Make Your Mark on folk star Seth Lakeman's new album and visit to The Wedgewood Rooms | Interview
The last time Seth Lakeman played in Portsmouth, he was headlining the acoustic stage at Victorious Festival in August – opposite the Manic Street Preachers and The Streets.
The folk star recalls: ‘It was pretty manic – there were a lot of people there! It was the busiest festival I went to over the summer, and it was good, cool actually.’
When he returns next month, it will be for his own headline show at The Wedgewood Rooms to celebrate the release of his 11th solo album, Make Your Mark.
When we speak he is in the midst of another tour – this one for the 15th anniversary of his breakthrough album Freedom Fields.
‘It's been a real buzz just to play in front of an audience again,’ says Seth. ‘And the whole way an audience and musicians interact is so refreshing, it's a lovely thing to be doing, rather than being in the studio or in your bedroom writing – to be out there actually singing new songs and connecting with people.’
For Seth, it’s been interesting to look at his own development as an artist when performing songs from 15 years ago and now.
‘It's fascinating to be playing the albums back-to-back, and that 15 year gap in songwriting – the language I was using back then, steeped in the tradition, the military history of Plymouth and surrounds, and then there’s this more reflective, personal and universal side of songwriting that's come out of Make Your Mark.
‘It's really interesting how the two sit there together side by side.‘And it’s worked really well, it's the same musicians, same moment in music – it's been very interesting to hear how my songwriting's changed.’
When Freedom Fields was released in 2006, folk was having a bit of a mainstream moment, and Seth, a handsome chap, was one of its rising young stars.
‘I was 27 and I was signed to EMI. They kind of jumped on this boyband/poster-boy thing,’ he laughs, ‘which is interesting… It was fine though, it was part of the business, it's what they do, isn't it? But it was a whirlwind, it was a busy time.
‘But it was that album that was the breakthrough for me – that crossover from folk to, I guess, a more contemporary universal world.’
When lockdown hit last year, Seth had just finished a UK tour for his ambitious A Pilgrim’s Tale album, which told the story of the Mayflower and the pilgrims’ journey to America. But further plans tied to the album never happened.
‘There was a whole year that sadly got canned. We had planned to do Hay-on-Wye, and stuff in America to cross over that was part of a theatre show, that also suffered.
‘We only just got the first part of it done. But at least we got the album out! We should count our lucky stars we got a tour and an album before...’
Stuck at home, Seth soon began writing and it wasn’t long before he realised he had a new album on his hands.
‘I knew I was writing a lot of material, but when I started stacking them up as demos it's all about picking the best, so I just kept going until it felt like I had a strong body of work.
‘I've got a little outbuilding area with lots of instruments and things like that where I record at home, but I'm no (music production software) Pro Tools/Logic guy.
‘It's all very much written there with a guitar, banjo, viola, fiddle, and the song is the song.
‘I might throw some stuff over the top, but it's quite a primitive, old-school set up.’
And as soon as he could, Covid-restrictions permitting, he got in the studio with long-term collaborators Benji Kirkpatrick (on bouzouki, banjo and mandolin) and Ben Nicholls (bass) as well as Alex Hart on vocals and percussionist Toby Kearney.
‘We were all so excited just get together, and to hear what sound would be like with other musicians. In four days we recorded 18 songs, we went for it.
‘It was quite a marathon, but we didn't spend more than half an hour on any of those songs on Make Your Mark – literally tracking as we went, it was all very fast-paced, all live vocals with me and Ally.
‘It was one of those free-flowing albums that seemed to come together really well, so when you're hearing it live it's pretty much as it is on the album which is great.’
Seth Lakeman is at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on Thursday, December 9. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.
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