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Seth Lakeman, speaking from the Barrel House




It's probably no bad time for British singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman and his band to be taking a short trip to Australia.

  

Rising unemployment, anticipated fuel shortages and widespread dissatisfaction with the ruling class are the latest in a string of events that represent the lingering spectre of the Global Financial Crisis and its crushing toll on the British Isles, making the Mother Country a rather grim place to live at present.

  

And while the current times seem to be providing perfect songwriting fodder for one of the foremost players on the British indie-folk scene, Lakeman generally finds his inspiration in events of the past.

  

His latest album, Tales From The Barrel House, has been released to rave reviews in the UK and he's about to hit Australia for a series of festival shows and dates alongside Australia's own Carus Thompson during April.

  

"I've always been fascinated with local history, it's always been a big part of what I'm doing... Just to delve and flick through the past and find some really fascinating stories and people to build these songs around," he said from his home on Dartmoor in England's rugged south-west.

  

"(Dartmoor is) one of the last wilderness areas in the south of England. It's really barren, a very inspirational place. It's beautiful down here."

  

Some of the stripped-back nature of the new album, Lakeman's sixth studio effort, has its roots in his native environment, but a new approach to recording and producing the record are what makes it particularly noteworthy.

  

"The rugged, rough, edgy sound to it is definitely drawn from the nature and the landscapes. It really does shape everything I'm doing," he said, adding that reading press reviews this time around had been more nerve-wracking than ever before.

  

"It's a hard one, with this one especially. I did it all myself, produced it. It's the first one I've done like that. It's more exposed, rougher, than all the others."

  

"It's a concept record, no doubt. The way it was recorded was very stark, an ambient microphone in the barrel house. People seem to have got the concept apart from a few mates who ask if it was recorded on a Dictaphone."

  

"There was more of an atmosphere... it conjured up a bit more of a magic, a vibe to what was happening within that room. You're actually hearing the sounds of the room, rather than just the instrument. The real star of that record was the barrel house itself, I think."

  

Lakeman will be starting his first Australian run at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, kicking off a two-week stay in the country.

  

He'll play 10 shows in total, hoping to slot plenty in between.

  

"We're trying to pack two bags into one. Flying wise, they're restricting us... geared up for it and excited," he said.

  

"We've tried (to get to Australia) for two or three years. It's really just finding the right window, the right time to come out because we've been pretty busy in Europe doing stuff."

  

"We definitely want to, when we're in Sydney, do the classic tourist bit (and) take advantage of being there. Just trying to work out what people do... grab a schooner, got to have... what do you do out there? Got to have a pie... that's like your pastie really, isn't it?"

  

Just how Australian audiences will respond remains to be seen, but given his cult following in the UK and famed live show, all signs point to a triumphant trip down under.

  

"It's a strange one, you know, it's a complete unknown," Lakeman said. "We don't know how they'll respond to the rhythms, the style, the stories, our approach."

  

"We're big fans of what we like to call the jam bands, John Butler Trio, The Waifs, hypnotic stuff that people can get into. There's a definite feeling I'm similar to that."

  

"It definitely fits with, I am a folk singer and I am a fan of writing stories about people and the place I come from (but) there's a rocky feel to what I'm doing, the riffs and blues overtones. The style and the singing I've gone through has definitely come from all sorts of areas I've played in."

  

"There's a big track over here called Kitty Jay I play that's definitely got an influence of ‘house' from the early 90s, that four-on-the-floor driving rhythm I was a mad fan of in those early days, going to clubs."

  

"There's a real crossover of influences. It sits on its own there but it's hard to know where that is, but the roots are folk, no doubt."

  

One thing's for sure, those who see the live show won't forget it in a hurry.

  

"It's probably the most striking thing of what we do is the live gig," he said. "The way we approach these instruments is quite unusual. People don't necessarily see these instruments being played at quite this level, the impact of what's happening. It's quite left-field what's going on."

  

"Because they're hypnotic rhythms, I think people really get into that and there's a lot of dancing that goes on in our gigs, and a lot of drinking, and it's something that translates really well live."

  

Catch Seth touring Australia with Carus Thompson this month.

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