Folk singer Seth Lakeman continues to Make His Mark
West Country folk favourite Seth Lakeman is set to release his new album Make Your Mark on November 19. Before then, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist will be stopping off at the Cambridge Corn Exchange as part of his Freedom Fields tour, where he will perform his gold-selling album of the same name in its entirety.
The tour, which kicked off last night (Tuesday, November 2) down Seth’s neck of the woods in Plymouth, is to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Freedom Fields – though expect to also hear songs from the artist’s long and successful career at the forefront of the new British folk movement.
Freedom Fields helped Seth build on his traditional cult following but found him a whole new audience. He was named Folk Singer of the Year, and the LP was named Album of the Year, at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2007.
Written during his enforced 18 months off the road, Make Your Mark – Seth’s 11th studio album – boasts 14 powerful new songs including the first single, Higher We Aspire. Recorded at Middle Farm Studios in Devon earlier this year and produced by Seth himself, the album is being released on his own label, Honour Oak Records.
Inspiration for the songs came from a range of subjects – from the environment, to love, death and self-belief. Seth, who was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2005 for his album Kitty Jay, spoke to the Cambridge Independent while out walking his dog in the autumn sunshine.
He reveals that the new album was recorded at the end of April in four days, not far from where he lives. “We recorded 18 songs, which were whittled down to 14, and we’re really happy with the result,” says Seth, 44, “I feel there was a real magic in the studio.”
The songs for the project were all written during lockdown. “In that first six months, when we were all told to stop what we were doing, I was enjoying the space, time and the sort of balmy summer we were all having then...” recalls Seth, who has performed in Cambridge, at different venues, many times over the years, appearing at the Folk Festival for the first time at the age of 17.
“I wrote a lot of songs – probably 30 or more, so I was quite hyperactive.”
As he was so busy with songwriting, did Seth miss playing live? “Do you know what, the first half I didn’t miss it,” he admits. “I quite liked having the space, the time... some writers need a period of time where they’re staring at a wall or out into a lovely view – just having that time to let the thoughts wander, and I certainly had the time to do that...
“But then I definitely missed it in the second half of it all because it went on too long. The circuit was broken, if you like; it felt strange to write a bunch of songs, not be able to record them and not be able to sing them in front of people – or just sing in front of people in general. That was something I found quite difficult actually.”
Seth notes that Hollow, the opening track of the new album, was influenced by the pandemic. “It comes in with ‘Did you hear the final warning, too late too loud?’,” he says. “It’s almost attacking the government, attacking those people who were ignoring the obvious signs. So there are certainly songs that are inspired by that.
“Other things are nature... and I guess a lot of people did delve into themselves and think about life – I’m middle aged now – mortality... it becomes a bit more introspective.”
Musicians who played on Make Your Mark include long-time bassist Ben Nicholls, who has toured the world with Seth since the early days, Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus) on bouzouki, banjo and mandolin, Plymouth-based musician Alex Hart, who added her sublime backing vocals, and Toby Kearney, principal percussionist at the Birmingham Conservatoire, on drums.
On the title, Seth, a father of three young children, says: “It’s more about the universal theme that it’s not where you come from, it’s not how much you’ve got, it’s not who you’re friends with – that’s not what’s important, it’s what you do next, it’s who you are. It’s trying to make that statement.”
He adds that the “almost menacing” cover image “suits the music”, noting that the positive, “feel-good” songs are “wrapped around in this quite insecure, introspective, almost lost soul.”
To also celebrate the 15th anniversary of Freedom Fields, a deluxe reissue of the album on CD and vinyl was released last Friday (November 5). It can be ordered at https://smarturl.it/sethlakeman-p. The new album, Mark Your Mark, will follow on November 19.