Folk star Seth Lakeman may now be a father to young twins but it doesn’t seemed to have dampened his appetite for touring. This year he’s played a string of solo dates and shows everywhere from Truro to Glasgow with his full band.
On his solo excursions, which this year he restricted to five gigs at a time, he set out out to visit smaller towns with the band. From an artistic standpoint, he says, “it’s a very different show when you do it on your own”.
“There’s more space to breathe and it’s more about the lyrics, a lot of the songs have a different perspective to them, I think, and then you can bring out a lot of new material that the band haven’t necessarily or might not play. It’s a good opportunity to mix it up and play a whole variety of stuff.”
The 38-year-old singer, violinist and guitarist feels “ahead of the game” with his new album. All the songs are written and he plans to do some preparatory work in February then record it in March.
“I’ve been working with three girls [Wildwood Kin] for about a year now, every week getting together just for two or three hours,” he reveals. “I’ve written songs for singers, really. They’re three girls who originate from a church, sibling singers, a bit like The Staves, I would say, or that O Brother Where Art Thou sort of sound, close harmony style and I’m mostly playing viola and singing. It’s quite an interesting project, really, it’s very different.”
While Lakeman’s seventh album, Word of Mouth, was based on a series of anecdotes and reminiscences from his native West Country, his forthcoming record has no particular theme.
“This time round it’s more about focusing on the style and the way the vocals work together, it’s almost a choral record,” he says. “It’s interesting the way it’s coming together, it’s hard to say because we haven’t recorded it yet, but it’s going to be quite stark and spacious in a way it’s recorded.
“There are a couple of covers that I’ve got in mind – there’s a song called Anna Lee by Levon Helm that we’ve been singing recently. It’s like Americana in its feel but it’s unique what we’re doing, just viola and four voices.”
Half of the record has been drawn from the Full English folk archives. “I’ve spent a long time just trying to find the right broadsides for the girls,” Lakeman says. “There’s a good 50 per cent, I would say, that is traditional-based. It’s whatever the sound suits; sometimes it doesn’t work necessarily but sometimes it really does work incredibly well to use traditional [songs] – they’re poems, really, that’s the way they were written, those broadsides, that’s how I see them.”
He’s proud to have been asked to take part in the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s ambitious Full English project, which is attempting to produce a national digital archive of English folk manuscripts.
“I thought it was a great chance to get inside and try to discover more about those forgotten songs,” he says. Lakeman will be bringing Wildwood Kin on the road with him on his December tour.
“They’re going to be supporting, people can hear their wonderful sound, they’re fabulous, very special – and local as well, they’re from Exeter. I have to say whenever they sing because of the choral sound they have immediately you are transported into a church.”
• They play at Leeds Town Hall on Tuesday December 15. For details visit www.leeds.gov.uk/townhall/