Fay Hield, our current Artist of the Month, took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her latest album Old Adam which marks her welcome return to the studio (read our album review here) . We also have a special video feature in which Fay talks about the making of Old Adam and shares some behind the scenes footage, watch it below:
Since your last release (Orfeo in 2012) you’ve been pretty busy which seems something of an understatement. The Full English, lecturing in music at Sheffield University…juggling all this around family and two musical careers and then pulling this album together; what’s your secret?
Google cal. And signing up for too much stuff which means you just have to get it done. Seriously though I do keep trying to cut down, but there isn’t a strand of what I do that I want to drop – I also work with Soundpost to run events to help people get into this kind of music too, I just think it’s all important so can’t leave any side alone. So I just keep saying yes and stuff happens.
You’ve used the phrase, when talking about your starting point for Old Adam, of looking at “how we use stories and music to understand what it means to be human”. In making Old Adam did you gain a deeper understanding of that and was this a sentiment you wanted to convey in the songs you’ve selected?
I am still trying to understand it, and I’m doing some audience research too to see what impact these songs have on other people, so yes, it is a central part of the project in my head, but it’s not really visible in the album I don’t think. You can just listen to it like any folk album, it’s just full of stories and characters.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
They all do very different things for me so it’s difficult to pick a favourite. I suppose I really like the title track, Old Adam, because it fills my mouth nicely, the shape of the words and melody are a joy to sing.
Musically Old Adam sounds like a giant leap forward. Are you aware of that progression in your music from say Orfeo to where you are now?
It is designed to be bigger with the addition of bass and percussion, but most of the songs could be done either as the Orfeo line up, or in fact as the original trio – the strength is in the bones of the material. Musically though yes, it has progressed. The processes we went through to make The Full English taught me a lot and gave me more confidence to take risks. The album is very much a product of where I’m at now.
Andy Bell produced the album, he seems the natural choice for many in the folk world, what is that makes Andy’s work so appealing to you personally?
He’s a total star both personally and professionally. He works incredibly hard, has amazing insights and gets involved in just the right ways. Andy has been responsible for so many incredible albums over the past few years it’s not just a fluke that luckily gets in on good projects – he makes them good.
Have you a particular memorable moment in the making of the album?
Recording was intense because we did it quickly and at Real World, I’m usually juggling several different plates at once, but for those few days I was 110% focused on the album.
Moving away from the album to some of your other projects – Sound Post (www.soundpost.org.uk) which, according to the website, aims to bring ‘song and dance into people’s lives through participation and performance’. That sounds like something we could all benefit from.
I set this up after my PhD to try and act as a stepping stone for people into the folk scene, and to help stretch those already making this music to think about it more. Its grown now and we have two part time staff who run all sorts of events from schools work to weekends focusing on singing or fiddle etc. We do lots of talking, playing and thinking, they’re very intense but approach this music from lots of different perspectives to try and open peoples’ minds at all levels really. They nearly always sell out, and there are loads of exciting new plans afoot.
You’re also involved in Royal Traditions, which is held monthly at The Royal Hotel in Dungworth?
Yep, Jon and I have run this club for about 7 years now, it’s a folk club, with invited guests, but held in the main bar so there’s lots of chatter over the music. There are no floor spots, but the act finishes by 10pm and we have a singing session after – locals come in and have done a song or two. Again, it’s about getting this music out and opening doors for people to get involved.
We’re touring the album in Feb and March and again in the autumn. Over the summer, I’m writing a research proposal which should tie some of these passions together, I’m always teaching, we’ve got a new intake on the Traditional Music distance learning MA to get started in August and I’m enjoying my PhD students, and well, you know, stuff…
Old Adam is out now via Soundpost Records