Eliza Carthy interview

Seven things you didn't know about Brit musician


The 36-year-old British musician – a multi-award winning, twice Mercury-nominated daughter of folk legends Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson – tells us what makes her tick.

As a child, she wanted to be a ballerina or a doctor. Or to untangle puppets for a living.
‘I used to collect puppets, especially when I was little, and I really enjoy that kind of a task. I’m quite a visual person, oddly, for a musician, but looking at six or seven entangled strings and figuring out how to put it right I find incredibly relaxing.’

Despite her folk roots, she’s never heard Fairport Convention’s seminal LP Liege & Lief.
‘Although my parents were teaching me about the roots of traditional music, they also taught me not to look back. When I was growing up I learned material off people directly. Walter Pardon would come to the house or I’d see Fred Jordan at a festival. You’d sit in front of them and learn it until you got it, then take it away and do your own thing with it. So listening to records from the ’70s wasn’t something I was interested in. There’s a load of my dad’s records I’ve never heard.’

John Spiers of Bellowhead is older than Carthy.
‘When people talk about the new young folkies they always talk about Bellowhead. I’d like to point out that most of Bellowhead are older than me – especially Spiers. How much older is he than me? One month.
Ha ha! He’s an old codger and I’m going to say so in Time Out.’

She finds Morris dancing alluring.
‘I don’t really have to justify it, but Morris dancing is just natural and beautiful. Have I ever picked up gentlemen at Morris dancing events? It has been known. I rarely say no to a Morris dancer.’

She thinks step-dancing on a bread board is normal.
‘It’s a rhythmic flat-foot form of dance found in the east of the UK, in Suffolk and Norfolk. I have been known to step-dance by myself. Not that anyone would do it with me – I’d just do it while doing the pots or the hoovering. I always wanted to be Fred Astaire when I was younger but this is the closest I’ll get! It involves fewer Chanel gowns and more bread boards, which is more realistic.’

She likes music played at seriously loud volumes.
‘Hearing someone sing unaccompanied is one of the most direct forms of communication for me. I find it one of the most absorbing things, but I also like the equivalent of putting a tin bucket on your head and smashing it really hard with a hammer. There’s a place for everything.’

This penchant for loud music and a musician’s lifestyle means she tries not to have neighbours any more.
‘I don’t like annoying people, but inevitably I will! Once I lived in Scotland on a farm, where converted barns stand round a central courtyard. There was a woman living next door who can’t have been particularly old, but was very nervous and I used to turn up after tours at 2am in a van full of lads and gear and she came round at one point and said, “Who are all these men?” I think she thought I was running a knocking shop!’

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