We reviewed Heidi Talbot’s new album Angels Without Wings back in December (you can read it here) and were instantly blown away by the new compositions and collaborations with the likes of Mark Knopfler, King Creosote, Karine Polwart and Julie Fowlis to name but a few. As the release date of February 18th draws ever nearer we managed to catch up with Heidi to talk about the album…she provides us with a lovely insight and offers us other unexpected glimpses into things such as competitive cooking with husband and musician John McCusker!
It’s always interesting to read through press releases which often latch onto comments that may seem prevalent at the time but in hindsight look less so. One such aspect of this album which came to the forefront of my mind when reviewing it was the big name line-up…yet despite this the album has a balance that doesn’t over-sell this attribute. Modesty is maybe what would spring to mind…but as Heidi revealed in our interview it was nothing to do with modesty and more to do with the experience of the musicians and the collective knowledge of knowing what is best and, most importantly, it’s about the song. So when we mentioned John McCusker’s comment from the press release about Mark Knopler and Jerry Douglas: “you’ve got the best guitar players in the world and we’re blending them in?” Heidi was quick to correct his tongue-in-cheek comment.“…it was more about what suited the song. And for the two songs we asked Mark to play on, myself and John thought he would add so much to them so it was more of a mix thing than blending him in. He’s such a masterful musician he knew what the songs needed and what would be too much. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by musicians who have a great love for songs and are always trying to not overplay & get in the way of the story – it’s always about the song.”
Heidi is the sort of singer who seems to not only suit collaborative albums but also thrives on them, she has a natural ability to connect with other artists and that connection really shows on this release. One such connection was with Folk Radio UK favourite Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote)…it turns out they are mutual fans.“I had met Kenny at various festivals and gigs over the last few years and I’m a fan of his” Heidi revelead. “I had it in the back of my head for a while that I’d like to work with him and then I saw he picked me as joint lead singer with Morken Harket for his fantasy band in the Independent & it brought the idea up again. I wrote the melody for Button Up and imagined him singing the high chorus in his great falsetto and I asked him to write the lyrics and sing it with me and I was delighted when he said yes!”
One of the more revealing songs on Angels Without Wings is ‘I’m Not Sorry‘ which Heidi described as a mini-psychodrama written from a single moment of reflection – “I felt it so it can’t be wrong to sing about it.” I asked if she found songs with such a strong personal perspective held a greater strength and power than maybe a created tale.
“I think it depends on the song. I find being honest is the easiest way for me to write lyrics and sometimes that makes it easier for the listener to identify with the song. But a story song can be powerful too depending on the subject.”
The album offers a diversity of musical styles, something that works well in its favour. The fusion of folk with other musical genres is not a new thing as Heidi also pointed out but from our own perspective there seems to be a lot more going on now. Having just returned from Celtic Connections she was in agreement that it was indeed an exciting time for folk music.
“I’ve just spent 2 weeks up in Glasgow at Celtic Connections and you only have to look about you to see how incredible the folk scene is just now” she exclaims. “All those years ago when groundbreaking bands like Planxty and Moving Hearts started using influences from different cultures and mixing these up with traditional music, that was such an exciting time for traditional music & was definitely the start of the amazing journey traditional music has travelled. There are so many brilliant young people playing and singing and studying folk music just now, I’m excited to hear what records they’re going to make.”
Early Pioneers: Planxty on RTE’s The Late, Late Show (1972)
An album like this does not start and continue on a rigid path…with so many highly talented musicians on board the wealth of knowledge will surely lead it in unexpected ways so we asked Heidi the difficult question of whether she had a particular highlight to this album?
“The idea when we started writing the album was to make a record of modern day folk songs with a different co-writer on each track” Heid explains. “We didn’t achieve it on every track due to time restraints and logistics though we did write with Tim O’Brien, King Creosote, Louis Abbott & Boo Hewerdine. Myself and John wrote more of the songs on the record than we thought we would. I like all the songs but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Will I ever Get to Sleep , it’s our daughters favourite song and the one she sings along to.”
So what does Heidi Talbot get upto in her spare time when not writing songs?
“I love walking around the hills and woods where we live in the Scottish Borders” she reveals, which didn’t surprise me…although the next ccomment did make me laugh…
“And I really like to cook. Myself and my husband John have started picking two recipes a week and cooking something new for each other. It’s started getting competitive! And like all Mammys, when i get the chance to, I REALLY love to sleep!” A reminder that in amongst creating music for our ears she does have her hands full. We ended as always on a few trivia:
What album are you listening to?
My husband John made a live record with John Doyle and Michael McGoldrick last year. It’s fantastic but not widely available yet. Hopefully you’ll hear lots more of it this year.
What are you reading?
Marian Keyes – The Mystery of Mercy Close. I love reading Marian’s books especially when I’m on tour – funny and entertaining
Recommend an artist you think our listeners may be interested in.
Blazin Fiddles – they were part of a TV show I played on recently and I loved their set. Fantastic musicians, tunes and lots of fun.
More Tasters from Angels Without Wings
Pre-Order Heidi’s album Angels Without Wings from her website: www.heiditalbot.com