"Do I ever feel like writing about myself? I'm not that sort of artist" – hmv.com talks to Seth Lakeman
Folk singer Seth Lakeman was plunged into the mainstream back in 2005 when his second solo album Kitty Jay found itself nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Now onto his seventh album, this time Lakeman decided to take direct inspiration from real life stories. For his new record Word Of Mouth, he interviewed over 100 people, gathered their stories, picked 15 and turned them into songs.
In this interview he explains why he shies away from writing about his own life and how bell ringing practise brought his album sessions to a halt…
Your album's out today. Are you excited or nervous at this point?
"I'm quite happy actually, I really like the way it's been presented, it's in this boxset with three discs and we've been able to incorporate all the interviews I did. It was two years of working away and I feel really proud of it, and how it's all come together."
You recorded it down in Cornwall in a church, is it a working church?
"Absolutely it's called North Tmaerton Church, there's only about 500 people who love in that part of the world, so it was very quiet. We were there for three weeks and every Tuesday we had to stop recording while they put on this Vicar of Dibley style fete and then bell ringing practise after that."
"We recorded some organ there in the Church and I even recorded the bells. It's also great, when you're with a bunch of musicians, to be out the way somewhere, so you can really work. Also the way it was recorded means the instruments really seem to breathe, they come alive a bit more in a church atmosphere rather than a studio which can be quite stale."
You put the album together by interviewing lots of people and taking their stories and making them into songs. Can you tell us a bit about that?
"It's a journalistically driven album. I met all sorts of people from pubs, clubs, libraries, I went online and looked up people's stories, I even met up with prisoners, a World War II veteran, so many people. With the web, you can find so many amazing stories, I got over 100 interviews, whittled them down to 15 and then made songs out of that."
So why take that approach? Why not write about your own life?
"To me folk songs are about people, I'm fascinated by other people, the idea of finding and preserving stories, there are so many great characters, finding out their stories is what I love."
You never feel like writing about yourself?
"Do I ever feel like writing about myself? I'm not that sort of artist. I've always felt more like a landscape painter than a modern artist, someone who is thinking about themselves. I look for stories, I like putting on different hats for each character."
You did the record with Ian Grimble, what was he like to work with?
"He was great, he's less a producer and more of a sonic scientist. He worked in Abbey Road for years and he has this great ability to collect and record sounds. He really brought the record to life."
How do you think this album moves on from your last album Tales From The Barrel House?
"I think it's similar sonically, but it reaches out a bit more. It's an evolution, it's a bolder record."
You're touring this month, again playing churches, was that something you wanted to do for this album?
"Yeah, it's a great way for us to bring the album to life, it makes sense for it to be heard in those kinds of spaces."
What's playing live like for you now? Will you be focusing on this record? Or doing a career-spanning set?
"You can only play so much from one record, I think we'll play about seven songs from the album and then the rest from the other albums."
What's the rest of the year look like for you?
"Very busy. Lots of festivals, we're touring Australia and across Germany. Lots of touring."
Finally, what new albums are you most excited about this year?
"Springsteen's record, I can't wait to heart that, same with Neil Finn, who's a brilliant songwriter, so those two."
Seth Lakeman's new album Word Of Mouth is out now. He will be signing copies of the album on Thursday 6th February at 1pm in Fopp Nottingham at on Friday 7th February at 1pm. Click here for more details.