Recently relocated to Liverpool, multi-award winning folk musician Jim Moray presents a live performance of his acclaimed album Upcetera. Accompanied by a nine-piece ensemble including strings, woodwind, piano, double bass and drums, he reimagines traditional ballads as dramatically orchestrated torch songs or a sort of English fado. He plays the Witham, Barnard Castle (20 Jan) and the Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic (27 Jan).
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
In a loose sense I’m a folk singer but specifically I sing traditional songs that have existed for hundreds of years and play them as a modern musician influenced by rock, electronics and jazz. I’ve been doing that for 15 years and I’ve won five BBC Folk Awards, Mojo folk album of the year and the fRoots Critics Poll among other awards for it. My latest album Upcetera is my first for four years and is quite orchestral in sound.
How have you evolved as a musician over the years?
I started as a bedroom producer so it took me a long time to be comfortable playing live. The wonderful thing about traditional music is that it benefits from extra life experience though. I’m a much better singer at 35 than I was at 20. And I hope to be better still when I’m 65.
Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
No, although (spoiler alert) I wasn’t christened Jim Moray. If I was starting again I’d probably give myself a band name but that isn’t so much the done thing in traditional folk music. I do think a group of us have stretched the boundaries of what you’re allowed to do with it though, so for a new musician starting now there’s a lot more freedom.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
In between touring Upcetera, I’m producing two projects at opposite ends of the spectrum – an album of Somerset folk songs with a singer called Chris Foster who lives in Iceland, and some new tracks with Art Brut. After those are finished, I’m starting work with my other band, False Lights, to follow up our album Salvor that came out last year.
How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
Folk music has gone through a strange 20 year resurgence. It’s risen hugely in popularity and visibility, but at the same time the focus has shifted away from old songs. I’ve always been focused on traditional material, but I have tried to present it as an equal to new music in terms of excitement and vitality. I think I’ve always had interesting artwork, which helps, and each record is different from the last.
What’s on your rider?
I try not to be too demanding. Coffee, Penguin biscuits and a fresh Sharpie covers it for most shows.
Tell us about your worst live show.
The most challenging one was representing the UK in Vietnam, on an outdoor stage floating on a huge lake being transmitted live on TV. It gradually dawned on us that everyone else on the bill was miming, and we were the only people playing completely live. Once the PA was fired up it became obvious why – the sound from the huge PA was echoing across the lake and coming back a second later, drowning out our one monitor speaker. We played the show on muscle memory alone, and just about got away with it. But later that week we played a small show at the Hard Rock Café in Ho Chi Min City and they had the winner of Vietnamese Idol sing me happy birthday. It was completely rammed full of teenagers who had come to see it just because they’d advertised that someone from England was playing. So that was one of the best!