The band from the South-West spent last year creating their second studio album, partially funded by a creative bursary from the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Now they’re back on the road, touring a new set of theatrical folk songs. We asked Heg Brignall herself to tell us more…
I take a lot of inspiration from myths, legend and folklore. Everything in life has a story, and I enjoy finding parallels in fairy tales and other stories to my own life. My grandparents used to tell me a lot of stories and I found it fascinating to hear what their lives entailed. It’s lovely to be able to use stories and create music out of them; fairy tales in particular have such vivid imagery and that really works with the dramatic music I write. I love to get lost in a story and imagine different worlds and different beings.
What fascinates me about myths and legends is that we are still telling each other these stories today. Modern-day myths – or conspiracies – still have us entranced and drawn in. I’ve focussed a bit on these stories in the new material I’ve been writing. One song is about the story of the hollow earth; a world inside our world. I just love imagining what that world would be like and who would live there.
I think English folk in particular interests me because of my own family history. I love hearing mining songs, particularly from the North East, because of the history of miners in my family. Hearing those songs is like having a connection to my ancestry. I also enjoy hearing stories and folklore from near where I live – two of my new songs are based on stories from Bristol, including one about the local legend of a mysterious noise called ‘the hum’. Nobody can identify its origin.
I usually wait for a story to find me; for something to jump out at me and start inspiring a song. Sometimes I find a story which moves me or has a connection with me in some way, and other times I’ll read something and I think ‘imagine if that were real!’. It’s lovely to get lost in different worlds, and let that feed into the music. Often the stories I write songs about have personal threads running through them. Some of my new material has been less story-based and more self-reflective – allowing personal themes explicitly into my music is definitely more exposing, but I’ve enjoyed it.
The funding I received from EFDSS has been so helpful. It allowed us to explore and develop material for this new album. It’s so hard to find money and time to make music, especially when you’re working with a full band.
Venues have such an impact on our set. Because of the theatrical nature of the music, it seems to thrive in atmospheric venues like churches and theatre spaces. Some of the impact can be lost in pub spaces for example, but it’s all about how you set up the performance. I find time of day and the season can affect the performance too. We chose to launch our first album in the autumn, close to Halloween. We performed in a beautiful venue called Trinity in Bristol with huge stained glass windows behind us. It really enhanced the performance. It's a complete honour playing at Cecil Sharp House. Being slightly on the margins of the traditional folk scene, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share our theatrical music and stories in a venue that is so at the heart of the English folk world.
What can you expect from our performance? Expect to be transported! Each song takes you into a world which captures your imagination. We will be playing songs from our first album, which was inspired by Scottish folklore and tells the story of a witch who ends the world. The new songs are individual stories which bring that same sense of atmosphere and drama; from mysterious sounds deep in the ground in Bristol to a plot to kill a princess! We always try to give our live shows an element of theatre and we hope you’ll enjoy our new stories.
Heg & the Wolf Chorus play at Cecil Sharp House on Wednesday 2 October.