Eliza Carthy Interview

Hailing from Yorkshire, the daughter of folk legends Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy, has already carved herself a reputation performing with Waterson:Carthy and with Nancy Kerr. She is about to enhance that reputation with her solo work and her acclaimed solo album.

Supported by a month long tour he album, which features not only her singing but also fiddle playing has been well received by fans and critics alike. It has even been touted as the folk album of the year by one critic.

Folk has at last found it's self a young audience once again. A glance at your average festival reveals almost as many dreadlocks and DM boots as it does beards and sandals. The new audience has been creating it's own stars as testified by the new generation of artists breaking through.

Whilst fresh and vibrant and still partially discovering her own style, Eliza manages to provide a solid link to folk's more recent past and continues to add to a very living tradition. Recently I called Eliza to talk to her about her music and folk music in general.

#E=Eliza Carthy #N=Neil King

#N This is the first album that just has your name on the sleeve. Did that put any extra pressure on you during the making of it ?

#E Yeah, yeah it did because I had to organise everything, the rehearsal time and everything. I had to organise getting people up here, most of the people that I asked to appear on the album live down South. I also had to tell people what to do and when they couldn't have a tea break and things like that. It was fun, I really enjoyed it. We didn't have a producer so it was a lot more relaxed than I think Tony##Head of Topic Records## would have liked. They were all my friends so I didn't have to boss them around too much.

#N Was it recorded in a family studio ?

#E It was recorded at my Ma's house, upstairs. It's not a studio, it's just the top room. The studios that did our last two or three albums has just gone mobile, so they came here instead of us going to them, which was great.

#N What plans are there for the album ?

#E It came out the end of February, we're on tour promoting it at the moment, mainly in small venues and through the folk clubs. We're doing loads of festivals through the Summer. It's not with the band, it's mainly myself and my parents touring as Waterson:Carthy. My and Nancy Kerr's band, The Kings Of Calicutt were doing a lot. We're going to Europe as well. We're hopping about a bit. It's going to be hard work, but I'm looking forward to it.

#N Listening to the album and some of it's themes and lyrics you get the feeling that if they had been done in a rock genre there would have been some people calling for a parental advisory sticker.

#E You think so ? That would be fun. Well it's not pop music. There are not going to be hoards and hoards of impressionable thirteen years olds going to go out and buy it and be encouraged to do what they are probably doing already. It does cover topics like that but in a certain sort of way that renders it acceptable. Maybe you're right.

#N Sex and violence are all right so long as it's in an historic context ?

#E Sex and violence is everywhere, but if someone wanted to put a big sticker on it I'd say, "ohh ta, that'll help the sales." There's no bad language in there or anything, nothing that you could really take offence to. Buying a folk album is a bit like buying a storybook anyway because that's what the songs are about, people's lives. Unfortunately violence does come into that and fortunately so does sex.

Buying a folk album is a bit like buying a storybook

#N Was it almost inevitable that you would end up playing folk ?

#E Probably, looking back at it. I didn't think it was inevitable at the time. I did have a lot of choices, but in the end I loved it so much, and was so familiar with it, it was like joining the family firm. Oh I don't know, it was just like coming home, which may sound strange. I have a lot of family on the folk scene, I have a lot of people that I'm very close to. It would be pretty daft to turn your back on all that because it's a pretty comforting thing when you're driving up and down the motorways on your own. It's comforting knowing that 20 miles that way is someone that you could go and stay with, almost anywhere. I just slipped into it and when I found I could go abroad, get sunned and get paid for it. It's a wonderful life, it probably was inevitable, but I feel I still made a choice. I was away from it for a couple of years to give myself the space to decide properly.

#N Back to the album. You seem to have taken songs from up and down and across the breadth of the Country was that deliberate ?

#E It was just where the songs come from. You find a song, then you find out where it comes from. It's a coincidence. I listen to tapes, look through books and I'll learn it. After that, I'm pretty slack at finding out song's histories, but usually I get around to finding out the location.

#N Folk's one of the few music genres that still does that, finds songs' histories.

#E Jazz does, but that's traditionally based, tends to check it's sources. It's a form of respect. With the oral tradition the idea is that you learn from your elders and then credit them for developing what they have given to you. The idea is that every person that has handled the song has put their stamp on it. It's nice, a bit of courtesy.

Eliza Carthy Interview Part 2