When The Guide spoke with Eliza Carthy just earlier this week, the folk star was in good humour – chatting and laughing as she drove with her father Martin to the next date on their duo tour.
The pair had been enjoying the shows, as she says: ‘It’s been absolutely fantastic, sold-out almost everywhere.’
But it emerged yesterday that Eliza had bronchitis and has had to reluctantly pull out of the tour for now. The show must go on though, and Martin will now perform solo.
Last weekend they played at Norwich Cathedral with a new project, Celebration, which saw the father-daughter duo reunited with musicians Sheema Mukherjee, and Barney Morse-Brown, who they last played with in the Imagined Village collective.
‘We’ve done a couple of things with them since – Barney has been playing with me in the Wayward Band and Sheema played with us at mine and dad’s album launch when that first came out [in 2014], but we haven’t all had the chance to play together since the Imagined Village took its extended hiatus, so it’s really nice to be with them again.’
Performer Ewan Wardrop is also part of Celebration. ‘I worked with him at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre last year and I had him as the choreographer there. So this was the first time we’d been properly gigging – he’s an actor as well, so he was doing some reading and playing ukulele as well as dancing. It’s a lovely show, all really balanced, and it’s all to do with the east of England – from Northumberland down to Kent, all of those mythologies and stories and ballads, dancing, and we’re hoping, dad and I, that it’s going to form the basis of our next album.
‘We’re very excited about it.’
Eliza’s latest album, Restitute went on general release last month.
A solo record, it is to help raise money for the 12-member Wayward Band who she created to back her on the 2017 album, Big Machine.
‘Without going too far into it, we basically put our trust into a private investor and it was misplaced, let’s just put it that way.
‘So we lost our funding halfway through the project. We were rescued by Topic Records, but only rescued in the sense that we got the record out. It’s done extraordinarily well, but we didn’t get paid for our time so I made the Restitute record as a way to get a bit of cash for my people.
‘I wasn’t responsible, but I felt responsible, so as the name suggests, I wanted to make some restitution. It was 12 people plus crew – and we’ve paid all of them. It’s a matter of honour, I won’t have it said that I left them high and dry, that’s not what I’m about.
‘But financially it was ruinous, there’s no other word for it.’
Despite it’s rocky road to creation, the Big Machine album was a critical and commercial success.
‘It’s an incredible piece of work, I’m very proud of it. It was made by Jim Sutherland, a hero producer from Scotland and we won a couple of awards for it and rightly so.
‘It was meticulously made, it’s one of my best pieces of work ever, and the Wayward Band were a big part of that – they’re a bunch of geniuses, so I wanted to make sure they got something for their efforts. I love them.’
Eliza admits though, that times are tough across the board in the music biz right now, unless you’re a megastar with a major label behind you. And that makes it difficult for a project the scale of The Wayward Band.
‘With HMV going bust, and Brexit going on, which is making international touring incredibly difficult, it’s not the best time to be touring a massive band – but we’re not saying die, we’re hoping to get together again next year and make another album because we all love the band, it’s a fantastic project.’
The day we talk, there’s been more bad news on that front – it has just broken that the esteemed Soho venue The Borderline is to shut down – the latest victim of a rash of closing venues.
‘You’re kidding!’ she exclaims when told the sad news. ‘That’s absolutely horrific. Oh god, it’s not the time to be in music right now, it’s incredibly difficult.
‘It really has got tougher. The last boom in the folk music scene was about five-six years ago, and everyone’s trying to diversify now, and people are trying to put on bigger shows – if people are only going to go to one gig per season you have to make it big and exciting which is why I formed the Wayward Band in the first place, you have to teach, you have to branch out as much as you can.’
In June, Eliza and Martin are due to perform at Topic Records 80th Anniversary bash at The Barbican in London. The oldest independent label in the world, it has strong left-wing ties.
‘It means a great deal, as far as my family history is concerned. on my dad’s side, there’s a long history of activist socialism so it means a lot to represent a label like that, and they’ve also been very supportive of us over the years – from the Watersons to the records now, it’s great for us to be part of their celebrations. I was at their 60th party, their 70th party and now I’m at the 80th.’
Here’s hoping she recovers well before then.
TEATIME WITH MARTIN CARTHY
Turner Sims, Southampton
Sunday, May 19