Lady Maisery Interview

Ahead of their appearance at Priddy Folk Festival 2016, Lady Maisery took time out to talk about their amazing sound and choice of material and what they have in store.

The trio – Hannah James, accordion, Hazel Askew, harp and concertina, and Rowan Rheingans, fiddle and banjo – are all well-know on the UK folk scene.

Hannah appeared at Priddy a few years ago with her former band Kerfuffle and performs as a duo with Bellowhead/Leveret fiddler Sam Sweeney.

Hazel Askew is also no stranger to Priddy having played in 2009 with The Askew Sisters. She also performs with The Artisans.
Rowan Rheingans, meanwhile, is currently playing with Nancy Kerr and is well known for her work with Fidola and The Rheingans Sisters.

Lady Maisery’s most recent album, Mayday was a stunner and released in 2013 to ecstatic reviews. We caught up with Hannah.
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The three of you are all well-known for your work in other groups so how did Lady Maisery come about?

We all wanted to make a female vocal trio which explored the use of voices as instruments and eventually we found each other!

All three of you are highly accomplished musicians but on Mayday the emphasis seems to be on creating some absolutely beautiful vocal harmonies. Is that the side of folk you like exploring?

This group has always focused on vocal harmony singing, that’s our main interest. We’ve always had an interest in songs, both traditional and newly written, which discuss and highlight social issues and injustices, I think Mayday was particularly focused on that. In our forthcoming album, Cycle, we have spent more time exploring the different textures we can create with all the instruments we play, and I think it’s generally a bit more uplifting, so I think it’s evolved again!

mayday-274x274Mayday sounds very traditional – maybe it’s the instrumentation or the harmonies, or both. Was that what you were after or did it just come naturally?

We’ve never set out to sound like anything particularly. I suppose with the combination of our styles and musical interest, we’ve settled on a sound. I think it will continue to evolve as we do.

And there’s some social comment too. Is that an important part of Lady Maisery?

Yes, Definitely. We like songs that say something! We are part of a tradition which has always commented on what’s happening around us and spoken up for normal people, we think it’s important to keep that going and keep adding to the repertoire.

Also on Mayday you have some inspired choices of material including Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work. What led you to that song?

We just loved it! We really liked the way that it looks at the relationship between a man and a woman from the man’s perspective as he watches her about to go through a major life event, hoping for the best but ultimately powerless to help.
We released this as a single for International Women’s Day to raise money for the End Violence Against Women coalition. At the time they were running a campaign for better relationship education in schools so we thought it was an appropriate song.

How have you gone down with audiences when you have played overseas?

We haven’t done much overseas stuff yet, we had some lovely gigs in the south of France last year which went down really well, we seemed to attract a younger crowd out there too! We were also in Kansas City in January for a big showcasing event called the Folk Alliance, the gigs there went really well and the audiences seemed to respond really well, specially to the onstage banter! I think we were milking our British charm!

And finally we are really looking forward to seeing you at Priddy. What can we expect? Any surprises?

We’ll be performing lots of new songs from our forthcoming album and Hazel will be playing her brand new harp!