In an email to the Leader from his home in St Petersburg, Florida, James Smith reflects on the time he was known as “the singing postie”, as a result of his appearances on Blind Date and Stars In Their Eyes back in 1996.
“Not the proudest moments of my music career but lot of fun!” he says.
Three years later James, who performs as James MacPherson, moved to St Petersburg, Florida.
“I am able to say ‘moved’, not ‘emmigrated’ as my parents became naturalised US citizens before I was born. So even though Stonehaven was all I knew since birth I was a dual national by inheritance. This made things easier for me than most.
“June 20, 2011 will mark twelve years in the States for me. It’s been quite a ride. I won’t lie to you – the weather is certainly an improvement!
“The temperature, however, is far from being the only difference. It wasn’t long before I started to notice something quite profound that I had never noticed before.
“I always had an appreciation for the Scottish Highlands – I spent quite a bit of my summers hiking in the Cairngorms. I would also spend many an afternoon watching the fishing boats come and go in the picturesque setting of Stonehaven’s harbour in the company of good friends and family over a pint at the Marine Hotel or the Ship Inn.
“I have many grand memories of time well spent with my friends in the ATC at Stonehaven’s 1297 squadron. My time as a lifeguard at the open air pool was a fond memory too. All of these experiences amounted to a wonderful mental scrapbook. A tapestry of moments to cherish.
“It was not until I had lived just a few short months in a neighbouring continent that I started to notice what was holding that tapestry together.
“Americans can be extremely weird. They are also a fascinating, motivated and incredibly inspiring nation of people. I think it has something to do with the American dream which is still very much alive and well.
“The US is still seen as the land of opportunity, especially by newcomers like myself. A place where all things are possible. What Scots don’t realise is that we play a significant role in that dream. For a country as young as the States, history has become vital in a very personal way.
“Because I perform on stage in a kilt and obviously I sing and speak with a Scottish accent, people here look up to me as some kind of authority on Scottish things. They wait patiently for me to take a break so they can pounce on me with a myriad of questions on history and geography, about which I know very close to nothing.
“The point is, they want to make a connection. Making this connection seems to become more important the further we are removed from it. Scotland, you see, holds together a crucial piece of the American tapestry.
“For me, this realisation shone a spotlight on why my memories of Scotland and Stonehaven in particular, are held so dear to me. It’s the sense of home that comes from a sense of belonging. It has been this ever-growing and now very powerful sense of home that has manifested for me in writing.
“When I lived in Stonehaven I couldn’t write a song for toffee! Maybe my youth and inexperience had something to do with that too. My homesickness though, has been serving me, professionally, very well of late. This last year I have written a dozen or so songs, including a tribute to my hometown which I call ‘Stonehaven Waltz’.
“It explores the well-meaning yet often misplaced advice we get from parents at times and how we all ultimately take our lessons from the school of life. It’s a song I sing with a great sense of pride and accomplishment. The song is only about six months old but whenever I sing it I can’t stop the lump from forming in my throat as the bagpipe part comes in at the end.
“I like to think that in my own small way I’m doing my bit to hold together the tapestry of Stonehaven’s sense of home and belonging. Not just for Scotland’s natives but for those in an ever-shrinking global community who long to reconnect with the Scotland, and perhaps even the Stonehaven, that lies within.