INTERVIEW: Heather Ferrier | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Megan Savage

While harps, ukuleles and the like enjoy a fresh contemporary renaissance, the accordion remains curiously typecast in the eyes of many. Heather Ferrier, though, sees things differently. An engaging talker, magnetic performer and prolific presence in local folk circles, this virtuoso is set on shifting perceptions with her debut solo EP, employing her instrument in a manner notably removed from its traditional grounding.

“I first started playing the accordion in primary school,” she recalls. “I don’t come from a folk family or anything like that, but my school was a bit weird in that folk music was the main thing we played. We were given the choice between learning accordion or fiddle, and I chose accordion – partly because it’s quite loud, and partly because not many girls played it.” Given her budding creative mind, it didn’t take long for this pull to grow more nuanced: “It’s quite a complex instrument; there’s a lot of really unique rhythmic sounds you can get from it that you can’t from say a guitar groove. It creates a big, emotional sound, and since you can play both the melody and accompaniment there’s so much scope to do different things. I think that’s what’s kept me going with it for all this time!”

Now working in education herself, Heather is more aware than most of how her companion has come to be regarded among musicians of the future. “The kids I teach mostly know accordions from the buskers they see on street corners, samples in dance tracks or French waltzes…they’ve never seen an accordionist up on a platform, and there’s just so much more that can be done.”

It creates a big, emotional sound, and since you can play both the melody and accompaniment there’s so much scope to do different things

Born and raised in Stockport, Heather came to Newcastle aged 18 to study Folk and Traditional Music. It was shortly after graduating that the seeds of this month’s From The Ashes EP were sewn, by which time she was already applying her skills in the quartet Balter and duo RŪNN. “I was writing for both those projects, but also had ideas which wouldn’t fit with either and decided to keep all to myself! I love the process of being able to write freely; I still write plenty of jigs, but I’ve never fully fitted into the world of traditional English folk music. My style has definitely branched into something more contemporary.”

When her boyfriend gifted her a MIDI keyboard for Christmas, From The Ashes’ four bold, dynamic pieces began to take shape in earnest. Rich, evocative and sporting a candid emotional balance, these vivid, electronically-infused soundworlds come – perhaps inevitably – from a place of introspection, with each penned in response to a critical moment during the initial 2020 lockdown.

“The EP is based around the emotional processes we’ve experienced over the past couple of years, but I also hope people can find their own meanings within these songs,” she adds. “I’m an instrumentalist – I’ve never sang – and I think the way we connect with melody can be far more personal than with words. Singers tell stories, but with instrumental melodies you can project your own feelings onto them. I wanted to represent the lighter bits as well as the darkness, and I guess what I’d like people to take away from it is a sense of acceptance – that while the world might be rubbish, things will always work out okay in the end.”

Heather Ferrier releases From The Ashes on 22nd April.


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