MY CULTURAL LIFE: Eliza Carthy

The folk stalwart on The X Factor, motherhood and Mumford and Sons

Given your folk heritage (Carthy's parents are the folk artists Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson), was it inevitable that you would become a musician?

I always thought not, but I was lucky enough to be brought up by people who believed in continuity through generations. It is something I believe in too, and always loved music, especially the kind of music that has been passed down and handled by lots of folk. So yes then.

What are your earliest memories of childhood and does music feature in them?

I had a very happy home life, less so when I got out the door as I was a bit of a weirdo. Kids didn't get me and I didn't get them. My earliest musical memory is playing my recorder in a little class and getting annoyed when the other children started singing along because they were singing the wrong words.

Who were your idols/influences growing up?

Bob Dylan and Rory McLeod were the big ones. And Davy Spillane was my 13-year-old crush. I've always has a soft spot for travellers and pipers.

How would your parents have reacted had you opted to join a rock band instead?

They probably would have still wanted me to finish college.

When you are writing new material, what inspires you?

Boys and tequila.

How has motherhood changed you and has it influenced your music?

I'm trying very hard not to write a baby album...

You've been nominated twice for the Mercury Music Prize and won at the Radio 2 Folk Awards? Are these types of accolades important to you?

It's nice to get a wee party with your band with a bit of free cake and wine.

How do feel about being labelled the saviour of British folk?

I wish the pay was better.

What do you think of artists like Mumford and Sons and why do you think folk music has, once again, become so popular?

Pop music is reactive. When The X Factor and the like are so popular, people go looking for something else, something they feel they have discovered themselves. Mumford and Sons look genuine and pleasantly scruffy and cuddly, and have nice tunes. People like that.

Female artists, irrespective of genre, seem to be leading the way in British music at the moment. Are there any of your contemporaries you particularly respect/admire?

I love Mary Hampton and Paloma Faith, and the Unthanks. I love the weirdos!

You released the album Neptune on your own record label. Did this make a difference to you and do you enjoy being in control?

I felt it was time to own something, and make my own choices, try new things and new people. It feels nice.

What type of music do you listen to when you're relaxing?

All sorts. I'm partial to a bit of Tom Waits and Paul Brady. I'm listening to Jackie Oates' new album Saturnine at the moment.

You've worked with Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and Wilco. Who would be your dream collaboration?

The Serbian composer Goran Bregovic in a temple somewhere on the side of a mountain!

If your girls told you they wanted to be musicians would you encourage them to follow in the family tradition?

Not the family tradition of leaving college! But yes, they seem to have an innate sense of rhythm already, if their pot and pan-banging is anything to go by.

What do you think of shows like The X Factor?

I liked the Tina Turner impersonator (Goldie). I was sorry to see her go. I wish everything didn't have to be melismatic soul though. People are capable of singing in a variety of ways.

What's next for Eliza Carthy?

A chicken sandwich. And then an Imagined Village album, in that order.

Eliza Carthy plays the Empire Music Hall on October 17 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens. Visit What's On for more Belfast Festival listings.

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