Kate Rusby: ‘I’ve always shied away from having too much clutter
around the songs’


After being huge fans for many years, it was fantastic to finally catch up with Kate Rusby in person for Shire Folk. We spoke to Kate just before her superb career-spanning set at this year’s Folk by the Oak.



Kate Rusby


SF: Your last album, Life In A Paper Boat, develops your style a little, with electronica etc. – is that fair to say?

KR: I do thinks that’s true, but I actually think it started to begin, there were hints of it on the Ghost album. Even the Christmas album that was between those two, The Frost is All Over … those two were the two where we kind of started to experiment. Those were the two where my husband, Damien O’Kane, also a guitar player extraordinaire, when we were making Ghost and The Frost is All Over, we were co-producing those ones, but with Life in a Paper Boat, we wanted to see where it would go if just he was more in the producer’s seat. Because we were loving where those little bits were going, trying out the effects and the delays. When Life in a Paper Boat came along we decided it was going to be a bit more experimental. In the past I always thought, because the songs are so important, and it’s folk music so the songs tell the stories, that you mustn’t clutter them up, so I’ve always shied away from having too much stuff around the songs, but what we found was we used the Moog a lot. Duncan Lyall who plays bass … so we’ve got lower end going on and loads of experimental things going on up high. It’s created a bigger space for the song to fit in. It’s not cluttered; it’s sort of shoved the boundaries a bit. I’m so pleased it’s taken that bit of a step.

SF: Apparently, according to the notes in the Folk by the Oak programme, you’re the inspiration for this festival …

KR: Really! Before this festival came along we were having lots of chats with Adam and Caroline website about it happening.

SF: Do you learn anything from playing festivals like this for your Underneath The Stars festival?

KR: Totally and it’s actually what we’ve been doing. This is my twenty-fifth year (in the business) and for all those years as we’ve toured around festivals all over the world, and, especially my younger brother Joe, who usually does the sound, have always had this mental notebook of things to avoid when we are grown-ups and have our own festival, and things to do. Things that we’ve seen at other festivals and thought, ‘what a great idea!’, so yes every festival we do we’re always learning and looking at what other people are doing. Even the infrastructure of stuff – we’re going around looking underneath things now.

SF: How involved are you in selecting the acts that play?

KR: They are mainly down to Joe. He’s absolutely brilliant for going out and seeing so much stuff. Having two kids now it’s a bit more difficult to get out there, but Joe’s amazing at searching and finding and going to see places. He’s often talking to festival organisers – they all have these little meetings and chats about who they’ve heard and seen. So he’s got his finger on the pulse. One of the lovely things about our festival is, according to the feedback we have back from it, is people have gone home with a big bagful of CDs that they’d never heard before, but absolutely love. There’s some names like Newton Faulkner and Show of Hands that we’ve got this year that people do know, but there’s so much else that is found, which is just amazing.

SF: It’s great finding new acts like on the Acorn Stage here …

KR: Joe’s really passionate about that as well, not only putting on names that people know, but also giving a chance to people who sometimes wouldn’t get a gig, but he really believes in them. The other thing we’ve had a lot of people saying is they’ve never been to a festival before, but they’ve dared to come to our festival because they know it’s going to be clean and nice – with nice toilets, you know – because those are the things that have been important to us as we’ve toured around. It’s so lovely. It’s so much angst, but it’s all worth it – what an amazing thing to achieve.

SF: Musically speaking, what’s next?

KR: We’ve just finished last week, a new Christmas album, so that one is done – mastered and everything. That might be album 15 or 16 now.

SF: Is the brass band back on it again?

KR: Oh yes, it wouldn’t be a Christmas album without a brass band on it. Especially for me. It’s so lovely to see the brass boys because we only really see them at Christmas on the tour now. It’s really weird, but for the last few years we’ve been doing an album every year, which seems a bit excessive, but I always feel like we’ve got Christmas tours and we’ve got normal tours and to leave either one without refreshing it with a new album goes a bit beyond it for me. So I do alternate it at the moment so we never go two years without a new thing, if you know what I mean. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been great fun and we’ve managed it so far.

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