Focus: Holly Clarke | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Holly and I am a Traditional folk singer, guitarist and composer from the Lake District. Being a Cumbrian is a huge part of my identity and it was an idyllic place to grow up and has certainly influenced my creative work. 

What is it you do?
I feel that my job as a traditional singer is to be a vessel for the old songs and I think it’s important now more than ever to perform these songs so that people’s stories from the past are brought into the present. 

Storytelling is at the heart of traditional singing and this is at the centre of what I do and what defines all of my creative decisions. 

How long have you been doing it?
I have been performing as well as studying since 2015 when I arrived in Newcastle to study for the BA Folk and Traditional music degree at Newcastle University.  In 2016 I was a semi-finalist in the BBC Radio 2 young folk award and in 2019 I was appointed as Artist in Residence at Sage Gateshead. Being a Musician has been very difficult during the pandemic, however, I managed to secure some online gigs and socially distanced performances as well as using the time to explore new music and sources. I’m currently negotiating gigs and festivals for next year and hoping that things will pick up now.

What inspires you?
In terms of musical influences, it’s a mix, but my greatest singing influences are Sarah Jarosz, Nickel Creek, the folk singer Nancy Kerr and the numerous source singers that I’ve found through field recordings and archives. The field recordings have really influenced me, I love hearing people’s individual way of singing and I love to take little fragments of how they sing and bring it into my final arrangement of the songs.

In the last 4 years I have become quite obsessed with Scandinavian Traditional music, and that has certainly influenced my instrumental compositions.

Tell us about your music.
My aim with my work has been reviving and arranging old songs for a modern audience, however, alongside that I have written my own songs based on the folklore, song structures and narratives found in the song traditions of the UK and Ireland.

I also gig with my trio Holly & The Reivers, I love playing in that band and just getting to sing three part harmonies with two musicians you have a special musical connection with. We actually supported Billy Bragg at the Folk on the Tyne Festival at Sage Gateshead and that was such a blast!

What have you got coming up in the future?
On the Saturday 19th June I am performing in Hall One of Sage Gateshead for my In residence concert where I will be bringing together an ensemble of fantastic musicians who are based in Newcastle to perform new arrangements of songs.

I will be joined by Neo Classical composer Benjamin Fitzgerald, Fiddle player and singer Anna Hughes, Fiddle player and composer Merle Harbron, Old time banjo player Bertie Armstrong and Accordionist Michael Mclernon.

I brought this band together to create a new soundscape for traditional songs and for my own compositions. The line-up of instruments all bring their own timbre and style with them and it’s been great to explore how we can bring all these styles together to find our own unique sound.

We decided that we wanted to do something a little bit special for this gig and we will actually be covering a Kate Bush song, which we cant wait to perform along with the rest of the material we have put together.

On June the 30th I have a livestream with the wonderful concert series Live To Your Living Room and I am really looking forward to that. Then further into the Year I am performing at the EFDSS showcase at Sidmouth Folk Festival on 6th August.

Where can people find out more about you?
For more information about my In residence concert you can head on over to the Sage Gateshead website and you can follow me at, on Instagram and my Facebook page.

There will be some exciting announcements in the future so keep a look out for them!

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