bright young folk

Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman on touring & reflecting on Hidden People

Posted by Lucy Houlden on 02 July 2013

Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman have been busy since the release of their third album, Hidden People, in 2012. Bright Young Folk caught up with them just before they headed off on a busy summer of touring.

So, you’ve had about a year now since your latest album, Hidden People, was released. How has the last year of promoting it been, and how do you feel it’s been received?
Sean: So far it’s all been very positive and gratifying. Our intention was to release Hidden People as a platform to be able to get back to the folk scene with songs and a style that reflected us as a couple, illustrating our combined tastes and influences. We think it works pretty well in that respect. Promoting it has been good fun but things have changed so much with the advent of social media and internet PR. It’s hard to maintain any mystery about oneselves any more, which is kind of a shame I feel.

There was a 9 year gap between Hidden People and the album which preceded it - do you think that having a break from recording helped you to come back refreshed?
Sean: Well, it wasn’t as if we were both musically idle through those years. I was busy as hell with Seth, as well as producing other bands, and Kathryn was still singing, guesting and sessioning with all sorts of folks here and there. The fact I was making so many big-budget records and working outside of the core folk scene certainly helped me refine my record-making skills and keep a broad musical perspective so that was an area that ’Hidden People’ really benefited from.
Kathryn: I certainly felt a new energy and confidence in those years spent away from performing. As I’ve got older I’ve become less worried about what other people think and felt able to showcase self-penned material that I wouldn’t have dared to when I was younger.

Did it alter your approach in any way?
Sean: Only in that so much time had gone by since the last duo records we didn’t feel any pressure finish the record. We had some really great people encouraging us to do it though. Otherwise we just get so darn cosy down here in Devon.
Kathryn: Instead of having a set three week recording period where everything had to be finished, we had the luxury of taking our time - doing a bit of recording here & there, having a break before coming back with fresh ears. It’s easier to be less obsessive about your music and more objective about what does and doesn’t work.

You were recently awarded the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards trophy for Best Duo. What did it mean to you both to have your achievements recognised in this way? Has anything changed for you since getting this recognition?
Sean:It’s certainly nice to be recognised but I’m personally not a huge believer in awards. Lets remember awards ceremonies are usually basically a PR tool. There is method to their madness. I guess that if anything, since winning Best Duo we have had a few more people coming to check out our shows to see what we are about. Hopefully most of them will come back for a repeat performance sometime.

We see you’re about to embark on tour - are you excited to get back on the road again?
Sean: The road never seems to end for me. I still love it!
Kathryn: I do enjoy touring again. I had a long time away from it, followed by a few random gigs. Last November was the first real tour I’d done in ages and it was so good to get out there and reconnect with an audience.

What do you like most about touring?
Kathryn: Meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Quite a lot of our songs tend to have a sad / story vibe to them so I know I’ve had a good gig if I’ve made someone feel a bit emotional! it’s nice to feel you’ve made a connection with someone.

A lot of your tour dates are festivals. What do you enjoy about playing at festivals in particular?
Sean: A good festival is like a fantasy. It takes you right away from real life for a while. I think fundamentally that’s why they are so popular with people. So much to do, so little time. Probably the best thing for us is the same as the punters, getting to see great other acts and making discoveries.

What’s next for Roberts and Lakeman? Will there be another other nine year gap or can we look forward to another new album on the horizon soon?
Sean: We are already road testing quite a lot of new material, so things are definitely heading the way of a new album, but we are fortunate to be in a position where we can choose to do it at a time that is right for us, not the record company or PR people.
Kathryn: It won’t be as long, but as before we don’t feel pressured into rushing out another album until we are 100% happy with the material. As before, we have the luxury of recording as and when we feel like it , plus I have a resident producer who will work for free in exchange for a few of his favourite meals!

You can catch Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman on the following dates until the end of 2013:

05 July 2013 - Sark Folk Festival
15 July 2013 - Nettlebed Folk Club
19 July 2013 - Dartmoor Chagstock Festival
20 July 2013 - Warrington Music Festival
25 July 2013 - Cambridge Folk Festival
26 July 2013 - Newbury Corn Exchange
27 July 2013 - Village Pump Folk Festival
28 July 2013 - Warwick Folk Festival
03 August 2013 - Folk At the Hall, Trelawnyd
09 August 2013 - Cropredy Festival
23-24 August 2013 - Tonder Festival, Denmark
30 August 2013 - Lyme Folk Weekend
27 September 2013 - The Barbican Theatre, Plymouth
28 September 2013 - Looe Music Festival
25 Ocotober 2013 - The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury
26 Ocotober 2013 - The Glee Club, Nottingham
29 Ocotober 2013 - Sheffield Greystones
30 Ocotober 2013 - Liverpool Philharmonic
01 November 2013 - Pound Arts Centre, Corsham
02 November 2013 - EVI Cultural Centre, Ebbw Vale
03 November 2013 - Chapel Arts, Bath
09 November 2013 - The Key Theatre, Peterborough
10 November 2013 - The Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham
13 November 2013 - Willows Folk Club, Kirkham
14 November 2013 - Dorchester Arts Centre
15 November 2013 - Forest Arts Centre, New Milton
16 November 2013 - Rugby Roots
17 November 2013 - St. George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth
18 November 2013 - The Junction, Cambridge
19 November 2013 - Dartford Folk Club
20 November 2013 - Applegarth Farm, Grayshott
21 November 2013 - St. Pancras Old Church, London
22 November 2013 - Salisbury Arts Centre
23 November 2013 - The Acorn, Penzance
24 November 2013 - Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter

See all of Bright Young Folk's text interviews.