Will Varley is touring the UK again this autumn, with the majority of the shows taking place in seated theatres and venues.
Paul Johnson and Darren Beech caught up with Will backstage at this year’s Fairport Convention’s Cropredy festival. The interview took place early evening on the Saturday and half way through, collided with the mighty Afro Celt Sound System set. The sounds not perfect but we have done our best to make it as clear as possible.
Varley celebrated the release of his fifth studio album, Spirit Of Minnie, with a packed out show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in February. He then spent the first part of this year playing his new album live around the world, touring extensively in the US, appearing at SXSW festival in Texas and selling out venues across the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy.
Culminating at London’s stunning Round Chapel in Hackney, this brand new tour will come after a busy summer of shows including appearances at Bearded Theory, BoomTown Fair, Green Man and the wonderful Cropredy Festival (at the request of members of Fairport Convention themselves).
Described recently by Donovan as “The next generation” and counting the likes of Billy Bragg, Tim Minchin and Frank Turner amongst his fans, it seems the rambling songwriter who cut his teeth haunting the open mics of south London is finally getting the attention he deserves. Don’t miss him across the UK this autumn.
In the run up to his debut album release, lyrically dextrous folk-punk troubadour Seán McGowan has shared an intimate new interview and session video.
Featuring a stirring solo acoustic session of Seán performing currently unreleased track ‘Springhill’, the video also sees the budding singer-songwriter open up about family, football, his current influences, as well as lifting the lid on what to expect from his eagerly anticipated debut album release Son Of The Smith – out 11 May 2018 via Xtra Mile Recordings.
This exclusive video was shot just hours before Seán took to the stage of the hallowed Shepherd’s Bush Empire earlier this year, while supporting Xtra Mile Recordings compadre Will Varley on his latest UK tour.
The video arrives as Seán prepares to go to back to his homeland with a series of Irish shows throughout this week that begin at Cork’s Brú Bar (6 March) and wind up in Belfast this weekend. Seán will then tackle an extensive run of UK and European dates over the coming months as he tours Son Of The Smith.
Giving us our first taster of the new album ahead, Seán also recently released the single ‘Off The Rails’. Recorded at SS2 Studios in Southend with labelmate Sam Duckworth (AKA Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.) and Jay Malhotra, Son Of The Smith will be released on Xtra Mile Recordings on 11 May 2018. Disarming in its scope, surprising in its erudite tackling of life’s challenges, and strong of voice with just a dab of laddish humour – the album is aural personification of Seán McGowan himself.
Will Varley has announced details of his 5th studio album, ‘Spirit Of Minnie’, released February 9, 2018 through Xtra Mile Recordings.
Following 2016’s much praised ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ and a sold out show at London’s Union Chapel, the new album marks a distinct change of direction for the singer songwriter, being the first time he has recorded with a full backing band. Produced by Cameron McVey (Massive Attack, Portishead, Neneh Cherry), the new album expands on the pared back musical palette of Varley’s previous sound, all the while retaining his gift for painterly, affirming and immediate lyric writing.
After a run of UK shows the album will come out on the same day he plays his biggest headline show to date at the iconic 02 Shepherds Bush Empire. Will is accompanying the announcement by releasing a brand new track from the album on Spotify and other digital platforms along with his entire back catalogue which, until now, could not be found on any streaming sites.
Aided by McVey’s nuanced, widescreen production and the warm cascading sound of his new band, ‘All Those Stars’ offers the perfect first glimpse into ‘Spirit Of Minnie’, straddling Will’s sound and style from past to present. Counting the likes of Billy Bragg, Valerie June and Frank Turner as his fans, and with tours scheduled across Europe and America, the young songwriter from Deal seems poised for a huge 2018.
Listen to the new track ‘All Those Stars’ below
‘Spirit Of Minnie’ Track Listing
1. All Those Stars
2. Seven Days
4. Breaking The Bread
6. Spirit Of Minnie
7. Let It Roll
If the time was ever ripe for a few protest songs it is now and Will Varley duly obliges on Kingsdown Sundown, his fourth full-length album. It isn’t all protest, however, and it certainly isn’t packed with political rantings. The songs are deep and thoughtful but when Will decides to tell it like it is he doesn’t hold back.
Musically it is deceptively simple, mostly just voice and acoustic guitar with some violin from Matt Tighe, percussion by Stewart Hughes and minimal electric guitar from producer Dave Hatton Jr. Two songs stand out immediately. The first is ‘To Build A Wall’ and I’m sure we all know what prompted that – “there’s many ways to build a wall” he sings. The second is the key track for me, ‘We Want Our Planet Back’. It says everything I want to scream at the world.
This may cause some controversy but there is so much of the young Bob Dylan in Will’s music. His voice isn’t “pretty” in the conventional sense and he sings in that lazy way that makes you think that his words are being sung straight from his head for the first time. It is supreme artistry that sounds like anything but artistry. Then there is the way he constructs his melodies, puts rhymes together and creates images. Take ‘One Last Look At The View’. It comes over as a song of the wilderness, a bit US road movie, until the line about a Premier Inn on the M25. ‘Something Is Breaking’ is really bleak in the same way that ‘Hard Rain’ is and ‘When She Wakes Up’ blends a love song with more of Will’s apocalyptic visions – “the revolution that you’ve been waiting for happened without you some years ago” is a chilling thought.
Kingsdown Sundown isn’t an easy album but it is so, so powerful, perfectly constructed to make the listener think hard about the world and our place in it.
Will Varley has reached an unstoppable velocity since signing with Xtra Mile Recordings in 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down as we announce fourth album Kingsdown Sundown out 4th November 2016.
With the follow-up to the stellar Postcards From Ursa Minor, an album that propelled Will into unexplored territory, return tours with The Proclaimers and unbelievable summer festival sets, he continues to build upon broken spirits with this set of almost unbearably raw songs. First track to be lifted from the album is ‘To Build A Wall’ – an unnervingly timely indictment of simplistic solutions to incredible complex problems on both sides of the pond.
Recorded underneath a pub by the sea in Deal, Kent as the waves roared outside, Kingsdown Sundown is a bleak and uncompromising critique of the human condition, journeying deep into our dreams, faults, regrets and politics. The songs are more visceral and uneasy than before, with fights in KFC descending into world wars, the all too real plight of refugees and the recent rise in hate crime. A collection of folk songs written over the course of the last year while travelling and touring – written on tour buses and trains, scribbled on the back of set lists and receipts – Will says “these are the most honest songs I’ve ever written and they represent new ground for me creatively. They may not be radio-friendly, or even “friendly” at all, but I’ve been wanting to make a record like this for a long time.”
The rest of the album is hazier, more spectral and a phantom of memories, dreams, and hopes. If there’s one song that haunts as much as it heals and warms the soul, it’s ‘Let Your Guard Down’ which sounds like it was sung deeply into the howling wind in defiance, in hope and fear. The most directly political song ‘We Want Our Planet Back’ feels strongly enough to strap on an electric guitar and strum over Will’s patient protest, but it indirectly lends its brooding power to ‘Too Late Too Soon’ which seems ready to crumple and break, a sandcastle made of a simmering mood. ‘Back To Hell’ could have come from any period in superstitious folk history, a tale of vague menace, mysticism and the underworld. Finally, ‘We’ll Keep Making Plans’ threatens to build to a crescendo, but instead lets us drift out into a mental sea where the sun is setting on what we knew in favour of the unknown, resolving to carry on, continuing to build our futures on shakier foundations. It’s somehow not dispiriting; it’s more driven by determination to allow sadness not to rule our lives, but be an important part of it.