DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Skylark Song | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time, we talk to Emma of folk duo Skylark Song about their upcoming album.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

We’re Skylark Song, aka Emma and Alex McRae from Newcastle upon Tyne. I play violin, Alex plays guitar and we both do vocals.

What inspired you to first start making music?

We’ve both been making music for years – Alex in a number of bands playing electric guitar – but when he started writing songs on an acoustic things started from there. We’re both heavily influenced by the world around us. Alex is really influenced by nature, his lyrics really draw on pastoral poets like John Clare. My lyrics always seem to go back to the sea – probably from growing up next to the coast!

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

The ones that always stay with us are Nick Drake, Laura Marling and early John Martyn stuff. Although I wouldn’t describe us as trad folk we’re definitely influenced by people like Fairport Convention and Pentangle. Sandy Denny’s ability to tell a story and communicate emotion is mesmerising. Alex really draws on that Bert Jansch guitar style. This album features a lot more close harmony singing which obviously takes you back to Simon and Garfunkel. I also remember watching The Civil Wars perform live and being blown away by just how closely intertwined their harmonies were, something we’ve been developing.

How would you describe your sound?

It’s really difficult to define yourself; I would most likely say folk, although the folk musicians that play with us would probably dispute that! Alex really started off as a blues guitarist so we always have that blues edge creeping into guitar lines and some of the vocals.

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

We’re so lucky to have such a diverse and talented local music scene, especially acoustically. I suppose I’d see us fitting in as being a little bit different – there are loads of amazing solo performers so I guess us being a duo with added violin puts us at the folkier end of the spectrum.

“We’re so lucky to have such a diverse and talented local music scene, especially acoustically”

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by Skylark Song?

You can expect really bad stage banter but hopefully a decent musical performance! We like to keep things intimate but we’ve recently added double bass and mandolin to our line-up which helps to capture the sound of the new album but also creates a more dynamic live set. I think we’ve become a bit more brave in terms of the songs we play live; we’ve chosen to play some of the sparser, more harrowing songs in our set and I think people appreciate the honesty of it.

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

Our album launch will hopefully will hopefully be in November (date and venue to be confirmed). We’re really excited for some of our gigs in October: we’re playing The Dun Cow’s birthday (Sunderland) bash on the 9th and the Teesside folk festival in November. It’ll be great to go out and play after a summer break.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?

I would definitely say recording and releasing our first album. It took a lot of graft to manage all the album recording and release details but we’re really glad that we did it. Admittedly we’re both perfectionists so it was quite a long process! The first album was really warmly received, we’re still pretty blown away by everyone’s reaction to it.

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

Whilst releasing our first album has been incredibly rewarding it does come without its challenges! Financially it’s obviously a bit of a headache but I think it’s worth it in the end. Another challenge – which has taken us a while to get our heads around – is what kind of band we want to be. We’re both so proud of the first album but quite a few of the songs on there were written to be songs that worked live. Because we’re quite a quiet band we used to feel like we needed to write songs that would sound ‘big’ live and would mean that we would be loud enough to be heard. We’ve completely scrapped that mentality now. The songs on our new album are just written for the sake of being written – because we loved the songs and wanted them to sound a certain way. Hopefully we’ve captured that.

What else have you got planned for the future?

We’ve finished recording our second album May The Hunter Retreat and are hoping to release it at the back end of this year. We’re so proud of the songs. I think people might be surprised by what they hear. It’s not too much of a diversion from the first album but we’ve definitely explored lots of new avenues.

Skylark Song play at The Dun Cow, Sunderland on Friday 9th October.

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