Talking To...Sunjay Brayne


Sunjay Brayne has been described as "a major young talent, remaining true to his musical roots, at the same time creating a unique path; his is 'new generation' blues-folk." Just turned twenty, he's recently set out on the first date of a lengthy nationwide tour taking up all September and October, but with a healthy appetite for playing live, don't be surprised to see more dates added.

A BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominee and a talented blues, folk singer/songwriter and guitarist he's been playing guitar since an early age taking inspiration from a whole load of influences. He said, "I love all kinds of music. My dad introduced me to Don McLean & Buddy Holly when I was 4 years old. I used to do a lot of Buddy type hiccup singing when I was younger! Right now I'm listening to a lot of country stuff; Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle etc. Ralph McTell, Chris Smither & Tom Rush have been big influences on my singing and guitar playing. Actually there's a Tom Rush song on the new album."

His debut album, recorded live in Kingswinford last year, is an intriguing collection of songs ranging from traditional folk material to songs by Bob Seger, Paul Anka and Blind Willie McTell. He talked about that and his new album which is set for release around the time of the tour: "I like including a range of material, especially live. It keeps it interesting for the audience but it also keeps it interesting/challenging for me! The new album is a continuation of the live album, but with the benefits that the recording studio offers. For example we have double bass, fiddle, cello, mandolin and harmonica. The production is still fairly low key though. Eddy Morton (the producer) was keen to keep an acoustic feel, rather than going too heavy on the instrumentation."

There are also a few big name guests on the album - Dan Walsh and Katriona Gilmore for starters. Talking about the guests, he also elaborated about the solo/band thing and his preferences for playing solo or with some extra instruments in the arrangements. "There's some great players on the album, Dan & Katriona as you mentioned, also Liam Genockey from Steeleye Span agreed to play drums. We recorded half the album at Stafford Uni and the other half at New Mountain Music Studios, the latter of which is situated below a pub. We'd just finished what we thought was the final recording session and went upstairs for a drink to find Dan Walsh sitting in the pub with his Banjo. I asked him if he'd like to play on a track or two and he said, "Sure!" He had maybe a handful of listens/practices with the tracks and then we recorded him. Talk about the right place at the right time! When I'm playing live I'm solo, although I would like to do something with a trio/small band in the future. Financially it's a different story of course!"

With the likes of Blair Dunlop, Lucy Ward, Luke Jackson, Algar & Russell, how does he feel to be linked to the new young breed that's taking up the baton for folk/acoustic music? "I'd certainly like to think so! To be held in similar regard to those artists is an honour in its self. There's a strong trad emphasis at the moment in the folk industry with the big bands like Bellowhead. I don't fit into that category, but it doesn't get me down. I'm included in the folk umbrella by the clubs and festival and I'm happy to be there and very grateful to the people who have and are keeping me solvent!"

Having spent time in the studio getting his new release ready he confessed: "Playing live is the most important thing for me. Making albums is great and can be a lot of fun, but there's nothing like the instant reaction you get from a live audience."

There was a terrific quote somewhere in the press which talked about about "AC/DC didn't need the internet, neither do I" - a refreshing attitude to getting out and simply playing.

"That quote is also to do with the digital world in general, YouTube, Itunes, streaming services. Whilst they are all great platforms it is easy to make the mistake of thinking they are the only platforms for which music can been seen/heard. This is why the new album will not be available digitally. There's a great Bon Scott interview where he talks about road/album bands. For me it is all about longevity and the artists/bands that have been around the longest, AC/DC, Status Quo, Rolling Stones have been road/album bands. The digital world has taken this away from music in my opinion and I think it needs to be brought back. In terms of getting out there and simply playing you have to. There has to be a strong work ethic in order for people to get behind you. There has been a fantastic reception to the upcoming tour already. I think when people see that you are serious about things and you care, it gives them a reason to do the same. I played 100 gigs last year, 100 gigs this year and I'll be hoping to do the same or more next year. I would hate to be an artist whose new album tour consisted of 10 gigs!"

With the rest of 2014 looking hectic particularly with the album/tour cycle Sunjay is also looking beyond: "Yes I'm really busy this Autumn, for the new album tour I have around 40 tour dates. We're taking bookings at the moment for 2015 and even have a couple of 2016 dates on the calendar! I'd like to do some more festivals next year if possible. Hopefully the new album and tour will help with that. I've also started work on the next album, which will have more original material. At the moment I'm just enjoying things. Making the current album has been fantastic, but exhausting. Not physically exhausting, creatively. There are endless possibilities in the studio and sometimes you do have to try several different ways before you get something you're happy with. Being in the studio didn't come naturally to me at all, but towards the end I got far more comfortable with it. Now I'm looking forward to focusing on the onstage side of things!"

Mike Ainscoe

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