The name Andy Bell will be a familiar one to most of you that follow the folk, roots and world music scene. Producer and engineer, he’s worked his magic for the likes of Seasick Steve, Bellowhead, Jon Boden, Fay Hield, Andy Cutting, Eliza Carthy, Sam Sweeney and many more.
Like he didn’t have enough on his plate, Andy recently set up his own label called Hudson Records and the first band they signed was FRUK favourite The Furrow Collective who launch their new album Wild Hog next month (more from them soon). Andy found some time in his busy schedule to talk to us about the label and his plans. I started by asking how the label came about, a question which gave him the opportunity to also reflect on the current independent music scene.
“I have been producing records for quite a while now and I suppose over the last 5 or 10 years I have noticed more and more artists self-releasing records or just struggling to find help to release an album. I have always had a few artists that I have been working with and trying to develop at any one time, maybe they couldn’t afford to do a record or something, but I wanted to help out because I loved their music and maybe hoped something, gigs, music sales, would bite for them later. The music industry seems to have gone a bit stagnant on the development front, if you don’t have 50,000 Facebook likes or a million youtube plays big labels don’t seem to be interested, of course, that’s a generalisation and there are loads of great indie labels out there helping to develop artists – Topic, Realworld, DragCity, Jagjaguwar, Rough Trade, Nonesuch all do this and all have really eclectic rosters, and I suppose I was inspired by them.
“Whilst chatting to my friend, and now Hudson Records colleague Neil McSweeney, over a pint at the Royal (Dungworth, Sheffield) we decided that maybe there was the space and the opportunity for us to do something with some of my folky friends and for the artists I have been developing and working with for a while, so here we are running our own record label!”
When I ask about the title of the label, Andy reveals the name is from another love of his life, one that turns out to be quite well known in some circles.
“I have a wonderful dog called Hudson, he was rescued from a rescue centre in Chesterfield and he already had the name Hudson. The logo is an image of the hound himself, he is a fairly well know character on the folk scene already with lots of ‘thanks’ and credits on various albums, Sam Sweeney even wrote a tune for him called Hudson’s hornpipe, it features on Bellowhead’s Hedonism and Live albums. Strangely, Hudson Records in Chesterfield, was one of the oldest independent record shops in the country, up until it’s closure a few years ago, so I guess the name was destined to be resurrected in the music world but this time just over the border in Sheffield!”
Having already had a whiff of what’s to come (you will also soon) I ask whether the label is focusing on folk music specifically.
“The label will be releasing a fairly eclectic mix of music, everything from contemporary and traditional folk through to singer-songwriter, pop, world and much more in between. Obviously with my background in the UK folk scene we will be featuring a fair amount of folk music, but I don’t think we need to have too tighter boundaries, the important thing to us is that the music is of great quality and produced and performed brilliantly, whether that be a pop record, an ‘Old Time’ banjo and fiddle duo, a folklore inspired song writer or a trad shanty singing group, the music is what is important not just its commercial value. Our first three releases span traditional, written and improvised instrumentals and songs recorded and produced by different people in various ways across the British Isles, so although we love Folk music and are steeped in it and inspired by it, Hudson Records is not just about the Folk.”
I can’t shake off the thought of the enormity of what he’s taking on and wonder if this is some underlying long-term ambition that’s been simmering slowly in the back of his mind.
“To be honest not really, no. I was perfectly happy producing records and touring; I must be mad to have added the layers of admin I now have to do for the label! Haha, It’s great really!”
As Andy reveals, this is more than just a label. He already touched on the music industry and artist development so it comes as no surprise when I ask him if he is filling a new niche that he sees a much bigger picture, one that the music industry would be all the better for if it also shared that vision.
“Our vision is to create a co-operative, a team, a club of fans and artists alike. This idea, along with artists producing and developing quality, eclectic and interesting music will set us apart from other labels anyway and hopefully, we will create our own niche instead of simply filling one, ambitious I know.”
Ambitious maybe, but you can’t help but admire his tenacity and vision, one that’s no doubt been built on his own personal experiences and a far cry from the cut and thrust world of labels driven by profit over good music. Talking of good music I ask what else is maybe imminent, besides The Furrow Collective. He drops a name I recognise, one that’s cropped up on a number of albums from the likes of Emily Portman to M G Boulter…
“We have a great album from Neil McSweeney for release in January. Neil is a singer-songwriter from Sheffield; he supported Bellowhead for a tour a couple of years back with the wonderful Vera van Heeringen and Sam Sweeney. He also sings in a trad trio with Jon Boden and Fay Hield called Holler. The new album features Sam Sweeney on drums, M G Boulter on stringed things, Ben Nichols from The Full English on Bass and Tom Lenthall on Keys and synths, along with Lucy Farrell and Emily Portman on backing vocals, it’s a family affair!”
It most certainly is and I love that. But that’s not all…
“After that we have an album from Kings of the South Seas guitarist, Richard Warren, he is an amazing guitarist and songwriter who has worked with the likes of Spiritualized, Starsailor, Dave Gahan and Soulsavers (featuring the legendary Mark Lineman).
“For the rest of 2017, we have some really interesting releases up our sleeves, some folky and some not!”
Remember what I said about Andy seeing the bigger picture? He’s already putting that into practice as he expands on what else he’s been up to.
“We are also working on a series of short music films with HandHeldCineClub director and Minor Victories bass player Jim Lockey. Jim has produced films for the likes of The Editors, The Staves, Minor Victories, The Full English, Simpson Cutting Kerr and more. The first ‘Hudson Sessions’ is with the brilliant Hannah Read & Rowan Rheingans of Songs of Separation and Rheingans Sisters / Lady Maisery fame. The sessions are filmed in and around Sheffield and we are even experimenting with 360 VR films too.”
We turn our attention to The Furrow Collective who are hotting up for their Wild Hog release which drops on November 4th. I begin by asking Andy ‘what separates them from others,’ a rather leading question I admit, but I’m of the firm belief that they collaboratively unique.
“The Furrow Collective rework trad material brilliantly, sonically I think they explore tunes and songs in a really interesting way, I love that they are so raw and earthy yet the detail and thought that goes into all the elements of the songs is staggering. I keep finding new bits every time I listen. We are really lucky to have such a great album and artist as our first release.”
Touching on how the new album differs from previous work he adds “Wild Hog features drums and bass for a start, the sound is bigger and more diverse, employing different instruments and ideas. The first album was almost totally recorded live sat facing each other in a village hall and whilst Wild Hog is mostly recorded live together, this time, we were in proper studios with better separation, and we have overdubbed extra lines and instruments here and there to build the arrangements, all the vocals are still live though!
The guys all know each other better too, I think you can hear that in the harmonies and how Ali is more integrated into the band, the idea of The Furrow Collective is more bedded in, I think they feel and sound more confident about what they do as a band now!”
The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, as they say, so feast your ears and eyes on their new music video for Wild Hog in the Woods
Looking ahead into what I think will be a bright future Andy sums up our chat perfectly. “The labels mission is to simply release great music, to help develop artists that we believe in, to really develop the releasing of folk and traditional music on digital formats and as I mentioned before we want to create a club so that we can build a trust with artists and fans a like, in 10 years time I’d love to think that someone will just buy music from Hudson Records because they know and trust that it will be great whether it is Folk, Pop, Jazz or whatever, because they just trust that the artist has been supported and the music has been nurtured.
“We have hit the road running with such a brilliant band in The Furrow Collective as our first release. With more great artists lined up for release in the coming year and bucket loads of enthusiasm and love for what Hudson Records wants to do, 2016 is hopefully the start of something special for us.”
I’ll drink to that!
Follow Hudson Records and show your support and encouragement:
The Furrow Collective ‘Wild Hog’ released 4th Nov 2016
Neil McSweeney ‘A Coat Worth Wearing’ released 27th Jan 2017
Richard Warren ‘Entangled’ released early 2017