff and kind of noticed that there weren’t many female performers other than singers,” says Salter. “So Lillias [Kinsman-Blake] and Shona [Mooney] got us together and we sat in Lillias’s garden and started making up tunes and putting sets together and it went from there.

“Then it was a big deal to be an all female band but looking back on it I kind of wish we hadn’t said we were an all-female band, that we were just a band as that would have been even better.”

The change on the traditional music scene in Scotland in recent years is such that it’s rare to get all-female bands rather than simply bands who happen to be all female. It’s a change that Salter welcomes.

“It’s such a positive change,” says Salter. “It had to be a statement back then but now it’s a lot more normal.”

For Salter the statements have been made musically. Her drive to work with new people, to explore different ways of working and to embrace collaborations make her one of the key voices in the Scottish folk scene.

She is also a committed teacher, spending evenings helping adults and young people learn their instruments. “To me it’s a really important part of my job ... I teach adults at the Glasgow Folk Music Workshop and I teach young musicians in Falkirk as part of a Youth Music Initiative project run by John Somerville. It’s totally amazing.”

She even has plans for an album that may include a collaboration with husband, Breabach piper Calum MacCrimmon.

“I was thinking it would be kind of cool to do an album where I collaborate with different people on different tracks,” says Salter. “And maybe some of the songs Calum and I have worked on just for fun. So, yeah, I’m hoping that is something that will happen in the not too distant future.”

Kinnaris Quintet play the Belhaven 300th Birthday Bash in Dunbar on September 21. More info from

The Shee tour will be touring Scotland this autumn. See for details.