Eliza Carthy looks back over her 21 year career, picks some highlights and explains the difficulty of condensing it all into her best of CD Wayward Daughter (read our album review here).
A 21 year career in music is some achievement. What does it feel like looking back on that?
It’s hard to remember it all! I’ve done some amazing things with some amazing people though. Sometimes I look back on something that happened twelve years ago, or fifteen years ago, and I can’t believe that it was me. I suppose that’s what growing older is like.
Do you have a clear memory of milestones along the way? Can you recall the point when you thought, “This is going to work, this is for me”?
Everything is cyclical, you learn that too. For every moment you may have toasting your famous mates with champagne and hanging about in lovely places, there have also been moments of wondering what it’s all for – or why people aren’t coming to see you? You have to be emotionally quite flexible for this job!
You make the point about the incredible support you’ve had from your family in the sleeve notes, but you’ve also supported a lot of young talent in turn. Is it a fairly natural process to select people that you want to play with? What draws you to other musicians is there more than just their skill as a player?
I look for a clear purpose, a clear agenda, a vision or a path that sets people aside from others. It takes me a long time to love someone who is obviously copying someone else-at first you may let it put you off, but you can tell if they are simply using bits of information to build their own style, their own message, and I respect that. It’s not who is the most original sometimes, it’s who has the best memory for what is interesting and worth keeping. Dad described Bob Dylan as like that-someone who sucked it all in, crunched it all up and breathed it out again as something you felt like you’d known all your life, something you couldn’t imagine living without once it existed. That’s a real skill.
The CD has been compiled by Ian Anderson. Were you actively involved in the process or content to leave it to Ian? Did any choices surprise you?
I compiled a list that was about four days long, looked at it, had a bit of a cry and then began to cut things out. Once I had it down to about three and a half hours I called Ian. I was surprised at Space Girl out of all the Imagined Village stuff, and surprised that Mr. Magnifico wasn’t in there-but Blood on My Boots is so good, and they are both so long! There were a few hard choices for sure.
Amongst all of you work are there any great favourites? Are there any songs where you have thought, “Yes, I’ve absolutely nailed that”?
Well, I think Jack Frost is as close to perfect as it could be. There are a few things I would want to remix, but we don’t have the masters any more so it’s impossible.
What would be your own desert island discs?
Half Man Half Biscuit‘s Four Lads who Shook The Wirral, Paul Brady‘s Welcome Here Kind Stranger, Queen‘s Day at the Races, Goran Bregovic‘s Kayah And Bregovic…oh gosh there are many more…oh, perhaps you mean my stuff? Worcester City, Mr. Magnifico, Little Big Man, Jack Frost and May Song by Waterson:Carthy and The Unfortunate Lass from Rough Music.
I guess the music is probably undergoing a process of evolution anyway and probably changes once you take it on the road and start playing it live.
It does. I hadn’t listened to some of the things that went on Wayward Daughter for so long when we were compiling; things come to life on the road and after ten years of singing them – you find you want to do them all over again.
Arguably some of your boldest choices have been made recently with Dreams of Breathing… and Neptune. What made you return to writing? Are the albums linked by themes?
Sometimes I have a lot to say. At the moment not so much, I am coming back to traditional music again, preparing to record with Dad. It’ll happen again. I try to spread the self-penned material out. But I have been genuinely missing working on the old stuff. So my head is full of the old poetry again. It’s nice.
Then there’s the Imagined Village. That must be such great fun, but probably a bit of a pain to try and tour. The Morris men and Bollywood dancers at the last show I saw at the QEH was inspired.
God that was good wasn’t it? Sheema and Johnny’s Bhoris dancers. The first time they did it in Birmingham I cried it made me so happy. Waah I’m so happy!! I’m having such a good time!! I don’t have to organise anything in the Imagined Village, except my bits, so that’s partly why I love doing it. It’s a smashing family to be a part of. I was very surprised that the last album wasn’t more out there last year as I adored it, it was a perfect distillation of the band’s different facets and a labour of love for all concerned. I love the Imagined Village, we are unique and Simon Emmerson is an inspirational bandleader.
You’ve just done a big tour with Jim and have some festivals lined up. What else have you got planned for this year?
Three more Wayward shows, which everyone should come and see! I’m finally getting to make the noise I always intended to make, and it’s immense, and utterly unaffordable so I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it again. Then (deep breath..) there’s a tour with Tim Eriksen in the Autumn, which is the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition to play with one of the best singers in the world. Can’t wait for that. I’ll be appearing on the Bright Phoebus Revisited dates with parents and cousins and Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley, then recording a duo album with Dad (which will come out in 2014), then Gift touring before Christmas with Mum, then thinking about Carthy, Hardy, Farrell and Young in the Spring. After that, who knows…I have taken a position at the Sage Gateshead as Associate Artist for Folkworks, and intend to curate some fabulous new events, seminars and good goings-on in that big shiny peanut of creativity for a couple of years. I can’t wait to get involved more in the North-East, the University and Folkworks in general; to think about community culture and education for a bit. I think we are going to inspire each other to some good things.
Interview by: Simon Holland
Album Stream: Wayward Daughter
Wayward Daughter is released on Topic Records 3rd June 2013