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Folk singer Lewis Barfoot: ‘There’s a gentleness and a simplicity to folk music’

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Folk singer-songwriter Lewis Barfoot and Scottish multi-instrumentalist Elisabeth Flett are to present a new body of work that draws inspiration from nature and our relationship to it.

Lewis Barfoot
Lewis Barfoot

With original compositions and reinventions of traditional songs performed on voice, guitar, fiddle, viola, ukulele and loop pedal, Woods & Water is sure to appeal to folk music fans and nature lovers when it comes to Stapleford Granary.

“I’ve just released a single called Lullaby, which I co-wrote with a composer called Kerry Andrew,” says Lewis, speaking from her home in Cork. “I’ve got a new single coming out in July – a summery, upbeat song. It’s been on the backburner for years and I finally got the arrangement together and it sounds amazing, so I’m excited about that.”

The London-born multi-instrumentalist, who has been compared to the likes of Kate Rusby, Sandy Denny, Maíre Brennan and Julie Fowlis, has been collaborating with Elisabeth Flett for around four years.

“She initially joined me for the recording of my album, Glenaphuca [named after Lewis’ grandmother’s farm in east Cork], to do some fiddle,” recalls Lewis. “We got on so well that we stayed connected, even though we’d been living in different countries, and we toured the album last year around the UK, and then I left her and came back to Ireland for the Irish leg.

“This is our first commission to work as artists in equal standing; we’ve been asked to pull together a body of work in our relationship to nature – so we chose Woods & Water because that’s where we felt most affinity. This is a new endeavour for me; she’s got me doing things like changing the tuning of my guitar to accompany her! It’s opened up new ways of collaborating.”

Lewis believes that folk music is as loved today as it’s ever been. “I think because there’s a gentleness and a simplicity to the music but also to the storytelling; it takes us back to the older village community tradition of song-sharing storytelling that binds us.

“I think the music is really like an embrace for community, and this sort of music and the style in which I’m delivering it and sharing it, it’s like we’re all going on a journey together – and that is a really important thing to be sharing after this deep separation and disconnection during Covid.”

Lewis is working on a new album. “I’ve got the songs together,” she notes, “so I’m auditioning and collaborating with different musicians and hopefully we’ll get a few of the singles out before Christmas and release it next year.”

Lewis Barfoot
Lewis Barfoot

The singer also has a background in acting, having been to drama school. “That was my first foray into performance,” she says. Her first professional acting job was playing Macbeth opposite Andi Osho as Lady Macbeth in a spoof musical version at the Edinburgh Festival.

“We sold out, it was like a total Edinburgh sensation!” she laughs. “It was so goofy.” Lewis worked her way up the theatrical ranks in fringe, regional theatre, West End and international theatre. She also played Queen Isabel opposite Kevin Spacey in Richard II with the Old Vic’s first international tour.

By 2009, Lewis was writing songs in most productions she performed in, including the opening number for Cyrano which she toured for three months across America.

In 2013, she toured to 21 countries in 11 months with The Animals and Children Took to the Streets. “It was a total burnout and it was a little bit soul destroying,” remembers Lewis, “so I made a commitment to myself to write a song in every country. After that I went, ‘You know what? I’m not going to work as an actor anymore, I’ll focus on music’.”

Lewis Barfoot is to perform at Stapleford Granary, alongside Elisabeth Flett, on Saturday, June 25. Visit staplefordgranary.org.uk. For more on Lewis, go to lewisbarfoot.com.

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