The INTERVIEW: Folk artist Ewan McLennan

Chard & Ilminster News: EWAN McLennan. EWAN McLennan.

EWAN McLennan’s critically-acclaimed, socially-conscious and “moving” brand of folk music comes to South Petherton’s David Hall next Friday (February 21).

After his debut record Rags & Robes making MOJO’s top ten 2010 albums for the genre, Scotland-born Ewan won the BBC Folk Awards’ 2011 Horizon Award. His political song-writing earned him the Alistair Hulett Memorial Award.

DAISY BLACKLOCK caught up with Ewan ahead of his show…

Which artist do you most relate to?

“There's lots of artists I've related to over the years across a whole range of genres, but there are certainly a few that have stuck with me throughout. Perhaps the first mention should be to the mighty Bob Dylan who first got me hooked on the humble but beautiful art of telling a story in song.

“Another person who has been a big influence is Dick Gaughan, a Scottish traditional musician and singer.

"His musical style, his approach to the music and his immersion in and passion for what he sings is very inspiring.

“A final person is guitarist and singer Martin Simpson. I had the luck to be taught by this immense musician for some time and learnt a lot.”

What is it about the Scottish tradition of folk that sets it apart, that you love?

“The Scottish folk tradition, like many others, is full of beautiful ballads and songs that tell of the joys and grief and ordinary people throughout the ages.

"They tend to be powerful songs, wound with beautiful melodies and captivating stories. Being from Scotland and having had these sung around me growing up I feel a particular attachment to the Scottish repertoire."

Billy Bragg has often spoken about the lack of prominent political singer-songwriters around nowadays. What do you think of this, especially having won the Alistair Hulett Memorial Award For Political Songwriting for ‘Joe Glenton’?

“I think the fact that there is a specific category of political singer-songwriters is a comment in itself.

“It kind of shows that instead politics being seen as a essential and everyday thing to write the odd song about, like you might about love or heartbreak, it's seen as a niche and unusual category. And by politics I don't mean what's going on in parliament but what's going on around us all, all the time.

“I definitely think there are a lack of songs around that deal, in a political way, with current affairs, work, the economy and all the rest of the important issues that we live through. Let's hope this will change.

“The incredible reaction to Pete Seeger's death this week and the obvious reverence he attracted shows that there is certainly a place for songs of a political nature and figures who tend that flame."

Is 2014 an open book for you as a singer-songwriter, or is there excitement in the pipeline?

“I'm lucky to have lots of exciting things coming up in 2014. First and foremost, I'm touring all around the country, which I love, and for the first time Scandinavia too.

“This Spring I will begin recording my new album, titled 'Stories Still Untold', which will be released this Autumn.

“I'm very excited about all aspects of this: hearing the songs I've been writing and working on finally recorded; working with a bunch of incredible musicians; getting the reaction of critics and fans alike; and finally touring all the new material in the Autumn.”

• Tickets to see Ewan McLennan at The David Hall on Friday February 21 cost £13. Book on www.thedavidhall.org.uk or by calling 01460-240340.

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