Five (Well Six!) Questions for Winter Wilson
Kip Winter and Dave Wilson are husband and wife ‘Winter Wilson’. In 2012, they made the brave decision to try and make a living from folk music. We met up with them to find out how it is going and how they are coping with a life on the road.
SF: You have been full-time musicians for a couple of years now – explain how that happened?
WW: We’d been playing together as Winter Wilson for over 15 years, fitting touring in around very demanding full-time jobs. Dave worked in Social Services and knew for some time that his job would go under local government cuts. The plan was for him to find a part-time job and concentrate more on the music, while Kip carried on full time. Then Kip got the chance of redundancy too and we thought about it for ages – several seconds at least – before we took the plunge. It’s where the title track of ‘Cutting Free’ came from.
It’s meant a massive change to our lifestyle (and Kip’s favourite clothes shop has closed down – genuinely!) but so far it’s going incredibly well. It’s a fact that we wouldn’t have dared take the plunge without the shove in the back of redundancy, but sometimes things happen for a reason.
SF: Your latest album, Cutting Free, made the Telegraph top ten folk albums of the summer. How did you react to that?
WW: Initially we squealed like kids and jumped around a lot. Then we set about making the most of it. In this age of information overload there are few enough chances to stand out from the crowd, so you have to capitalise on any that come your way. The biggest effect has been that more organisers have heard of us before we contact them, which is helpful.
SF: You perform many gigs in different venues all over the country. Do you have a strategy for getting bookings?
WW: Persistence! Well, that and getting seen. The number of folk club bookings available has decreased as some clubs have shut and others only book guests fortnightly or monthly, and many club organisers will only book artists they have seen themselves or who’ve been recommended by members. So it’s important to be seen by the organisers or their members, and for them to know that we’re keen to play their club. In the past we used to play floor spots in clubs we’d not visited before whenever we could, and these generated a lot of bookings. Nowadays whenever people come to talk to us after a festival appearance, we ask ‘what’s your local folk club?’ and ‘please recommend us’. Having said all of that, you have to deliver a good show when you get there. You can play a lot of places once; getting invited back is the key.
Increasingly now we’re also playing village halls and arts centres, which is about widening the audience – people who wouldn’t go to a folk club but will support what’s happening in their local hall. Maybe they might try a folk club too if they realise it isn’t so scary after all.
SF: Who or what has been the main influence on your style of music?
WW: Dave would say any great wordsmith; words are important – Dylan, Richard Thompson, John Steinbeck. In reality, whoever he’s last seen or what book he’s just read usually sets him off.
Kip blames her Dad, who taught her to sing harmonies, bought her first piano (‘for a fiver, and then tuned it himself’) and has left her with a head full of diverse music, everything from Victorian parlour songs and classic blues to traditional Scottish folk.
SF: Being a husband and wife duo, do you always agree on the choice of songs you record or perform live?
WW: Having seen us perform live some people might say we rarely agree on anything! Actually, that’s not quite true, although we do tend to have ‘interesting’ discussions, often on stage. In reality the songs are something we generally agree on most of the time. Kip: ‘Dave knows what keys and tunings they’re all in, so he often decides on the order of a set list, but we both have a say as to what goes in. Then again we quite often change things on the hoof, depending on what’s going down well in a certain venue.’
So what next for Winter Wilson – what can we expect in the next couple of years?
Hopefully more of the same, but bigger and better. Whilst the club gigs are going very well, we would like to get a firmer foothold on the festival circuit. Also, Dave is regularly working on new songs, not all of which suit what we do as Winter Wilson. It would be interesting to work with other musicians alongside what we do as a duo.