Festival Q&A: Eliza Carthy

The Scarborough-born folk singer and musician takes to the stage at Cambridge Folk Festival in August

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What have you got planned for your set at Cambridge Folk Festival?
Miserable and beautiful folk songs, presented in a loud/silly/sad/hopefully danceable/making people feel weirdly aroused sort of a way. Drama in white.

Who else are you excited to see at Cambridge Folk Festival this year?
We’re on on the Friday, so we could have a boogie to the fantastic Banter, Gordie McKeeman who we met in New Zealand and loved, the brilliant John Smith and Vera Van Heeringen. So many others too! I don’t want to look at the other days because I might get sad! But if forced with matchsticks to look I’d go for Stick In the Wheel and the lovely Eric Bibb.

What are your festival essentials and what’s on your rider?
Festival essential? Don’t forget my violin. Also good boots, and my children. Our rider used to be very simple: a hot meal and a bottle of gin. These days we enjoy a crudité platter and some wine; I usually say no sandwiches please because when you live on the road you can live on flamin’ sandwiches if you’re not careful.

What is your funniest festival memory?
Being at a festival in Germany and some very merry bloke at the back repeatedly asking me to marry him between songs. When he gave up on that, he started yelling at us to “Sing Loch Lomond!” When I eventually cracked and yelled back “We don’t know it!” he shouted “Neither do weeeee!” That’s a good, clean story anyway.

How does playing a festival differ from playing your own gig?
You have the chance to play to people who might not have seen you before. It’s exciting. There’s also getting to see your pals, and in the summer I can bring my kids along to see what I do. If it were up to me I’d have them with me all the time. When I was younger I imagined that when I had children I would just sling them on my back and away we’d go, but real life isn’t like that.

What informs your music?
Sandwiches, and my beautiful mother.

What is the one song you wish you’d written?
Heard It Through The Grapevine. I don’t just have one song though. How can I have just one song? I also wish Id written The Beast by Michael Marra, which is on the new Anchor album. Or any of his songs, really.

Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band play Cambridge Folk Festival on Friday 3 August 

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