IT is either luck or the sign of an exciting band, when a leading player at global broadcasters MTV hears you playing on a street and invites you to feature on their website.
In the case of the Dirty Beggars, it appears to be the latter. In just 12 months of being together as a five-piece, the Peebles group have toured America, released their debut album Bite The Bullet, been named in MTV’s top 20 unsigned acts contest and played a headline show at this year’s Celtic Connections.
Not bad for a quintet of 22-year-olds playing a genre of music – Americana – that is not normally associated with Scotland or their agegroup.
Among them is singer and guitarist Kieran Begbie, who, alongside his cousins Peter and Finn Begbie, set the band on its way in Peebles with their trio the Young Guns, before teaming up with Peter Cameron and Stuart Printie to form the Dirty Beggars.
“Me and my two cousins played together and started going to Americana sessions that used to be held in the Cross Keys and then the Neidpath Inn,” said Kieran.
“There was a lot of older guys there and Bryan Begg, as well as Alistair Rae and Henry White, used to let us play along.
“We then started playing on our own, anywhere we could in Peebles.
“When we moved to Glasgow for university, Peter and Stuart were on the same course and we were later introduced to Pedro (Cameron) through a friend of a friend.”
The Dirty Beggars quickly enjoyed a breakthrough thanks to a group of Americana favourites from Kansas City, which helped set up their summer in the States.
“We met The Wilders in Edinburgh and when they came to Peebles we played one song with them on stage,” said Kieran. “They came back to Peebles and we played again, although this time it was a 20-minute support set.
“We swapped details and when we went across to America we stayed with them for a bit in Kansas and they lent us equipment – they have really helped us.”
After a couple of pre-arranged gigs in Missouri’s largest city, the lads set about busking and picking up gigs, leading to some peculiar as well as career-changing meetings.
Kieran told us: “We were playing in the street in Nashville and a guy came up to us and said ‘You guys are really good’. He came back later and asked if we could play a gig at his wedding rehearsal, which we agreed to.
“We were again busking in Nashville when another guy came up to us and said he liked our music.
“He said he was the vice-president of digital music for MTV. We were not convinced but we met him the next day in a bar and he bought us whisky and afterwards we Googled his name and, right enough, he was who he said he was.
“He ended up getting us on to the MTV Hive music website and we have since had interest from Country Music TV, which is a great opportunity.”
Kieran & Co hope to get back across the Atlantic “as soon as we have the funds to do so” to build on their first trip’s success but in the meantime are promoting their debut record, released last month.
It has received plenty of airplay from BBC Radio Scotland’s Iain Anderson and Ricky Ross, as well as a five-star review from a national newspaper – pleasing for a band who have pledged the album to one of their main influences.
“There is a song on the album by Bryan Begg, who has since passed away, which we covered and the album is dedicated to him,” said Kieran.
“He, Alistair and Henry were a massive help at the beginning, lending us PR equipment and pushing us on.”
But are they sick yet of being labelled the next young thing in a category dominated by wrinkles?
“I quite like it,” Kieran confessed. “Not a lot of people our age play this style and it is also an older audience that listens to it.
“Older people are always happy to see our age group playing Americana music and more people our age are now listening to us and enjoying the genre.”
Bite The Bullet is available from iTunes and Amazon now.