The young folk

Orla McCallion had a word with Seth Lakeman about tradition, touring and Jethro Tull

Orla McCallion had a word with Seth Lakeman about tradition, touring and Jethro Tull

English-born Seth Lakeman is back out on the road, “well happy” with the way his way career is progressing. Since signing his first record deal with brothers Séan and Sam in the band Equation at just 17, the folk singer-songwriter and musician has come a long way. Formerly known as the Lakeman bothers, the trio hooked up with Kathryn Roberts and Kate Rusby for a tour of Portugal, and were subsequently snatched up by record label Time Warner. Seth played with Equation for 7 years before deciding to go solo, although he “loved playing with the guys.”

Criticised by extreme traditionalists as not keeping up the folk tradition, Seth remains undeterred. He agrees he brings a “young element” to folk, and his integration of popular music sounds into the genre has paid off. From the release of his first solo album in 2002 The Punch Bowl to his fourth album Poor Man’s Heaven, his songs have taken on a rockier sound which has been a “natural progression from playing live”. Despite critics stating the contrary, Seth contends that he is committed to the traditions of folk music. All his music is acoustically performed and recorded. As he pus it, “all the instruments are make of wood”. He has always kept it in the family, and his brother still tours with him. He has even collaborated with his brother’s wife Cara Dillon, accompanying her angelic voice on the piano. His songs are traditional, telling stories or expressing something about a culture that exists or once existed. His second album Kitty Jay tells of myths and legends from his home,leading him to be nominated for the Mercury music prize. The album was launched in front of an audience of inmates at Dartmoor Prison, and was voted number one folk album of 2004 by Time Out magazine. A sell-out UK tour followed and Seth has been non-stop since. Now signed to Relentless, a UK label owned by EMI and Virgin records and home to Joss Stone and KT Tunstill, Seth recognises the Mercury nomination as an “amazing achievement” that transformed his career.

Many live performances at festivals large and small, kept Seth busy in 2007, the Cambridge folk festival being his favourite. He played at Glastonbury for about the tenth time, and has supported huge acts such as Tori Amos. One of the most memorable moments for him in his career is appearing on stage with Jethro Tull on their 40th anniversary tour in Bristol in 2008, which was “really exciting”.

Influenced by legends such as Paul Simon and Randy Newman, Seth has really developed an individual style. His “parents ran a folk club, which was a heavy influence from an early age”, and his mixture of music tastes led him to produce tunes that are appreciated by many. Planning to release a new record next year, he intends to continue to take his career “one step at a time.”

Seth Lakeman plays the Academy on 15 November.