TRYING to juggle two careers cannot be an easy task but when one of those careers is in medicine then one would imagine it’s almost impossible.

For Jarlath Henderson, however, being a full-time doctor and a full-time musician is, according to the Irishman, a necessity.

“I’ve been hyperactive with a suggestion of ADHD since I was about four and so keeping myself stimulated in some sort of way is pretty necessary,” admits the Armagh-born, Dungannon-raised and Glasgow-based composer, producer, piper and singer.

Keeping himself busy is something Henderson seems to excel at. Last week he performed in the first of his Celtic Connections gigs, playing with The Secret North on the festival’s opening Friday at the Strathclyde Suite in the Concert Hall.

Bringing together six musicians from Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia, The Secret North project involved the six meeting in a remote Highland location to create and record new music together before a summer tour and then on to Celtic Connections.

Henderson’s contribution was penned during a week’s retreat on the Isle of Eigg, and then arranged with the rest of the ensemble. It was, he says “a really great thing to do”.

“It’s called a Suite for Eigg and I wrote it while staying on the island as a celebration of the island’s 20 years of independence and an anniversary tribute to my friends George and Saira, who live on the island,” Henderson says.

“So I composed it and then played and recorded it with The Secret North. We all had to compose 10-15 minutes of new music and then we toured it across Scotland.”

The six-piece’s labours were rapturously received last Friday in Glasgow, where the often-sedate Strathclyde Suite was rocked with uncharacteristic whooping and cheering.

“I went really well. People loved it,” says Henderson. “You could just tell that people were really buzzing for the start of Celtic Connections.

“Everyone was so excited. They were totally up for a Friday night at Celtic Connections.”

Henderson’s career has in the past been a story of collaborations. It is, he admits, something he thoroughly enjoys.

“With this project it was really great working with Sondre Meisfjord, a Scandinavian bass player whose music I’ve admired for ages, and Karen Tweed the box player, just totally amazing musicians I’ve been listening to since I was a kid.

“You tackle a project like that and everyone is coming from a different place with a different skill set and I love it.

“I think it plays to my strengths anyway, from the other side of my working life, the medical side. I enjoy communicating with people. I enjoy finding common ground and approaching something from a logical angle and coming up with solutions.”

This love of collaborating has been such a feature of Henderson’s career — probably most notably his work with long-time friend and fellow piper Ross Ainslie — that he must have felt some trepidation when he set out to record his long-awaited solo album, 2016’s Hearts Broken, Heads Turned.

“Thankfully I had four other musicians working closely with me on that album, but yes, there is a degree of loneliness.

“It’s great to have people you trust around to talk things over with and to really just to get a vibe from. They don’t even have to have any major effect on what decisions you make. Just someone’s presence there to brighten up your day or give a different perspective on something can have such an effect.”

However, Henderson is determined to one day make what he believes would be a real solo album.

“I think travelling and staying in remote places is great because I really do want to do a proper warts-and-all solo album where it’s just me and a couple of microphones and you’ve got to make the most of it.

“I think that’s such a cool thing to do but you’ve got to be in the right headspace to tackle something like that. And there’s another bit of me that’s such a social and gregarious person that it really wasn’t the right time for me to do that. I want to keep mixing it up, though.”

HENDERSON adds: “There’s an album I’m working on with the band — Innes Watson, Duncan Lyall, Hamish Napier and Andrea Gobbi — now which is much more what Hearts Broken, Heads Turned should have been. It’s going to be far more tune based and more the album that people would have expected me to make.”

Henderson’s restless energy is, it seems, not just the key to his ability to juggle two careers but also the key to his music. Once known primarily as a piper, the release of Hearts Broken, Heads Turned revealed a singer/songwriter of sublime talent and a musician with the confidence to always challenge himself.

“Everyone now wants to put someone in a box which is annoying. Everyone assumes they know what someone is just by knowing their name. There are genres within genres and you don’t just have to fall in one of them.”

“I didn’t come through music in a formally educated way so everything in an educational sense I’ve wanted to get from music I’ve had to teach myself. Maybe then as a side effect of that you’re much more aware of what your shortcomings might be.

“So over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to compose more and compose in different ways and also arrange more.

“I produced an album last year for Cuig, a young Irish trad band, so it’s that thing of just trying to fall out of one zone and into another.

“I’ll always be a piper, though,” Henderson adds. “I’m melodically led as a person. But it’s all these other things I want to experience.

“It’s like a musical fear of missing out — wanting to do other things and wanting to stretch myself.”

With his driven nature and desire to experience all things musical, can Henderson ever envisage reaching a point where he might feel the need to turn his back on medicine and concentrate solely on his music?

“I couldn’t really do it without the medicine,” Henderson says. “In some ways for a musician music is a selfish thing. I play music because it makes me happy so it’s nice to go into work for 12 hours and concentrate on making other people happy or better. I couldn’t ever pack in the medicine. I will always see myself as a doctor. It keeps me sane — same way as I’d never quit the music. I think I have a nice balance for me just now. It’s really beneficial for me.”

Next up for Henderson — after a quick jaunt to Derry for a gig with the Ulster Orchestra — is another Celtic Connections appearance, this time at the Mitchell Theatre this Friday with his own band.

“This is going to be a nice little acoustic version of the band,” Henderson says. “It’s going to give us scope to do some versions of stuff from Hearts Broken, Heads Turned and some older stuff too, as well as some tunes which will be on the new album.”

And after that?

“I have an Irish tour in February and then I need to finish off the new album and then we’ll be back in the US following on from our recent gig at Times Square, so there’s going to be lots going on.

“And I need to revalidate as a doctor as well,” Henderson adds.

For Henderson there seems to be no prospect of slowing down and for that both the musical and medical worlds can be thankful.

Jarlath Henderson plays the Mitchell Theatre on Friday