The music world is full of artists with talent but without publicity taking into account the monopoly of the conglomerates in the field. It is also full of people who think that original music has died or that the singer/songerwriter of folk music no longer exists.
I have had the honour to interview many artists as proof that this is not the case. One example is the group from Easton On The Hill in Stamford, England called the Lyin Scotsmen. Fi Cowan who is one of the singers from the group has been kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to be interviewed.
1. How was the Lyin Scotsmen formed?
John was contacting every online band-matchmaking website possible to find people who might form a new band with him. He was already in a very successful covers band but wanted to try something new. I hosted a live music listings website, and when I saw his email I immediately answered: “I’ll put the word out for you… but how about hiring me anyway?” We arranged to meet in a pub near me, where I was running a monthly folk music session, so he could give me a CD of the music he thought the new band might play. I got there early, and it turned out the owners knew John from their previous pub and were full of praise! John and I liked each other right away, and that’s how the band was born.
2. In the Lyin Scotsmen, there are no egos. How is that possible?
Every band I know has the same problem: someone has to be in charge, who thinks the band is all about him/her, and everyone else has to either fit around their vision or leave the band. John and I started Lying Scotsman with the same idea: if ONE of us doesn’t like a song, we won’t do it. Anyone else who joins the band needs to ‘get’ that idea … and many very talented musicians we’ve tried playing with don’t get it. In emergencies, we can function as a 2-piece band … and even though it means I have to work REALLY hard playing guitar and remembering all the words, that is more fun for us than me only having to sing and us having harmonies back in the vocals again. If it’s not fun, we won’t do it. That’s our mission statement … and it has no wriggle room for anyone with a showbiz ego.
3. Where have you toured?
We have played in a castle (Belvoir Castle in Lincolnshire); opened a beer garden (the Oak at Easton-on-the-Hill near Stamford, Lincs); raised money for an air ambulance (in the Fens… eeek!); and twice wowed both Bournemouth and the internet with interactive concerts at the Cransley Hotel. I have plans for a tour of the north of England and the Scottish borders, where I know we can camp on friends’ sofas, and we are also appearing at a moveable punk festival feast which this August will be near Norwich http://www.blythpower.co.uk/ashes/index.htm … I’m not a punk (John is) but this is my favourite gig of any year. Come along! Party with us!!!
4. Have you considered touring other parts of the world?
John is terrified of flying, and isn’t in this for the money … hmmm… so there would need to be good punky anarchistic reasons to enduce him to agree to such a thing. I will play anywhere (and with anyone) that asks me. These two concepts aren’t incompatible.. if you talk to ME about it! I would love to play in Florida, where Roberto leads the LS Fanclub, and also Brazil where a GP called José is our biggest fan. Truth is, any good cause – such as Water Aid, or Cola Aid, or Stop Being Horrid To Animals, that asks nicely would get us out of the UK and out there playing to you in person!
5. How did “The Hedgehog Song” come into being?
As well as singing with John, I sing comedy songs with a folk singer called Jan. We call ourselves the Jam Tarts. She told me about the books of Terry Pratchett (‘Disc World’) and a character in his novels called Nanny Og. Nanny would get tipsy, then climb up on a table and sing rude songs. The Pratchett books didn’t detail the songs… but in 1982 someone called Heather Wood wrote one, and put it on the internet where dirty-minded persons like Jan and me could find it! I set it to a tune I knew already, and BANG! the most popular and most requested song in our repertoire was born. I confess, there is no buzz like getting a room full of strangers to sing a chorus with the word ‘bugger’ at the top of their voices… I am a very bad person. Hee hee!
6. What have been your musical inspirations and how were you able to form your own style based on your inspirations yet independent from them?
John is a true punk and adores Crass, Green Day, Half Man Half Biscuit, and some bands I don’t quite recognise as music. I worship at the feet of Whitesnake, Rainbow and other offshoots of Deep Purple. And quite like folk music. Yet, strangely, we find lots of music to like in common! We are in serious danger of turning into a Chumbawamba/Fleetwood Mac/Waterboys/Blyth Power tribute band.
7. What was the inspiration behind “Laughter In The Time Of War”?
Harmony harmony harmony. At the time we recorded that track, we had a hugely talented guitar player who could also sing harmony … John and I both feel strongly that war is nearly always the totally wrong option, and in the case of Iraq WAS the wrong option. That’s where the video stuff came from. The live video of us playing was filmed in my garden on a day when we tried recording with a folk fiddle player called Pete whom I knew from my monthly folk sessions .. Pete and the guitar player we had at that time disagreed about absolutely everything … but the worst thing was, John kept making me giggle. And when I start laughing, that’s it – game off! Ideally, if you are ever tempted to book us, please put a large potted plant between me and John so he can’t reduce me to a hyperventilating heap.
8. What was the idea behind the CD “All Folked Up”?
We wanted to give people a sampler of the kind of music we do. That’s it!
9. Have you recorded or are considering recording future CD’s?
Oh yes! We have all sorts of clever names in mind too. Be patient….!
10. What is your advice for those who want to go into the music business?
Rehearse lots, play live whenever you get the chance, only play with people you really really like. Don’t agree to the first record deal you’re offered – find out if you can afford to do it yourselves and keep the profits. There are loads of live music sessions (mic’d up and acoustic) where you can try out in front of kindly audiences. Research your area of the UK at http://www.east-northantsonline.co.uk/livemusiclistings.
11. Do you have any words for your audience?
You can bugger the bear if you do it with care….
Thank you for your time during the interview and best wishes from Florida.