While some folk music floors listeners with its simplicity, other folk music does so with its intricacy. Leveret’s music is an example of the latter; gorgeously arranged, warming folk music that affirms one’s beliefs in the power of acoustic instruments and the joys of communal playing. Andy Cutting, melodeon player with the fantastic trio, knows all about the finer points of folk music, having worked as a musician for decades, crafted his own unique box and composed several of the tracks that feature on the group’s new record. Ahead of their show at Band on the Wall on 5th October, we spoke to Andy about the band’s spontaneous approach to arrangement, his thoughts on the importance of folk music and the strangest instruments he has played.
You’ve played with Martin Simpson for the best part of a decade now and he describes the sound of Leveret as ‘exquisite’. What do you feel might endear Simpson fans to the band and has he had direct involvement with the group at any point?
As with Martin’s music, a Leveret concert is about focus and exploring the music on many levels. The deeper you listen the more there is to hear. We don’t have arrangements so every time we play, it is a unique performance. Up to now we haven’t worked with Martin.
Your approach to spontaneous arrangement is very refreshing and must require the upmost musical understanding between yourself, Sam and Rob. How did you first settle upon this idea as a group, was it always the norm when you sat down to rehearse or a decision you made to shape your live shows?
We were all playing in the same band with Singer Fay Hield and at her concerts we would always play a couple of tune sets. Sam and Rob had found a few tunes in manuscript books and we thought is would be good to play them. During one tour we decided that this music was so good that we should play some more. The decision not to arrange anything was obvious to us. We have all worked in bands with strict arrangements and felt that once learnt it really constricted the music and it felt far more natural to let the music, situation and mood dictate how we played it
You’ve a new LP entitled Inventions on the way, what can you tell us about the writing, arrangement and production of the record? Was anything you did completely new to you on this project?
The previous two albums had mostly been made up of old tunes that Sam and Rob had found so with Inventions, we challenged ourselves to write the whole record. We recorded it at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio. We spent three days shut away there and are very happy with the result. As with the previous records we played in a triangle, close together, facing each other and all the tracks were recorded live with no overdubs or editing. That rather puts the pressure on us but it is what we do live.
You’ve played with and for some remarkable people; the astonishing vocalist Kate Rusby, even the founding Humblebum Billy Connolly on his Musical Tour of New Zealand album. Who have been your favourite or most willing collaborators over the years?
I have been lucky to work and record with so many different musicians over the years and mostly they have been great experiences. One of the most recent recording sessions I did was with Roger Daltrey. On one track we were working out a song with Roger, a keyboard player and myself. I was playing away and suddenly I thought, blimey that’s Roger Daltrey singing. I’m so glad I practiced. I think I’ll remember that for a long time.
Folk music has an ageless quality and though often adapted, seems not to suffer musical trends or depreciate with the changes in popular taste. What are your thoughts on folk music and what endears it to you, as a listener and performer?
Folk music has been the soundtrack to my life. I love other music as well but in the right hands it is our/everyone’s music and it is honest and not contrived for commercial gain. I also love it’s perceived simplicity.
Most musicians find they can turn their hand to a few instruments; what’s the oddest instrument you’ve had the pleasure of playing and is it one we hear you use with Leveret, either live or on the new LP?
I own a hurdy gurdy which is great fun and a real challenge to play. I’m pretty terrible on it but I’m not going to get better if I don’t practice. I won’t be playing it live any time soon.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017 and what is getting you excited in music at the moment?
I’m really looking forward to the Leveret UK tour and going to Mallorca to play The whole of Prodigal Son with Martin Simpson at the end of October. Oh and next years 40th anniversary gigs with Blowzabella.