How do you connect to folk music?
The language of folk music, oftentimes, writing in the vernacular, in the spoken word is something that I’ve always loved and there are a lot of different aspects to it, but that would be the biggest thing that I love about folk music.
How do you see this festival changing over time?
This is the first time I’ve ever been here. It’s the first time I’ve in real life experienced The Newport Folk Festival, so just to be around… there’s such vibrancy here. An example of that, I wouldn’t see as much of this at home. As long as people are writing honestly and are writing… it’s incredibly encouraging seeing this. You mentioned earlier on how the focus tied in politically sometimes and stuff like that. I was always told that everything is political. There’s nothing that you can say that isn’t tied in some way to a greater, I suppose to the big picture. Here, I think as long as people are being honest, and everything here, everything I’ve seen is just very honest reflections, very honest expressions of what it is to be a person right here, what it is to be a musician, what it is to just live in these times.
How do you try to reflect on your own times and bring that into your songwriting?
It depends, I think. Personally I try not to bring in a very deliberate agenda as an artist. I would try to make the song just a reflection as it stands and not be a “do this, do that” type song. I don’t know. I guess I do just… it’s a hard question. I try to reflect as honestly as possible. To be honest sometimes it’s a lot of bad feeling, it’s a disgust with culture, or it’s a frustration, it’s a sense of powerlessness. It can also be a sense of joy, not so much in my music, but I try to keep things as honest or as personal as possible. Not too much exaggeration, not too much. I don’t think it’s ever needed, try to bring in things honestly that disgust you, honestly that you’re unhappy about, honestly that you love. As long as it’s honest.
Who are some of the musicians that you’ve drawn from or that you admire from your own country?
There’s an artist called Lisa Hannigan who I was always a big fan of. Her first solo album came out around the time when I was very unhappy with the work that I was doing and stuff like that, learning how to write songs. If it weren’t for her… that was incredibly encouraging and that was a big deal for me, her Sea Sew album. So, Lisa Hannigan I would say. A lot of old folk music and traditional folk songs and some that have elements of fairy tales and stuff like that. My Lagan Love, there’s a song called My Lagan Love which is beautiful and one of my favorites. Even stuff like She Moved Through the Fair, the melody and the scales that they work off are incredibly beautiful, and the imagery. There’s also a very naturalist aspect to it, there’s a lot of the land, and there’s a lot of the landscape in the language used. So, those would be big influences. There’s another band as well, who are very close friends of mine, called Little Green Cars, they’re from Ireland and they have some fantastic stuff. I get to hang out with them a lot. Being around musicians is incredibly inspiring. I never get time to spend time at a festival like today. I have three days here. Usually we do a show and we fly out that same day, so just seeing acts and being around musicians and their excitement and their joy, seeing new ideas, that’s very, very inspiring. Hanging out with musicians and hearing their music is invaluable, I think.
Have there been any bands or musicians here that have surprised or inspired you?
Fuck yeah. I just saw the The Oh Hellos. That was just joy. That was just golden joy. I haven’t experienced that for a long time. Yesterday I got to see Lake Street Dive who I’m a huge, huge fan of. They’re incredibly inspiring. They’re just awe inspiring, their craft and their songs and stuff. Ryan Adams last night, of course, Jack White tonight, I’m looking forward to it. I just did a workshop with an artist called Thao as well, she’s fantastic. I just saw her play a few songs and was blown away.