Merlyn Driver is a musician and songwriter from Orkney, a group of small islands in the north of Scotland. Raised on a smallholding without electricity and other modern comforts, Merlyn was also home-schooled until his early teens. This unconventional upbringing continues to inform his music.
From a young age, Merlyn was exposed to the folk music of Orkney via his older sister Fiona, who is a traditional fiddler. Wider influences are just as important to him, with Paul Simon’s South African-influenced album Graceland sparking Merlyn’s passion for music from far-flung places as a child.
After moving to the Scottish mainland to study anthropology at the University of St Andrews, Merlyn travelled to the Norwegian Arctic in 2011 to study the music of the indigenous Sámi people. He was particularly interested in their traditional vocal art form called joik. Merlyn’s first trip to ‘Sápmi’ - the Sámi word for their homeland - not only gave birth to his love affair with joik, but also fuelled his interest in exploring the connections between music and nature.
Merlyn is now based in London, where he recently completed a Masters in ethnomusicology at SOAS, University of London. His work explored the traditional preference for rough textures and ‘buzzy’ timbres in West African music, long noted as a key musical feature throughout the continent. Inspired by his ongoing research into the ‘buzz aesthetic', Merlyn recently co-designed a unique percussion desk for live performances, and has adapted a West African buzzing rattle (similar to those traditionally used on many different African string instruments) for use on his guitar.
Merlyn Driver’s debut EP was released in May 2017 and has received national radio play from BBC 6 Music and BBC Radio Scotland. It was produced by BBC Folk Awards winner Ben Walker (Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Oh Sister, Jinnwoo) and Colin Bass (9Bach, Etran Finatawa, Krar Collective) and features guest appearances by the Sámi joiker Marja Mortensson, Michael Wilbur from the Brooklyn-based band Moon Hooch, and several other collaborators from the UK and further afield.