Talking Heads

26 March 2014 | 10:37 am | Dylan Stewart

"My music is more about others, it’s more about people, it’s more about preserving heritage and also keeping in tune with tradition."

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Choosing a church in the English countryside inside which to record an album might not seem as ground-breaking as it once was, but as Seth Lakeman regales, that doesn't necessarily mean that the process was straightforward. “Sundays were off,” he laughs. “Plus, the people of North Tamerton [the small hamlet Lakeman chose as the location for recording latest album, Word Of Mouth] were gearing up for their annual fete, so they had meetings in the church every Tuesday night, not to mention bell-ringing practice on Wednesdays.”

Over the previous two years, Lakeman interviewed over 100 people from around the UK and these interviews informed the album's contents. “I spent a long time going all over the place,” he says. “Festivals, libraries, pubs, clubs, even prisons; I spoke with travellers, poets and workers on the dockyards. It was a mammoth task, but I enjoyed it. I like chatting to people.”

The results can not only be heard on Word Of Mouth's 15 tracks, but also on a second disc, where the original interviews – recorded on Lakeman's trusty dictaphone – are laid bare. “You can sit there and listen to the songs in instrumental form and hear the interviewees telling their own stories. That's the kind of poignancy that I think this record has, and I hope listeners appreciate it.”

Although he sits near the top of the tree when it comes to English folk music, Lakeman is careful when it comes to comparisons with other 'folk' musicians du jour. “I think the songwriters of The Lumineers and Marcus Mumford are amazing songwriters and they are singer-songwriters like me, but I guess I write less introspectively and more subjectively than those other guys. [I'm] looking out – my music is more about others, it's more about people, it's more about preserving heritage and also keeping in tune with tradition.

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“Sound-wise, acoustically, there are obviously similarities, but no matter our differences it's great that folk music's having such resurgence.”

When he returns to Australia for the third time, Lakeman is looking forward to sharing the songs – and, more importantly, the stories – of Word Of Mouth with audiences. He's also hoping to run into someone else. “I met quite a big artist last time I was out there, Kate Miller-Heidke. Although she's a different style of artist, she sang on the single version of one of the songs from Word Of Mouth (Labour She Calls Home). I think we're going to release that at some point while we're in Australia. I know she's got a new record… so it would be cool to meet up with her and have a sing.”