Music Q&A:
Chris Cleverley

The folk troubadour is taking his live set on a tour of UK folk clubs. He visits Carlisle Folk Club, 12 Oct; Civic Arts Centre, Oswaldtwistle, 15 Nov; and Frodsham Folk Club, 16 Nov, in the north

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What informs your music and songwriting?
Traditionally it has always been the personal that has been my starting point. As is the case, I’m sure, for a lot of artists my first couple of decades were pretty tempestuous. I think writing about such things is often a means by which to check in with others. As I entered my thirties though my vision became a bit further-reaching. Latterly songwriting has looked more at my surroundings, particularly aspects of contemporary society that don’t sit right with me. My latest work has focussed a lot more on broader themes such as the mental health epidemic, damaging gender constructs and suffering public services.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
I think I’ve become less preoccupied with anticipating how songs might be received and have learned to sing unapologetically about the concepts I think are important to address. It’s surprising how certain themes that are traditionally considered uncomfortable are actually very well received, as we’re all just people with very commonly occurring shared experiences. I think that’s coming to light more than ever nowadays.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
In November I’m returning to the studio to start on my second full length release. It’s a huge departure from anything I’ve done before. I’ve been having a great time scoring huge string sections and 10-part choral arrangements while returning to my very early pre-folk roots, experimenting with distorted electric guitars and electronic sounds. I’ve generally been operating in the trad folk end of the genre but I’m looking forward to making a record which defies such easy categorisation.

What’s on your rider?
As much Irn Bru as I can get away with.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
I once took a massive sip of surgical spirit just as I was walking on stage ready to launch into an unaccompanied traditional song. It came straight back up just as I entered full view of the audience. Smooth.

What song do you wish you’d written?
Graceland by Paul Simon is the perfect song, I think. Lyrically and instrumentation wise it’s on point and it has the most beautiful, affecting production. I would be seriously proud if it were mine.

What’s your worst lyric?
I used to have a song with a metaphor about wearing someone else’s skin, but it was getting taken literally so much that it was a bit of a PR disaster.

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