Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker: ‘We don’t see ourselves as folk, we just do our thing’
Having started playing together in 2009, folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker have enjoyed a breakthrough 12 months.
Not only have their lush, moody compositions seen them pick up the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo in 2015, but they have also released their latest record, Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour, and written songs for the National Theatre’s Our Country’s Good. Ahead of a show at St Pancras Old Church on October 22, Clarke talked to Alex Bellotti.
Hi Josienne. It’s been quite a year for you and Ben – how have you found it?
2015 has been a great year for us. We were lucky enough to be invited to showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City in February, we played a really successful UK tour with a string section in spring and then won the Folk Award in April. Since then we’ve played various big festivals including Cambridge and Shrewsbury and now we’re on stage at the National Theatre – to be honest, we’ve had worse years!
You were initially sceptical that the folk scene would see you as ‘outsiders’. Why was that?
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I think we both felt a bit nervous of the folk scene in some ways. It’s been really welcoming, but we didn’t know if we would be expected to know lots and lots of traditional material or if we would get away with playing our own songs as well. In some ways it was just a fear of the unknown. We still don’t see ourselves as a ‘folk’ act. We just do our thing and the folk scene seems to like us.
What did you want to achieve with Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour?
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World domination! Seriously though, we approach an album not as a collection of songs but as a cohesive whole, an artistic statement and that’s what we did with this record. We want to make records that people will remember – whether they achieve that or not, who knows, but we believe that should be the aim.
As well as writing songs for Our Country’s Good, you also perform them in the show. How’s the experience been for you?
The experience has been fantastic. It was a privilege to see a play taken from its initial read-through all the way to the Olivier stage – that’s something I won’t forget and to be on the stage every night, singing some of my songs and hearing the cast sing them too.
Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker play St Pancras Old Church on October 22. Visit josienneclarke.co.uk