Northampton singer-songwriter Keiron Farrow today releases his new EP, Roundabout Queen Eleanor. Have a listen to it below. New Boots speaks to him about the journey to here.
What did you grow up listening to?
Well, my folks were really into soul and also ska and reggae. My dad was a collector, so mainly their records; lots of Stevie Wonder, Jr Walker – The Temptations were an astonishing group to me. I was also a massive Glen Miller fan and I loved The Beach Boys. I was heavily into James Brown at 14, but it was my aunt lending me Sgt. Pepper when I was 16 that really opened up the world of music making for me.
Give us a bit of background to your musical adventures that led you to now…
I started playing guitar two months before I turned 17, so quite late. But then I played pretty much every day for the next two years – even taking my guitar to work. I got a lot of stick from my mates and whatnot, who where mainly into rave music; whilst I was devouring everything I could get hold of in Daventry Library: from Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, to Led Zeppelin, Bert Jansch and Bob Dylan. Then I played in local bands, started writing my own songs and kinda meandered along. I’d become quite jaded with playing in a band, trying to ‘make it.’ I’d started getting very serious about acoustic guitar after becoming obsessed with Nick Drake. I figured that playing solo would be the best way forward for me. I managed to establish myself fairly well in Northampton in the noughties as ‘The Bugs’ and played some great gigs, did some radio. Then other things – children, poetry, work – started to pull me in other directions. I got the urge again once my lad started school. I started a band, played some gigs, got frustrated with having to organise everything and everyone and decided to go out on my own again, so I guess I’ve come full circle.
This Brit folk/folk baroque style of music has fallen from favour, but it’s hard to imagine why. What led you to it?
Honestly, I don’t know what’s ‘trending’, as the kids might say! So whilst there are certainly influences I just sit down with my guitar as much as possible and enjoy doing whatever I want musically. To paraphrase Charles Mingus ‘Its the place I’m most free’. My style is basically me not being good enough to play or sing like the musicians I admire!
What’s the most personal song of the collection? Danny is about your boy, yes…? And the famous Eleanor Cross statue in town inspired you too?
I would say they all are really. I was going through a lot when they were written: ‘Danny’ is about my son and I dealing with being apart from each other after his mum and I separated. ‘What Lurks’ – mental illness. ‘No Harm’ about the trials of a 20th Century bloke trying to connect in the social media age. ‘The Quickening’ – falling in love again and being real. The title track, ‘Roundabout Queen Eleanor’, was really just a guitar motif that I nicked from Bert Jansch and developed. I used to live near the Cross and being a Northampton native wanted to tie in some way with the landscape. I think its a travesty that Northampton’s historical and cultural impact has been neglected so badly since, in many ways, the English Civil War.
How was playing at the Marburg edition of Twinfest?
It was magical – the town scenery itself is straight out of a fairy tale – apt as ‘The Bothers Grimm’ were denizens. I met so many fascinating, talented, warm-hearted people. There was definitely a vibe that permeated the whole week – love and friendship basically, and the crowds and venues were so supportive – no studied cool whatsoever. I still feel very humbled that I was considered worthy of a place on the bill. The only drawback was not being able to see some of the other artists I wanted to, because I was already on stage somewhere else! Having said that, seeing Sarpa Salpa play to 1500 people at KFZ was brilliant. Like an old-school Roadmender gig!
Do you enjoy playing live? What’s your take on the Northants singer-songwriter scene?
I love nothing more than playing live. This EP was recorded live in my dining room, all first takes; Ben Jennings did his bass afterwards as he was really buzzing to add some lines. The majority of music I listen to was recorded with all the players together on the floor going for it – Blue Note Jazz, for example. I just want to play live as much as possible. In terms of the Northants scene, there are some ridiculously talented people. I love what Charlotte Carpenter is doing. Only last week, I saw a guy – Blood Moon at The Garibaldi. Corrine Lucy – she’s such a beautiful singer, a great writer and a lovely down to earth human being. Her drive to create music is on a par with William Blake’s illuminated works and epic poetry. What Northants seems to lack are venues which are receptive to what I would call the ‘roots’ side of things: folk, jazz, blues and singer-songwriters. Despite being able to spin 360 and fall into a coffee shop in Northampton we do not have a ‘coffee shop culture’, where traditionally players of our ilk congregate.
Tell us your upcoming gigs. What you up to for the rest of 2018?
I’m doing a turn as part of a triple header called ‘Music in Rugby’ tonight [March 30th], which will be ace. Then the Harmonics Collective night in Corby on April 27th , followed by Vintage Retreat’s third Vegan Festival on April 28th. As for the rest of 2018, I’d like to build on what I’ve achieved over the last year and hopefully connect with more listeners. I’d like to put on gigs locally and bring together more solo performers – see where that goes.