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Five Minutes with...Holly Clarke

Posted on 15 January 2019

We caught up with BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award semi-finalist and Sage Gateshead Summer Studio alumni Holly Clarke, ahead of her appearance here at Sage Gateshead during New Year New Artists Festival on 17 January.

What can people expect from your show?
What people will hear at this show will be the stories of people ,which is at the heart of traditional song. Every story will have some truth behind it whether it is a song about being broken hearted or a song that has a vengeful ghost, there is always some truth about what it means to be a human being and what we experience. Folk song may be a music that gets overlooked and seen as old fashioned, but what we don’t see is that this material is as relatable now as it’s ever been and I hope that my performance can highlight that. I also hope the audience will have fun listening as well, we can’t always be too serious!

Who are your biggest musical influences?
My biggest influences have come from the old singers such as Sheila Stewart, Nora Cleary, Paddy Tunney and Walter Pardon. The classic singers that you would find in the archives and on field recording compilations. But I am also inspired by many artists that are currently playing music now such as, Nancy Kerr, Rachel Newton, Martin Carthy and some of the American singers such as Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan. I also take a lot of inspiration from Kate Bush and Florence and the Machine, purely because of the primal nature of their music. I feel it’s important to be a folk singer and take influence from what’s around you and not just take influence from the past.

Who is your favourite new musician?
I have many new favourite musicians but someone who I have been listening a lot too recently is a woman from Norway called Sissel Morken Gullord.
She originally trained as a French horn player but she took up the Bukkehorn, which is a traditional Norwegian instrument made from the horn of a goat. She can also sing cattle calls known as a Kulning and she usually integrates this in her pieces where she plays the Bukkehorn. The album she made is about six minutes long in total, and it’s the best six minute album I have ever listened to! She actually became quite famous as she plays the Bukkehorn on the soundtrack of Disney’s Frozen. She is incredibly inspiring not just as a performer but also as a tradition bearer as well, she is clearly very passionate about the instrument and she is doing a great job of making people more aware of the bukkehorn.

What does performing at Sage Gateshead mean to you?
It means a lot as Sage Gateshead has had a huge part in my development as a musician. I would go to the Folkworks Youth Summer School every summer to learn from some of the best musicians on the folk scene and it really was the making of me. Then in 2015 I started at Newcastle University on the Folk and Traditional Music BA course where I would stroll down to the Sage Gateshead two days a week for my folk ensemble class. While you’re on the course you perform in the Future Traditions concert series where we get to perform on the Northern Rock stage and in Hall Two and that was always good fun. So being able to perform in Sage Gateshead means a lot.

What’s coming up next for you?
Well, I’m always trying to gig as much as possible, but I’m currently working on a couple of recording projects and I am also working on developing my own podcast series where I talk with other artists about issues within the folk scene and also talk about folklore and lots of Nerdworthy Folk stuff! So I am looking forward to seeing where all these things go in the future.

See the full New Year New Artists line-up