• North Country Primitive


Originally published at North Country Primitive in January 2016

Tell us a bit about yourself and the musical journey that took you to a place where you concluded that playing an acoustic guitar on your own was a good idea…

I have played acoustic guitar since I was very young, in many different variations and explorations, but never too seriously. My mother bought me a guitar when she noticed I couldn’t resist playing pretty much anything musical around me. When I was younger, I was also heavily into music production: my aunty had a habit of sending me obscure charity shop CDs and I’d absorb these otherworldly things and make use of them with strange sampling. When I turned about 16, I started taking music and the guitar more seriously and got introduced to bands, as well as to the folk world - I spent some time in hospital around this time, with problems on my lungs. It was during this time in hospital that I had such a urge for guitar playing and made it a focus to really learn the instrument. From then onwards, I have been active in the experimental and folk fields as much as possible, really. I lived in Belgium last year for around six months and it was this time really where the idea of instrumental guitar music became a solid foundation to work within.

What have you been up to recently?

I released my debut album, Home is Where I Exist, Now to Live & Die, with Cambrian Records late last year and we toured the release for two months around the UK with fellow label guitarist, Toby Hay. We had a lot of fun on the road and played in some pretty amazing places around some pretty amazing people, who put us up and fed us well.

What have been your key influences, musical or otherwise? Are there other current guitarists you feel a particular affinity towards?

For me, I’m learning quickly that with influences, it’s a fine balance between music and life: getting those things hand-in-hand takes time and experience, along with the willingness to let yourself go. Influence isn’t something that should easily pass, it should take time to capture and hopefully resonate. I’m still young and I’m learning to be more patient and spending the time to really focus on the basics. Keeping a passion for life and hoping they will find a place where it both feeds each other. There is a vast bundle of artists, both current and past, which I highly admire and am grateful that they exist and perform - it inspires you and humbles you.

What is the balance of composition and to improvisation in your music?

It’s a similar concept actually - I try to leave a balance of both. Normally I cover the groundwork with a structure and progression I’m familiar with, but try my best to encourage room for more improvised bits to appear if the feeling is there. I love both improvised and composed music and I’d like to fit somewhere in the middle, ideally.

What are you listening to right now, old or new? Any recommendations you’d like to share with us?

After the tour, I have immersed myself in a lot of traditional folk including the ancient harp, fiddle and pipe music of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, so that’s been pretty much playing everyday for the past month. I came across an album on tour by an Irish band called The Gloaming which I cannot recommend enough - incredible musicianship. Also a Harpist, Catrin Finch, and a kora player, Seckou Keita, released an album together last year which was incredible. I’m listening to fiddler Martin Hayes a lot and also the magical fingers of Paul Dooley, an ancient Welsh harp player. On the guitar front, I’ve been revisiting my obsession with Robbie Basho - and Chuck Johnson’s Blood Moon Boulder album released last year really moved me.

The guitar nerd bit: what instrument(s) do you play and what do you like about it/them? Is there one particular instrument you’d save first in the face of a natural disaster (once you’d saved your nearest and dearest, of course!)

So… I play a Taylor 210-E acoustic guitar, previously owned and had extra work done on it by a luthier. It plays like a dream and it was love at first sight. Couldn’t imagine music without this thing, man. I recently bought a 12 string Canadian-built Larrivee guitar, which is taking some time to adjust to, but it’s a beautiful guitar.

Banjos: yes or no? Favourite plucked-thing that isn’t a guitar?

Yes, my man love a banjo! I own one, but don’t give it the attention it deserves. Other favoured stringed instruments are a Japanese Zither (Koto) and an Indian Sarod. I love the tones from both these instruments. Also check out Amjad Ali Khan for a Sarod masterclass.

What are you working on at the moment and what’s store for you next?

​Well, after our tour, me and Toby Hay have started playing on some duo material together and are heading out to do a short tour in February around the UK, which I’m really excited about. As well as that, I’m finding inspiration and real connections to the history and traditions of the UK and its land, researching and taking trips to Aberdeenshire in Scotland and around Yorkshire and Derbyshire where I’m from, as well as learning about my family’s roots in Ireland - I’m planning to take a trip there this year and also spending time in Wales. I’ve been writing a lot of material based on these places and stories within them. I’ll be working solidly on the material with other musicians collaborating and really crafting the songs, taking my time on these and not rushing anything.

Anything we should have asked you but didn’t?

You can purchase the album on my Bandcamp - and make sure to follow Cambrian Records. They have some really incredible music planned for release this year. I’m really excited to be involved with such a talented bunch of people residing on it. Thanks for all the support - you guys are the torch bearers for this music! Keep it burning!