Interview and review with Albion Magazine

Ange Hardy
Bare Foot Folk
Story Records

Interviewed below, Ange Hardy is a new name who has been making real waves on the folk scene, and this, her second album, shows why. From the start the listener is pulled into Hardy's world. She is a well-travelled and intelligent storyteller with a beguiling voice and tremendous musical charm. All the tracks are self-penned and at times autobiographical, at others allegorical, but in each case the result is so convincing that any of them could have tumbled out of the trad repertoire. The album is full of beautiful vocal harmonies, moving deftly from the upbeat to ballads like Forlorn Land or the lullaby Stop Your Crying Son, with some tongue-in-cheek word play on the great Crafty Father John. This breathtaking collection of contemporary and personal folk songs can stand alongside anything by Kate Rusby or Kathryn Roberts. It has proved to be an album to which I've returned time and again.

"This breathtaking collection of contemporary and personal folk songs can stand alongside anything by Kate Rusby or Kathryn Roberts"

Ange Hardy Interview

Bare Foot Folk is your second album. Talk us through the record: what influenced you whilst you were making it, and what you were hoping the album would sound like. How close to your original idea for the album does the finished record sound?

I wanted Bare Foot Folk to be a true representation of who I am and what you hear on stage live. It's stripped back to just me and my guitar, using only harmonies to create a fuller sound - which I can then recreate on stage using my live looping machine (a Digitech JamMan).

My first album was like an autobiography, it tells my story through songs. As it was my debut studio album I wanted to record not only what I do live but also what I heard in my head for the songs. It ended up being a very full album. If I heard a cello playing in my head, then I played the cello. If I thought a little melody line on the flute would fit nicely, I had a flautist make it happen. As happy as I am with the outcome of that, I could never recreate it on stage (without vast expense!) so it was crucial to me that Bare Foot Folk should be stripped back to my bare roots. As I'd now written most of my story, the slight change of direction into folk, with its storytelling nature, was the natural place for my music to go.

This album is more than I ever thought it would be. It was crowd-funded, and unlike my last album, which took me six months to record, I recorded Bare Foot Folk in four days flat! It was a marathon and I never expected it to come out as polished as it did. It really is what I set out for it to be... a true representation of who I am and what you hear at my live shows.

What are your favourite tracks on the album, and which ones do you think take on a life of their own when you perform them live?

Mother Willow Tree is my own personal jewel on this album, I love the story it tells and the harmony layering. And even after singing it for what seems like a lifetime, Crafty Father John still never fails to tickle me.

The Ghost on the Moors definitely has a life of its own. When I wrote it, it was like an out of body experience. I sat down to write and looked up what felt like just a few minutes later, almost shaking and unsure what had just happened--totally lost in the moment. This is something that still happens for me every time I sing it live.

It's been getting fantastic reviews everywhere. Are you pleased that people are connecting with the music in such a positive way?

If I'm honest, I'm a little taken aback by the wonderful reception it has been getting. I am new to the folk scene and have only been a folk artist for about six months!

I didn't expect to be so well-received so quickly. As most artists will tell you, it's a hilly journey of self-doubt, and we are always our own worst critics. This affirmation has definitely smoothed out the road for me and given me the drive and confidence I really needed to climb the hills when they do creep up.

You did the 50/90 challenge last year, which was to write 50 songs in 90 days. How did you approach that challenge, and what impact has it had on your performances and your songwriting?

Well, the first thing it did was make me question where I was going to take my writing next. As I said, I'd written my life story, and all my songs until then had drawn from my own experiences, so this challenged me to jump into the minds of others, to dream up mystical fairytales, to draw inspiration form artwork, news stories, an emotion or feeling, and so on. Quite naturally I found myself writing folk tales, and my new path started to emerge. It really was a very significant part of my journey into the land of folk.

As a performer on the traditional scene, who have been your influences, and where do you see yourself fitting in?

Caroline Herring, Kathryn Roberts and Kate Rusby are my most-played artists in iTunes, and I think that speaks volumes. There are definitely specific songs that have shaped me as a writer too, like She Moves Through the Fair and Blooming Heather. In my earlier years I drew from the writing of Tracy Chapman. I dream of fitting into future projects that echo the likes of The Cecil Sharp Project and I very much intend to sit alongside those who have influenced and driven me as an artist.

As a lot of the folk scene is built around smaller intimate gigs and festivals, and spending time out on the road to reach the audience, would you say your live performances are important to you as an artist, and a useful way of promoting your recordings?

To sit in a candlelit room with a glass of red, close your eyes and lose yourself in the depth of warm harmonies, to hear every word clearly cut through the air and deliver a tale that makes your soul smile. It's the way my music feels like it should be heard.

Intimate venues are the best platform for my kind of music and are a wonderful way to promote my recordings, especially now that I can confidently say that Bare Foot Folk is one such intimate performance.

How did you get into performing and writing?

When I was fourteen I ran away from a children's home, and hitchhiked to Ireland where I slept rough on the streets for over four months. Whilst I was exploring Galway a young chap gave me a guitar (in hindsight, I believe it may have been stolen) and told me to use it to busk. I had never played one before and at fourteen had little musical interest and no repertoire, so I simply made it up as I went along and wrote about the things I was going through. If you've not heard Refuse Sack from my last album, go and have a listen. The words take on a whole new meaning when you know the backstory. Music soon became a much-needed counsellor and outlet for me as I struggled though my teenage years, and later as I worked my way through the deeper demons I needed to deal with. Writing became a physical part of me. Without it I am useless. I have to write. Performing is a byproduct of this, I guess you could say it is my calling.

How much of a progression from your debut CD is Bare Foot Folk, and where do you see yourself going next?

It is a huge progression for my musical direction, and also for my own benefit. I have worked through my life and am now in a place where I can allow my writing to come from my feet rather than the footsteps behind me. That is huge. I may look one day at forming a band to share some of the load and open more possibilities. I'd like to record some of my more indie nu-folk writing at some point, and definitely take part in more writing challenges. Most importantly, now that I have stripped everything away and found what is at my core, I intend to stay rooted.

What gigs have you got lined up to promote the album?

I am doing a bit of a Bare Foot Folk tour in and around Somerset with a view to doing a bigger tour next year. I have a two-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter-- gigging can be quite hard and they have to come first

How difficult is it to get recognised as a unique voice on the folk scene?

It's tricky. I think some of the 'traditional' folk lovers are a bit sceptical of the younger generation, and there's a lot of great musicians out there, but I think folk music has always been about the songs more than the performers, so I'm hoping that my writing is what's going to really set me apart on the scene.

Many thanks to Ange Hardy for her time. The interview was conducted by James Turner, Albion Magazine 

Posted by Ange Hardy on November 27th 2013

Loading... Updating page...