Interview: Seth Lakeman's brother Sean on his rise to folk fame
THE Lakeman family's collective mantelpiece must be in need of scaffolding, following their acquisition of yet another prestigious folk award last week.
The latest comes for not for Seth, the youngest of the three Lakeman brothers, but for elder brother Sean, who together with his wife Kathryn Roberts, scooped the BBC 2 Folk Award for best duo.
Sean's guitar playing and production skills have been key to the success of Seth's glittering folk career to date and Sean will be off to Australia to perform as part of Seth's band again next month. But recently Sean and Kathryn have managed to find time to produce their own album, which has received rave reviews and prompted their first tour as a duo for years.
Hidden People, an album of all-original material penned by Sean and Kathryn, is an epic masterpiece specialising in dark, brooding stories of tragedy and the supernatural.
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Kathryn's top track is Huldra, a mystical song about woodland-dwelling women who lure men into their forest, while Sean's particular favourite is Oxford NY:
"I really like the way it turned out; it's dark and eerie, not uber folky but a bit rocky with lots of textures and a rare guitar solo!"
The album was recorded in the basement studio in the couple's Horrabridge home:
"We have a good song-writing relationship," says Sean. "Kathryn's great at coming up with ideas and lyrics and my strength is fleshing them out – taking small things and making them bigger is where I contribute."
In fact, Sean is in possession of a pair of 'golden ears' which can hear precisely what is required where, which is why he's in such great demand as a producer. He's twiddled knobs for a variety of bands, including The Levellers.
He's also a fine guitarist, which together with Kathryn's fabulous vocal delivery – she won BBC Young Folk Singer a few years back – speaks volumes for the quality of the sound they make.
Sean says that after receiving the award at a high-profile ceremony in Glasgow last week, gig offers are flooding in:
"We've already had more offers of gigs and festivals than we can probably handle," says Sean, "because we are very careful to balance playing festivals with our home life."
The couple have twin five-year-old-daughters who take the fact that they come from a family of folk royalty very much in their stride:
"They're so used to seeing Uncle Seth on the telly, they didn't think it was particularly unusual to see us on TV," says Sean.
At the same Sean and Kathryn don't want to stop doing folk clubs and village halls which are the lifeblood of the folk scene. In fact Sean is so passionate about their importance that he thanked unsung promoters at these places in his acceptance speech in Glasgow:
"Over the years we have all plied our trade in these modest venues. They form the backbone of the UK folk network, but they're often taken for granted. Without them the likes of Seth and Bellowhead wouldn't exist."
That said, despite playing a sublime support show for Seth at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth last year, Sean and Kathryn are having problems finding a suitable venue in their home city in which to perform in their own right.
"We're really keen to get a home show, even if we have to self promote, as we feel we owe it to all local supporters."
At the moment, the closest they'll be playing to home will be at the Calstock Arts Centre on April 27.