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Exclusive: Seth Lakeman UNSEEN
9th April, 2012
Interview with Amy Durrant
Fresh off the back of the Barrel House tour, WAU caught up with folk's coolest customer, Seth Lakeman, to chat about the Civil War, screaming women and being a musical outcast...
Amy: How are you finding touring at the moment? Is there anything that you like to take on the road with you?
Seth: Apart from the obvious instruments and a good selection of clean clothes; because you don’t get to wash an awful lot. Well, wash yourself but your clothes not necessarily an awful lot. So I’m well stocked for that, but pretty basic to be honest. A few lyrics to remind myself what I’m meant to be singing (laughs).
Amy : Do you ever get moments on stage where you think ‘I can’t remember what this next bit is, I’m going to ad-lib’?
Seth: Oh definitely yeah! You just get this fear and you’re just a blank. But I guess everyone has that all the time in life, don’t they. Sometimes you have it up there and sometimes you have it down there. You just think, ‘what am I doing here!’ So yeah, of course I do.
Amy: Do you get many screaming women at your concerts? Because you seem to have gained like a heart throb status for some young women now...
Seth: We do get quite a lot of young ladies and older ladies coming. It’s quite a broad selection our audience; it’s bizarre. You know, there are girls who enjoy what we’re doing; rhythms and such. (whispered) Do we get screaming girls? (contemplates) Yeah we do yeah!
Amy: So Tales From The Barrel House is out now. Should fans expect more of the same or something a bit different? What kind of direction has it gone in?
Seth: It’s very different actually. It’s stripped right back and I recorded it all in a barrel house in a Cooperage. It evolved pretty naturally; I wrote the songs over a period of about a year. It’s all about people who work with their hands like skillsmen; like forgotten watchmakers and blacksmiths, carpenters and people like that.
"I wanted to try and reflect that within a space that made sense to the songs, so the barrel house came about because it sounded amazing and I used loads of tools within that workshop as percussion."
That was the idea behind it. But it’s a left field concept record, it’s very different to what I’ve done before and a bit of a challenge for people. But it seems to be going out alright so far.
Amy: Is it mainly about stripping the music back then?
Seth: You know, I’ve spent a lot of time in studios polishing things and making voice and instruments sound as precise and pristine as possible. I thought with this record and the nature of the songs and the way they’re meant to sound raw and edgy, it didn’t suit the subject well. So yeah, make it raw and make it edgy and let those instruments really speak and the songs speak.
Amy: OK so taking it back a while now, what made you decide to split from The Lakeman Brothers and go solo?
Seth: Well I didn’t really split from them because I’m still working with Sean [Lakeman] so we’re kind of two out of three! And Sam [Lakeman] was at the gig with us two gigs ago. So yeah we didn’t split, but obviously Sean is married to a singer now and Sam is married to a singer.
Amy: So it’s a musical family then!
Seth: Definitely. The guys started working with them, so I was the outcast!
Amy: Have you got any festivals lined up this year? Or are you jetting off round the world somewhere.
Seth: No no, we’ve got festivals yeah. We’re working very hard. We’re doing Cambridge, Eden Sessions, Summer Sundae, Soulfest, Sidmouth, folk festivals and cross over stuff. Yeah, it’s a busy summer.
Amy: Now for a bit of a weird question. Do you come from a military background or have a particular interest in the civil war? Because on Freedom Fields, a few of the tracks seem to hint at that.
Seth: There’s a definite sort of military-esque feel and it was more because what we were standing for back then and I’m a bit of a local history buff. So it’s more, at that point in my life, I’d been reading a few books about local history and the way that Freedom Fields and other areas of Plymouth were changing at the time. Just the way the civil war affected people at the time, it was definitely something I was thinking about at the time and at that point, the thing that sparked it off was that they were pulling down Freedom Fields hospital. That was actually built to mark the thing that gave the people of Plymouth their freedom and I guess with that record that was the idea behind it. And then other songs and fictitious stuff came out of it and that field really.
Amy: On that note, I’m going to change the subject completely. What’s your favourite drink for lounging around in the sunshine?
Seth: (Laughs) I like a Gin and Tonic when I’m out in the sun, a nice GnT. Plenty of Gin, twist of lemon, lovely and delicious.
Amy: What’s the longest length of time you could go without any form of music. Like playing, singing, listening. How long would it take before you had to cave and pick up a guitar?
Seth: I’m not very good at that! It’s something that I do generally have to be playing and doing all the time. It drives my girlfriend nuts! Longest I’ve done was when I went to Cuba and didn’t play for three weeks and I didn’t really enjoy that at all. I love Cuba because there’s so much music there and you felt really frustrated there and you wanted to join in!
Amy: Did you get inspired by the music there and the vibes?
Seth: Yeah definitely. The rhythms they have there are pretty unique. We were doing a bit of dancing, a bit of salsa.
Amy: What have you got coming up in the next 12 months then?
Seth: The record’s getting a proper release and we’re going to Australia for a tour. First time there, so fingers crossed our music will work. We’re doing a European thing as well, then there’s festivals and I did something with the BBC Concert Orchestra so they scored some songs so that’ll be coming out soon. Just getting some new material down and enjoying the process of writing.
Amy: Last question then; is it ever daunting playing music to people who maybe haven’t heard of you before?
Seth: Yeah I think they do. I mean one of the main things about our music which I think is really important is it’s quite immediate. You don’t necessarily need to know the song from radio play or be familiar with the song to enjoy what we do. I think it’s more responsive than static and you’re not humming melodies necessarily to come to our shows, it’s not really that. It’s more appreciating musicianship and just a good vibe. A different approach to music.
Tales From The Barrel House can be bought now on iTunes for £7.99.