Interview: Bellowhead | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Bellowhead, one of the UK’s most successful folk bands, return to action four years after calling it a day with a sell-out show at the London Palladium. The band is reuniting for a one-off worldwide concert stream on Saturday 5th December at 8pm (tickets can be purchased here). This special performance was recorded in Covid-safe conditions in a location near Epping Forest and marks the tenth anniversary of their third album, Hedonism. The band’s critically acclaimed release has sold over 75,000 copies since its release in 2010, making it the highest selling independently released folk album of all time.

We catch up with North-East based singer, cellist, fiddle, viola player and original member of Bellowhead, Rachael McShane to find out more about the upcoming online event…

What have you all been up to since the band called it a day in 2016?
We’ve been pretty busy with other projects. There have been various solo albums, new bands, shows, tours, compositions, some kayaking, botany and a new baby. A lot of that would probably never have happened if we’d kept on touring as a band. We were all pretty sad about splitting up at the time but it’s been great actually and given us all more freedom to do other things.

How did this reunion come about?
 We were all in touch with each other over lockdown and decided to record and film ourselves playing ‘New York Girls’ at home and released the video on YouTube as a way of bringing a bit of cheer to our fans. You can watch the video here, it’s quite silly! After that we realised how much we’d missed playing together as a band and we had the idea of re-uniting for a one off streamed gig to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our album ‘Hedonism’. I can’t remember whose idea it was, but we were all up for it and funnily enough our diaries were pretty free this year so it felt like the only chance we might get to get back together and play.

When you released Hedonism, did you think it would have the impact it has had?
No, we had no idea at all. It was an absolute joy to record and we hoped people would like it but I think you never really know how an album will be perceived until it’s actually out there. It went on to become the best selling independent folk album of all time and led to so many amazing experiences for us as a band. I still can’t quite believe it really.

What are some of your standout memories about making that album?
Walking into Abbey Road Studios every day past all the tourists, recording in Studio 2 where the Beatles recorded, recording with legendary producer John Leckie. I just remember feeling like I had to soak it all up. We had a brilliant time hanging out there too. We put a sizable chunk of money behind the bar of a London pub one day and drank cider whilst shooting the album cover. Happy times.

What has it been like to revisit the album? How do you rehearse in these difficult times?
It was so lovely to play the tracks again but I must admit they were pretty dusty in my brain when I first re-visited them after nearly 5 years of us not being a band. We’re all spread out across the country and so have never really rehearsed regularly so it hasn’t been that different for us to be honest. We’ve got lots of live recordings from our tours so we’ve all been getting match fit again from the comfort and safety of our own homes.

What made you want to do a live stream show? What can we expect?
Seeing the reaction that our live from home video had, it was apparent that people had missed us and we’d missed playing together too. I think generally this year people are missing live music and so it seemed like the right time for us to do something online. Expect lots of Hedonism and some of our greatest hits. We haven’t played together for nearly 5 years so I know we’ll have a brilliant time.

What does the future hold for Bellowhead?
Sadly, it really is just a one-off. It’s been a lot of fun working together again in the bizarre year that is 2020 but everyone is usually so busy with other projects that touring again, properly, as a band, is pretty much out of the question.

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