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Granny’s Attic: ‘We get songs from all over the place’

 

We first saw young trio Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, George Sansome and Lewis Wood, aka Granny’s Attic, play an amazing set at Derby Folk Festival last October. We caught up with them for a chat at our local Oxford Folk Club.

 

GrannysAttic1

Granny's Attic

 

SF: How did you all meet up?

GA: We all met when we were in secondary school in Worcester. We got together to start with as we all had nothing better to do and were encouraged by our music teacher to make some music. So we locked ourselves in the music room every Friday lunchtime and eventually got comfortable enough to play in a few school assemblies. Those were some of the scariest audiences we’ve ever had.

SF: You play many songs from the tradition – how do you source your material and how do you decide what goes onto the album or into your set list?

GA: To be honest I think pretty much every song we sing as a band is actually ‘from the tradition’ – we get songs from all over the place. We’ve had a few from great online resources like the Full English or the Bodleian Library’s Broadside Ballads online and we tend to get a lot from various books, especially those by Roy Palmer as well as older publications by collectors such as Cecil Sharp.

And we’re definitely inspired by some recordings as well, whether that’s revival singers such as Tony Rose and Peter Bellamy or recordings of traditional singers like George Dunn and Harry Cox. I think wherever we get a particular song from we try to see who else has sung it or what other instances have been collected, just to get a broader idea and understanding of the song.

We can tell pretty early on how well a song or tune will work so we don’t waste time on working up material that won’t ultimately end up in our set. After we’ve worked out how we are going to play a song we play it live as much as we can, as this is an important part of the bedding-in process and in seeing how material works. After this, from playing live we know pretty well what works best and just pick our favourites to put on albums.

SF: In a recent article on Billy Bragg he said ‘albums cost me, but playing gigs makes me a living’. How does it work for you?

GA: At the moment we are all full-time musicians, having just finished our music degrees. For all of us Granny’s Attic forms the majority of what we do musically, but we all have side projects musically which supplement our incomes and help to provide variety in our musical lives. Cohen also plays solo (and has just released a solo album) and plays in a ceilidh band; George does bits of teaching, solo gigs, workshops and other bits and bobs; and Lewis plays with several other bands in and around Southampton. In fact we all do a bit of teaching, so if anyone’s interested ... and there’s always busking too!

SF: I first heard you when you were nominated for the BBC2 Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2014 – tell us what effect that had on your career?

GA: A friend on the folk scene in Worcester, Ian King, convinced us we should enter, so we did, not expecting much; so we were chuffed to get to where we did. Prior to the nomination we were primarily playing local gigs, but off the back of the nomination we started to get offers of national gigs at festivals and clubs. At that time George and Lewis had just moved to Leeds and Southampton respectively, with Cohen still in Worcester. So the band could very easily have wound up then, but the nomination and the resulting gigs encouraged us to carry on. So we’re really grateful for the way the nomination gave us some encouragement and the confidence to get out there and do some more gigs!

SF: You have a fairly full booking of festivals and club events going well into next year – will you have time for a new album soon and maybe some overseas gigs and festivals?

GA: We’re off to Cork Folk Festival later in the year as part of a sort of cultural exchange between Warwick and Cork Folk Festivals – thanks to the hard work of Dick Dixon and William Hammond, Cork send a few artists to Warwick in July and then in September a few of us will be heading to Ireland. It’s a great opportunity and we’re really looking forward to airing our music somewhere new! In terms of a new album we’re gradually playing out more new songs and tunes so we think the plan is to get the new stuff aired on the road with a view to getting into a studio in the not too distant future. At the moment we’re really loving playing all over the place in clubs and festivals, and we’ve been to some great places and met some lovely people, so the plan is more of that for now!

Graham Hobbs

GrannysAttic

Granny's Attic