Heidi Talbot

‘I had more of a hand in writing the songs on this record than anything else I’ve recorded’


It has been three years since Heidi Talbot’s previous album, Angels Without Wings, so what has she been doing been doing? Having children and building her own studio, along with husband John McCusker. Her new album, Here We Go 1,2,3 is a thing of great beauty and worth the wait. Shire Folk caught up with Heidi on the eve of the album’s release.


SF: It’s a beautiful album – you must be really pleased with it.

HT: I am. You know what, I was so nervous when I was making it. I had more of a hand in writing a lot of the songs on this record, more than anything else I’ve recorded. So I was nervous and definitely out of my comfort zone – are these songs good enough to be on a record? So yeah, I was delighted how it turned out. I’m really pleased and proud of it.

SF: It feels like a very personal album. It struck me that there are two main themes – grief and coming through the other side of it being the first. Is that fair to say?


Heidi Talbot

HT: Yeah, it’s definitely fair to say. I lost my mum four years ago. It was very sudden. She wasn’t sick, but one day she wasn’t feeling well and six weeks later she’d passed away. That shock of losing someone that you’re so close to, and dealing with it – and it takes a long time (or it did for me anyway) to realise that that actually happened, if that makes sense. It’s a whole process of realising that that had happened and letting yourself think about it, if you know what I mean. For the first couple of years I couldn’t really think about it or, not pretend it didn’t happen, but it was easy for me to put it to the back of my mind. I used to speak to her website all the time – I haven’t lived in Ireland for years. So it’s dealing with that and letting the grief in a little bit at a time. One of the songs on the record was ‘A Song for Rose’ (my mother’s name was Rose) and when I wrote that song I was on my own in our studio and I bawled and cried … oh my God every feeling and that terrible longing for someone when you really miss someone! Because I did that and it was such an extreme amount of emotion and it was a (without being too phony), healing thing to do. I did all my crying when I was writing the song, so I can sing it now.

SF: The other theme, it seemed to me, was motherhood, parenting and family in general.

HT: Yeah, I suppose it always will be because I’ve got two small children and when I was writing the record I had my second daughter, so my whole day is really spent with children and I suppose, starting my own family, it would be strange if it wasn’t part of what you were writing about.

SF: Did you know that Boo Hewerdine was writing a song called ‘The Year that I was Born’ when you were writing yours?

HT: I did. We had a writing session together and he mentioned that he’d had this idea for a song called ‘The Year that I was Born’ and he gave me that line ‘In the year that I was born …’, so I wrote lyrics to his melody and I sent them to him and he wrote back to me saying ‘I’m really sorry, but you’re never going to guess what I’m after doing, I’m after writing the song with my son’. I said ‘Ok, that’s fine’. He said that he’d changed it and it was totally different lyrics and it’s a different melody to what I gave you. It was still quite similar, so I kept the lyrics and I was having a writing session with Louis Abbot from Admiral Fallow and I said that these are already written, but I don’t have a melody, so he put a whole other melody to my lyrics and then I called Boo and said, ‘Now it’s taken on a whole other turn this song’. They’re both called the same title, but they’re very different songs.

SF: Yes, Boo’s song is about the things that happened in the year that he was born, but yours is more of a narrative.

HT: Yes, and personal to my own experience.

SF: How has having your own studio influenced the way that you work?

HT: It’s taken a lot of the pressure away. For me anyway, it was much more of a relaxed atmosphere. When you go to a recording studio and it’s a totally different environment, you’ve never been there, and it’s like ‘right – we’re on the clock. It’s ten o’clock and we have to be finished by half past five’. So you’re up against it. It’s a much nicer way to work. You’re in your own environment and, like I say, I have young kids – my youngest is a year and half – and because they’re right next door and if I’m between takes (and in the studio there’s so much hanging around) I could just nip over and see the kids. It just helped me to relax a lot and it’s more ‘we’re all making this together’ and we’re not separated – I’m on my own and the kids are with a babysitter – we’re all together. You can relax about time – up to an extent anyway: you have to let people go home. We also had a timeline to make the record, our sound engineer Cameron Malcolm was moving to Australia ten days later, so we had ten days to get everything recorded. So that was our goal and it all went according to plan, thank goodness.

SF: You’ve got a ‘family’ of musicians working on this as well as real family.

HT: I suppose there was a couple of new people working on this new record that I hadn’t worked with before, like Innes White and James Lindsay on bass, but then there’s James Macintosh that I’ve played on loads of records with, and Michael McGoldrick and Donald Shaw. So there is a family of musicians, but this the first record when we haven’t had Ian Carr, that was just a logistical thing. I would have loved to have had him on the record too along with Innes and Soren, but he lives in Sweden and it just didn’t work out.

SF: Several of the songs are almost duets with Adam Holmes. How did that come about?

HT: We did a Christmas single together last year. I love Adam’s voice and I didn’t know him, but I’d met him briefly a couple of times, but I mentioned to John: next time I’m recording I’d really like to get this guy on my record; he’s got an amazing voice and he’s an amazing songwriter. So John saw my idea and got him on his tour! It was my idea first! When I was doing this Christmas single I wanted someone else to do harmony vocals and he was just the first person I thought of. So when I was making this record, we met a couple of times to run through songs and try and write and we wrote a few things together. He wrote one of the songs on the record called ‘A Time to Rest’ and he sang on that one, ‘Song for Rose’ with Louis … but he sings with RURA and he’s got his solo career.

SF: Yes we’re big fans of Adam’s here at Shire Folk. Your voices work together really well.

HT: I hope so. Certainly I love singing with him – he’s just great and very intuitive to sing with as well. He’s got such an amazing energy about him.

SF: He’s got an earthier tone and yours is much lighter. You could be the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton of the folk world!

HT: website That could be the top of the story!

Heidi Talbot’s new album Here We Go 1,2,3 is out now on Navigator Records

Jonathan Roscoe

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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

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