Rowan began playing the fiddle at the age of seven with a traditional fiddle group in his home village of Broughshane, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. From the age of 13 he studied with Johnny Murphy, a fiddler and fiddle maker from Ballymena in County Antrim, himself a pupil of the legendary Belfast fiddler Sean Maguire. Rowan then went on to study on the renowned BMus course in Folk and Traditional Music degree at Newcastle University, graduating with an upper second class degree in 2014. Here, Rowan was inspired and influenced by great fiddlers from English, Scottish as well as Irish traditions, such as Kathryn Tickell and Stewart Hardy, Patsy Reid and Douglas Montgomery, and Matt Cranitch and John Carty. He has also spent some time at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick in 2013, and he was awarded the ALCM diploma in Irish Traditional Music from the London College of Music.
Rowan has been playing for dancers at Irish dance festivals across Ireland since 2006 and has toured with the Dominic Graham School of Irish Dance (the Celtica Festival in Italy in 2009 and 2010, Intercelticu Festival in Spain in 2010 and Interceltic Festival in Wales in 2014). Rowan began composing when he was 13 and continues to develop this aspect of his music. Influenced by the highly regarded Bolivian composer Agustin Fernandez, he has, in addition to composing traditional-style dance tunes and airs, also composed other types of music including a piece for the Royal Northern Sinfonia, which was performed at the University of Newcastle in 2014.
In 2009, Rowan, Johnny Murphy, and pianist Rose Murray released a CD of Irish dance music. In 2010, Rowan released his own solo album, ‘Itchy Fingers’. Having played in a number of groups, Rowan has more recently focused on playing in a duo with Scottish guitarist and vocalist Graeme Armstrong, with whom he recorded an EP in 2014. A brief recording of Rowan playing one of his own compositions was used by Innova Dance Company in their appearance on the television show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2014. Rowan also had a role in the film Moon Dogs, the ‘Feature Film Award’ winner at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2016, playing the fiddle in a prominent scene.
Rowan currently lives in Glasgow, where he continues to work with guitarist Graeme Armstrong, as well as working under the heading of The Rowan Leslie Band, providing music for ceilidhs, parties and other events with a variety of instrumental line-ups. Rowan also plays with local cover band The Raggaels, and provides backing strings for indy-rock band Cairnhill Trading Estate. Rowan returns to Ireland frequently to carry on his involvement in Irish dancing festivals and to partake in other musical work. In 2016, Rowan completed a 6 month tour with Giffords Circus, a highly regarded company which tours the south of England annually, performing over 200 shows in the summer period. In May 2017, Rowan released his latest recording, a four-track EP entitled ‘Originals’, made up of his own compositions. This recording can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp.
Here are some examples of my playing and composition work
Rowan Leslie and Graeme Armstrong: Balatore Rant/ Emmet's Hedgehog
Rowan Leslie and Graeme Armstrong: In A Rush/ Rosanne's Reel/ Break Your Bow Arm
Performed by the Royal Northern Sinfonia 'The Red Kite' composed by Rowan Leslie
This pickup also means I can use a range of pedals to change my sound, adding more options and versatility to my playing and helps me to work with other styles of music.
My current set up on my pedalboard is:
- BOSS TU-3 chromatic tuner
- BOSS AW-3 dynamic wah
- Electro-Harmonix micro POG
- BOSS CH-1 super chorus
- Electro-Harmonix memory toy
- BOSS RC-30 looping station
- L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I
- Palmer PWT 08 power supply