Talking Music With Rachel Newton

Since the release of her album Here’s My Heart Come Take It in April 2016, singer and harpist Rachel Newton has been awarded both the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year and the Scots Trad Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year.

On June 27, Rachel is bringing the music from Here’s My Heart Come Take It to life with her band to Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.  Andy Howells recently put questions to Rachel about the concert.

What inspired you to become a musician?
I was very lucky to be immersed in music from a very young age. I attended a Gaelic speaking school in Edinburgh where we learned lots of old Gaelic songs and I had free harp (or clarsach) lessons there. I also studied piano and violin outside of school and went on to attend a music school in Edinburgh when I was a teenager. I grew up through the Feis movement, which is a sort of summer school of folk music and it was so sociable and fun that it kept my interest in music going throughout my childhood. I wasn’t always sure I wanted to make it my career, but by the time I left school I realised I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! I went on to Newcastle Uni to study Folk music where I met many fellow musicians and formed bands.

You tour both as a trio and as a band – how do performances with both differ?
I’ve been performing with my trio members Lauren MacColl (fiddle) and Mattie Foulds (drums) for a few years now. they are brilliant musicians and I love working with them. The band I’m taking to Cardiff is the trio plus two others – Mikey Owers on trombone and Sarah Hayes on keys. Mikey played on my latest album and so it’s great to have his parts featured live. I played quite a lot of keyboard parts on the album so Sarah is providing those plus backing vocals. 

Can you tell us about your latest album?
I had a lot of fun recording my latest album Here’s My Heart Come Take It. I purposefully went into the studio with less of a set idea of what I was going to do than in my previous records as I wanted to create something more organic and spontaneous. I felt a lot more confident having the experience behind me and hopefully it has resulted in a bold new sound. I’m delighted that the album has just been long listed in the Scottish Album of the Year Award. 

If someone was listening to you for the first time – which track best sums you up as a musician?
I’d say probably the title track Here’s My Heart Come Take It. The words are taken from an old filed recording and the melody is my own. 

You’ll be playing Cardiff shortly – what can people expect from the show?
They can expect old traditional folk ballads set in a contemporary framework. Dark music and subject matter, but with a light-hearted delivery. An eclectic line up of harp, trombone, fiddle, keys and drums. 

What are you currently enjoying listening to?
I have quite a varied taste in music. Today I’ve been giving Gillian Welch and FKA Twigs a spin.

What have you got planned for the rest of the year? 
The Cardiff gig is the last gig of my band tour so after it I’ll be gearing up for festival appearances over the summer including a main stage slot at Cambridge Folk Festival. I also have more solo and band dates in the autumn alongside tours with my other bands The Furrow Collective and The Shee. Never a dull moment!

  • Catch Rachel Newton with her band at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on June 27. For ticket details call the box office on 02920 878444 or visit
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