We had the pleasure of having Elspeth play during our very first t'ARTopia event, and now her 10th CD is coming out. Mercy Me is a delicious ethereal blend old and new folk songs, a siren’s call for natural cycles and ancient tales.
Hello Elspeth! We are so happy to feature you again in t'ART. Congratulations on the new album. How would you describe the sounds of 'Mercy Me'?
Thank you! Thanks for having me. The album I would describe mood-wise as: triumphant, dark, upbeat, permeating, earthy, soaring, upfront. Genre-wise I would say: alt country, twisted trad folk, drones.
You are a folk musician, and as so you are part of centuries of tradition in spoken word and song. As a non-English person, I didn’t really know anything about folk before I met you. Can you tell us what folk music means for you?
It’s music that’s built for taking part in - the repetition, the simplicity of the structure, the universal themes. Like a lot of people I’ve come to folk from punk music which has a similar ethos. There’s a big emphasis on creatively being and expressing yourself as an individual within a creative community.
I know that you are also part of a Morris dancing group. Do you feel like the music you make permeates other areas of your life?
Yes for sure. My identity is tied up with being a musician and songwriter so it comes into most things I do and relationships I form. The Morris side is called Blackthorn and we perform around Herefordshire, at sacred sites and bigger ticketed events such as Wassails and festivals. I joined when I was feeling disillusioned with playing music and it’s buoyed me up enough to keep going. It’s a family I’m grateful to be part of.
The music from 'Mercy Me' feels very intimate, very close. You have carefully selected a few instruments and layered 2 or 3 voices, which very much feels like someone singing to you around a fire in a Herefordshire forest. How does it feel so sing such intimate music to strangers at gigs?
It feels weird. There’s a few songs I don’t play live at certain gigs because it feels too much. I have a setlist and an idea of what I feel like putting across at each show and then it gets changed around according to the vibe of the room. I feel it’s part of the duty of a performer to be vulnerable without expecting vulnerability in return so I keep that in mind and try not to hold back, but at the same time you can’t give anything that people aren’t ready to receive.
You are also an accomplished painter. Some of the songs bring up some vivid visuals for me, like 'Turn Worm' which sounds like a pile of dreaming puppies, or a burrow hidden under soft earth. Do you plan to create art based on the songs?
No specific plans but it often happens that my songs and art feed into each other. I’m really interested in exploring textiles at the moment but it means getting to grips properly with the sewing machine. I’m hoping to make time for this on these long winter nights. The anti-patriarchy vibe of the album would translate well into textiles, in a way of reclaiming so-called feminine crafts. That sounds like it’s all to do with the concept but it’s just a way of articulating the more instinctual gut feeling I have about wanting to explore cloth and thread and sewing and weaving.
What would be the ideal setting for someone to listen to 'Mercy Me'?
On big comfortable headphones during a train journey through a wild-ish landscape - maybe Wales or Scotland.
Do you have any live dates coming up where we can hear the songs in the flesh?
Yes! I’m in the middle of booking shows for next year but the confirmed dates so far are:
31st March - The Triangle, Shipley
2nd April - Bishops House, Sheffield
24th April - The Prince Albert, Stroud
25th April - venue TBA, Bishops Castle
Weekend of 14th - 16th July - Seren Folk Festival, Brecon
Apart from Seren Festival, those dates will be supporting the fantastic banjo player Jacken Elswyth who will be promoting her record Six Static Scenes.
Elspeth Anne is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist, based on the Welsh borders. Musically she weaves folk, punk and country influences into a dark cloth of voice-focused psych-drone-chants. In her art the same themes come through in a different form - the power of nature, healing, feeling, supernatural matters, pain and growth. 'Mercy Me' is her third album.