In the second instalment of my 'Introducing the Coracle Band' series, meet Sam Sweeney!
Many of you will know leaping fiddler, Sam Sweeney, from Bellowhead, Leveret, Eliza Carthy & the Wayward Band, Made in the Great War, and his early forays into the English folk music scene with the band, Kerfuffle. He’s also in demand as a session instrumentalist and I’m completely delighted he’s joined us in The Coracle Band - it's a real privilege.
Sophie Parkes caught up with Sam ahead of the December tour to find out how he’s finding the job so far.
Last year you were crowned BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician Of The Year 2015 (and rightly so!) Since then, have you seen a noticeable increase in the number of people requesting you join their band?
Funnily enough, I've never been in so few bands! There was a time when I was touring with seven bands and currently I'm only touring regularly with three.
The award has undoubtedly opened up a number of really exciting opportunities, though. I've done some great session recordings with artists who wouldn't have been aware of my playing if it weren't for the award. I've also been asked to collaborate with a lot more artists since winning the award, so it really has helped me out a huge amount... and what an honour, too! It was the most terrifying moment of my life: waiting to see if I'd won in a huge venue live on Radio 2 with the impending risk of having to give an acceptance speech – absolutely petrifying!
When did Emily approach you with regards to joining The Coracle Band?
After she recorded the record, it became apparent that there was a lot of string playing on the record that Rachel and Lucy couldn't replicate on their own live. I played on four or five of the album tracks and Emily wanted to be able to recreate the huge sound of the album live, so she asked me along for ride. I'm really pleased she did – it's great fun and the band is a very wonderful bunch of friends.
What attracted you to playing with Emily and The Coracle Band?
For me, Coracle is one of the best records of last year and I wish more people thought so! I think the songwriting is out of this world and the music is perfect, so it's a bit weird to be playing in a band that is doing the repertoire from one of my favourite records of all time. So, the music attracted me, of course, but as I mentioned before the band are such good friends of mine it was an offer I couldn't turn down.
How have rehearsals gone?
It's always a pleasure! We seem to work very well as a band and although I can't say we have rehearsed that much ever, whenever we do it's pretty awesome. People will have to come along to see the gigs to see how well we've rehearsed!
What's been your favourite song to learn so far, and why?
The most fun song to play live is probably ‘Darkening Bell’. I get to play with all my effects quite a lot and make a load of huge sub-octave noise. It's cracking.
Which gig are you most looking forward to on the tour?
Liverpool will be great. It's a great venue since they refurbished it and it's Emily's home crowd so it should be really good. Also, the beer in the Philharmonic Pub is unbelievably good. I can't wait!
Are the shows with Emily your final gigs of the year?
They certainly are. It has been a hugely busy year for me so I'm quite looking forward to these gigs and then a long break before gigs start again in February.
What's a typical Christmas like in the Sweeney household?
Haha! Lots of singing and music. We are quite traditional about Christmas so there'll be a lot of food, fun and games and certainly a lot of sleeping on my part.
To find out more about Sam and what else he’s got coming up, check out his website here.