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Scotland Daily Record Interview

They have been picked to support Elton John, have performed huge gigs to thousands of people and are one of Dubai’s most successful local bands.

But the roots of rock band The Boxtones lie in Fernhill. That is where two of the group, guitarist Gary Tierney and drummer Gill Tierney, are originally from, having grown up on Morar Drive. The group might not be known on Scottish shores but in the United Arab Emirates they have achieved a level of fame, having played a host of huge gigs and been signed to the Universal Music label. It is a far cry from their early days in Fernhill, where they lived as young children, moving abroad when Gary was nine and Gill was just two. Gill explained: “Our dad took a job in Saudi Arabia when we were young and the family have since moved to Bahrain, which they have called home for the past 22 years. 

“The Boxtones formed in Edinburgh, where we were living for a bit and working as musicians, and we have since travelled the world playing music before deciding to build a home base here in Dubai by starting our own company in 2013.” The latest boost to their career came when they were announced as the support to Elton John when the Rocket Man plays in the UAE in December at the 13,500 capacity Dubai Autism Rocks Arena.

The gig was originally supposed to take place a couple of weeks ago but the tour was postponed until the end of this year. Gill said: “We can’t wait for the show in December. “Unfortunately, due to Sir Elton’s health issues, we’ve now to wait 11 months for this awesome opportunity. “Our keyboard player Will is a big fan and has seen him live twice already. “He is a legend and we are very honoured to have been asked to open for him and his band.” 

However, supporting music royalty will not be a new experience for the group. They have played festivals and shows with The Who, Pharrell Williams, the Stereophonics, Florence and the Machine and Travis. Gill added: “One of my favourite shows was Yasalam Beats on The Beach, which was part of the Abu Dhabi Formula One weekend in 2014. “We performed our own material to 28,000 people on the road and it was such a rush. “We have been very fortunate and worked hard to get some amazing support slots and the opportunity to play alongside some massive artists. “We are annually invited to play at Party in the Park, which is held at a huge amphitheatre here in Dubai. “We’ve found most of the big acts we’ve played with to be super-friendly and down to earth.” 

Although a show like Party In The Park is the closest Dubai gets to a major festival, there are a few differences between trying to gig in the UAE and playing in Scotland. “There can be a lot of red tape surrounding permissions to perform and it usually involves a lot of pre-planning and paperwork to organise gigs and festivals,” said Gill. “Usually a musician needs to be sponsored by a hotel to perform but having our own company means we are under our own sponsorship and have our own visas, giving us the ability to perform all over the place. “You can also still smoke in all the pubs and bars out here, yet you can’t have any refreshments on stage during a gig. It’s a far cry from our gigs back in Scotland. That’s for sure.” 

Despite their success and years in the Middle East, Gary can still recall growing up in Fernhill. He said: “I used to play football on that old Astroturf park at the bottom of Morar Drive and we had a dog called Shane, who we had to leave with my aunt Ada in Burnside when we moved to Saudi Arabia. “He used to run away from home and up to my gran and papa’s house at the top of Morar Drive, run up the close and chap the door and visit my grandparents. He visited once when we were back from Saudi Arabia and I answered the door. We hadn’t seen him in two years and he immediately remembered all of us and went absolutely mental.”

The band are hoping to return to Scotland later in the year for more shows. While the desert lifestyle might sound a dream to those batting through a wet and cold winter, Gill admits there are a few things about Scottish life she misses. “Being a band made up of Scots and Canadians, we do miss trees and the outdoors,” she said. “Summer here gets up to about 50 degrees Celsius and it’s pretty much an oven so we are making the most of the winter weather right now, which is 25 degrees. But the high population of expats out here means you can get a lot of home comforts in Dubai now, such as Irn Bru, Snowballs, haggis and even a proper chippy, although minus the pork sausage.” 

●More information on the Boxtones can be found at www.boxtonesband.com