FEATUTRE HEADING: blah blah balh


Feature Intro:After having won the Musician of the Year award at this year’s Folk Awards and playing with almost everyone from Jon Boden and Eliza Carthy to Hannah Ja


Feature Interviewer SF: Question

Feature Interviwee BH: answer



Sam Sweeney















White Horse Whisperers

Blair Dunlop: ‘Songs can be really personal to me without necessarily being about relationships’


On the eve of the release of his superb third album, Gilded, Shire Folk caught up with Blair Dunlop en route to Devon to talk about folk narratives, Joy Division, going it alone and your Shire Folk scribe’s inability to tell a Ferrari from a Porsche.



Blair Dunlop

SF: There appears to have been a continuing move on your albums towards more narrative songs. Was that deliberate or just by chance?

BD: I wouldn’t say it’s deliberate. I like a balance in what I’m writing about, but I don’t know if that’s preconceived or not. I like writing about different things, but for me this album is really personal … as personal as the last album, but just in a different way. I don’t see that necessarily as relationship songs, for example, or a song that’s in the first person. A song that’s not like that doesn’t have to be ‘not personal’, it can still be personal to me, but for loads of different reasons.

SF: So is it you that’s got the desperate hankering for the Ferrari 356?

BD: The Porsche 356! That’s obviously not about me as such, but it’s a really personal song because me and my drummer friend, we went to Mayfair and had a really nice day and fell in love with this car. It tied in with that summer and what I was up to and where I was at in my life – I’d moved down to London. It’s a really personal song, but it’s just a song about a car, not a relationship song. ‘Cragside’, the song about Lord Armstrong, that’s very much a folk narrative song, but that’s personal to me because I wrote it when I was on a trip away up North with my mum and she’s from the Borders and it’s about all that kind of area. So it can still be really personal to me without necessarily being about relationships. Although there are relationship songs on it …

SF: I’m guessing ‘She Won’t Cry for Me’ would fit in with that?

BD: Yes that would be it!

SF: What’s the story behind ‘Castello’?

BD: I met a really nice girl at a castle and I thought she deserved a song. She was nice … website I’m not sure there’s much more I can say about that. What I like about the song is that it doesn’t profess to be anything other than just a snapshot in time. She also had a bit of a story. She studied in England for a bit and she comes from an interesting background and we got chatting, but really it’s just a snapshot and it’s not professing to be anything greater than I met a girl in a castle, she was really cool: this is her story. There’s plenty of other songs that go a bit deeper.

SF: She was very wrong about Joy Division if those were her words (‘They tried to get her onto Joy Division/She said she liked the feel, but they lacked precision’)

BD: Oh yeah completely wrong. They’re like a grid.

SF: I saw you perform ‘First World Problem’ with the Albion Band at Bunkfest a few years ago. Is that the oldest song on the album?

BD: That would be, yeah. All of the others have been written in the last year or so since I moved down to London.

SF: The version on Gilded is bit lighter than the live Albion Band version.

BD: The way that we’ve been doing it on the tour is very much the way it is on the current record. Live with this band I felt it worked really well. We just kind of jammed it out and it worked. With the Albions it was a six-piece band and we had three electric guitars and it rocked along. It was different. It still stands up as it was here – it wasn’t conscious to shift away from how we did it with the Albions – but it’s just this is how this trio plays that song. Lyrically it still stands up in that setting and energy-wise it still stands up, it’s just slightly bouncier. I remember when I originally wrote it with Gav website, it was more like the beat we have with this incarnation of that song. That’s not to say I necessarily prefer this version because I absolutely loved doing it with the Albions. Maybe we’ll all get to play it together again one day, which I would absolutely love. It’s turned into quite a fun track to do live.

SF: Was ‘No Go Zones’ a result of the reports in America that there were no go zones in Birmingham and London and the like because of the Muslim population and IS?

BD: It was symptomatic of that school of thought – that conservative, ignorant, American school of thought. Fox News ran a story – I think it was last year – saying that parts of Europe were uninhabitable because of the Islamic population. One of those areas was Birmingham and I just thought it was really stupid because there’s a million people living in Birmingham and they seem to be all right! I thought it deserved a song … someone’s got to stick up for Birmingham.

SF: How did you come to write with Dave Burn from ahab?

BD: We share a publisher, but I don’t know if it came about through that, actually. We just were hanging out last summer, or was it the summer before? We met each other at festivals and I always thought he had really good pop sensibilities and we just started hanging out at his place in London and writing a song, but it was rubbish. So we went to the pub and got leathered and came back and came up with a better riff and finished it off the next day. It was good and it made it onto the album. It was a song I wasn’t particularly precious about. I’m not saying I don’t like the song, but generally I enjoy co-writing with people I like, like Dave, and it was a song that we gigged last year and people seemed to really like it. It kind of had to go on because people were requesting it.

SF: The new album is out on your own label. What’s the idea behind that? Is it just for you to put your own material out or do you see it as a wider thing to put other acts’ stuff out?

BD: At the moment it’s absolutely to put my own record out and that’s all I’ve been considering so far. It would be cool to put other people’s stuff out potentially in the future, but at the minute it’s absolutely a means to an end. I’ve been so consumed by this album and this tour that that’s as far as I’ve got with it. We set up the label through Absolute … they’re essentially the middle man and they help you with contacts and distribution and PR, you know – give you a hand with what a traditional label would do, but essentially you’re still in control and still retain the artistic integrity. Financially it’s a lot better. Through label services companies and people setting up their own labels, I think that’s a route more and more acts are going through and because of where we are digitally it’s so easy to get your stuff out there. I think there’s less of a need for a traditional label as there once was, purely because of the digital age we’re in.

Blair Dunlop’s latest album, Gilded, is out now on Gilded Wings Records

Jonathan Roscoe


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