IT has been quite a year for Kinnaris Quintet since the release of their debut album Free One. Although regulars on the scene individually, they only joined forces in 2017 and since then have grown into one of the finest and most sought-after traditional bands around. And now, to top it all, they have just been awarded the most prestigious prize in the trad world, the Belhaven Bursary.

Second only to the Mercury Music prize in terms of cash, the £25,000 bursary has now been running for three years and has proven to be a significant shot in the arm for Scottish folk music. Elephant Sessions and Talisk were the first two recipients and both have credited the award with allowing them to grow their audience. Kinnaris Quintet, the first all-female winners, will be hoping the same will apply to them.

So what will they do with the money?

“We’ve still all to actually speak together,” says five-string fiddler Aileen Reid just a couple of days after the award was announced. “But we’re going to make a new album – making proper time to write and record it rather than just grabbing a couple of hours when we can. The award means we can take the time out to do that and actually pay ourselves to do it.

“It also means that we’ll be able to do other things – like I might be able to bring my daughter on tour with us, or pay for childcare. That’s important as a musician and a mother. I think it’s really important that people are supported in this way. I’m a mother and I’m hoping there will be others in the band who also become mothers. But to do this they need support, and this money is part of that.”

All the individual members of Kinnaris Quintet remain extremely busy musicians, as well as holding down other jobs. Guitarist Jenn Butterworth teaches at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is also in a duo with Kinnaris’s mandolin player Laura-Beth Salter. Fiddler Fiona MacAskill is a teacher, Laura Wilkie teaches fiddle while Reid herself is a children’s yoga teacher. The bursary award will allow them more freedom to focus more fully on Kinnaris.

READ MORE: First-time all-female win for band in Scots trad awards

“This means we can prioritise this band,” says Reid. “This band is what we all want to do but because we were new and not that well known we didn’t get the fees that others might get. It meant we always had to give priority to making some money. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore.”

ALTHOUGH the money is clearly important, for Reid the recognition is just as important. The band’s debut was enthusiastically received, they then supported Shooglenifty at the Barrowlands during Celtic Connections last year and followed that with three of the five playing with Niteworks again at a sold-out Barrowlands. They have also played with Glasvegas, at the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles as well as festivals across the UK and Europe. Their rise has been swift and steady and the bursary award is the perfect illustration of how far they have come in a short time.

“We have been overwhelmed,” says Reid. “For people to tell us how much they have been emotionally affected by the album is just beautiful. The number of musicians, musicians we are mega inspired by, who have told us they love the album has been incredible.

“To be on the longlist for Scottish Album of the Year award was amazing. To be judged to have made one of the best 20 albums released across all genres in Scotland that year was mind-blowing. For an album of just folk tunes to be recognised in that way was pretty special.

“And then to be nominated for Trad Album of the Year and to win the Belhaven award has made the journey so rewarding.

“The emotional aspect of the award is as important to me as the money. That a big company has seen fit to invest money in us as musicians is something that makes you feel you must be doing something right. It makes you realise that what you’re doing is worthwhile, it’s worthy of the accolade and it’s worthy of support. It makes you understand what music can mean to people. It’s given us all a real desire to keep this going and to keep pushing ourselves.”

The plan for the moment is for Kinnaris to make some real time to get away together and work on the new album. Much of it is already written but the band will take time to hone the new tunes, to play them live and work on anything they feel isn’t up to scratch before heading to a studio.

“We’ve not really had much time together over the past few months but we all had individually written stuff and had some ideas,” says Reid. “But then we got together a few weeks ago and pretty much wrote nearly a whole album in a couple of hours. And it felt magic. That’s how it all started – just sitting together and saying ‘here, what about this?’. So we’ve got loads and we’re well excited about it. And now with the award we’re able to afford to properly take the time to do it and hopefully it will be ready for release by the end of next year.”

PRIOR to that, however, there is the small matter of a gig with US chart-topper and homegrown hero Lewis Capaldi at Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Aberdeen.

“Last year we were approached by Glasvegas who wanted us to be involved with the string parts for a couple of their 10-year anniversary gigs,” says Reid. “And then Lewis Capaldi got in touch and asked if we would do strings for him at the BBC gig in Aberdeen. So I’m taking a couple of five-string fiddles for that one because of the different tuning.”

Five-string fiddles with necks wide enough to be played in a Scots or Irish style are pretty rare. Reid had hers handmade in Wales and it has become a part of her family.

“My own fiddle is called Astrid but for this I’m also borrowing my niece’s five-string fiddle, Luna. I love the bassy sound you get from that extra c-string.”

That deep bass is a key part of the Kinnaris sound but all five women bring different elements to make the whole. They are a band who richly deserve the recognition they are currently enjoying and who can now, thanks to the Belhaven Bursary, focus fully on ensuring that their second album is as welcomed as enthusiastically as their stunning debut.