Music Q&A:
Sam Sweeney

The fiddle player in folk super-band Bellowhead is taking his show Sam Sweeney’s Fiddle: Made In The Great War on the road. He plays Derby Theatre, 9 June, and Leeds City Varieties, 10 June

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Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
I’m a fiddle player, playing almost exclusively traditional dance tunes from the 17th-19th century. A bit niche perhaps, but it’s a type of music that can be treated in any way you want to. My old band Bellowhead had a full brass section, drums, electric guitar and pogoing crowds, whereas my current show Made In The Great War is played on fiddle, concertina and oboe. When it comes to influences, I’m as influenced as much by Weezer and Passion Pit as I am by any traditional music.

How have you evolved as a musician over the years?

I grew up a lot being a member of Bellowhead. Bellowhead taught me a huge amount about how to play music but also how to be a musician. I guess if I had to pick one way in which I’ve evolved, I’d say I’m playing slower and fewer notes the older I get.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?

Last year I was appointed the inaugural artistic director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. It’s a fantastic group of 14-18 year olds who come together for residential courses and make amazing arrangements of traditional tunes. It’s a truly inspiring and humbling job to have. These are really exciting times for English folk music.

How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
It’s quite easy in the folk world. It’s not a saturated industry – or at least it’s not a saturated industry if you’re playing a traditional English repertoire. Sure, it’s hard for singer-songwriters, but standing out from the crowd is quite simple when you’re playing 17th century dance tunes in a semi-improvisational trio!

What’s on your rider?

Beer is the only thing I actually ask for, although it’s lovely when you get provided with exciting treats. I recently had a meat platter, a cheese selection and some 80 per cent dark chocolate. That was cracking.

Tell us about your worst live show.

Without a doubt, Wychwood Festival with Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party. It was our first ever gig. The Damned were playing the main stage and they were so loud that they were feeding back through our monitors on the second stage. It was 45 minutes of constant feedback and noise. Horrendous!

Read more about Sam’s fiddle here

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Sam Sweeney

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