Rock fans flocking to see the county’s singing shepherdess

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

By day, Sophie Armstrong is a shepherdess, tending her flock of 80 sheep in rolling hills near Wooler.

But by night, she is winning over an ever-larger flock of fans, thanks to vocal skills showcased as half of acoustic rock duo Summerland.

And now Mrs Armstrong and her songwriting partner Gary Shearer, of Berwick, are about to release their first album.

“As they say on all those cheesy TV talent shows, it’s been quite a journey to get to this stage, but Gary and I are simply thrilled to have a record out,” she said.

“We are nervous but hugely excited and now just want to get out there gigging and taking our music to audiences far and wide.”

Mrs Armstrong describes the self-titled album a love letter to Northumberland.

“You can’t help but be inspired by the beauty and charm of this extraordinary place,” she said.

“The tranquillity and solitude I experience working as a shepherdess are a world away from being in a rock band, up on stage in front of a crowd, but my day job has been a huge inspiration when it comes to song writing.

“When I’m out with the sheep, I get time to think about what really matters in life, and, because of that most of the lyrics I write tend to deal with the perennial issues we all have to cope with – finding love, dealing with longing, being in a failing relationship and coming to terms with rejection or loss.”

The song titles on the 10-track album prove her point, with tunes including Under Your Thumb, On the Outside Looking In and Waiting to Hold You.

And the mother of two has her own special reason to love Northumberland.

“I’m from London and had what some people would call a glamorous life, working in Soho for a television production company. At the time, I loved all that,” she recalls.

“But then I went to a friend’s wedding and met this man Tom Armstrong, a farmer from Northumberland, a place I’d never been to and, frankly, wasn’t that bothered about seeing, but he pursued me relentlessly.

“A dozen red roses would arrive at the TV company office every Monday morning from Tom, week after week, until I agreed to go out with him.

“Then I did, and I found love, and I discovered this unique corner of the world.

“Now I find myself helping on the farm with my own flock of Texel-cross sheep, a life I never could have foreseen.”

Summerland will be appearing across Northumberland and are hosting a launch party for their album at the Maltings theatre in Berwick tomorrow night. Tickets cost £10 from the box office on 01289 330999, or at www.maltingsberwick.co.uk

The album is available to buy online at the band’s website, www.summerland-duo.co.uk