Folk duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere, who perform under the name Ninebarrow, are amazed just how quickly things have taken off for them – a great vindication of the decision to give up the day jobs.
Nominated for the Horizon award (Best Emerging Act) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, they head to Selsey Folk & Music Club’s Feast of Folk on Saturday, September 1 (doors and bar open at 6.30pm for 7pm at The Selsey Centre).
“My dad is a folkie,” says Jon, “and it has been in my family since I was a kid. Jay and I had sung together in a school band that had very little to do with folk, but we started singing together in a folkie capacity when Jay started coming to some folkie sing-alongs. It was one of those things where people started saying to us ‘Your voices sound quite good together! You should do this more often!’
“We just started doing it for fun, very much as a hobby. We just enjoyed going around the folk clubs. We first started singing together in about 2012. I suppose our voices are close enough in range, but they do not exactly overlap. Jay tends to take the higher line and I take the lower line. I think we just got lucky!
“We carried on doing this as a pretty serious hobby for the next four years to the point where we had to start thinking about the window for taking it further. The problem was combining it with a day job. Jay is a doctor and I was a primary-school teacher. We were both working all day and then rehearsing or gigging at night and at the weekends and touring during the school holidays. It got to the stage where we were thinking that we probably could not sustain it much longer. We had to make the decision… and we decided to chuck in the day jobs. There were a few spreadsheets to crunch out all the numbers!
“I would not say that I am pining for teaching! But Jay still does some medical work when we are not touring. He loves having the balance with the two passions in his life and being able to maintain them both. But the success of this has really taken us by surprise. We took a leap into the dark and I tend to look at things very conservatively and assume that things will go badly! I assumed that I would have to be doing supply-teaching to fill in the gaps and to make ends meet, but actually we are in the position that we are having to turn down work. It has been quite amazing really.
“I think our approach to the folk tradition is slightly different in that we really harness the history and folklore and traditions of Dorset and make that really central to the stuff that we write ourselves. The narratives within the story really drive what we do.”
The latest album is The Waters & The Wild, building on the close vocal harmony between the two.
“We’ve had such a lot of fun recording this. I guess you could call this our first studio album really. Our previous two have been self-produced and self-released. We made the conscious decision quite early on with The Waters & the Wild that we wanted people to be able to hear the progression from the previous two in terms of the production quality, but at the same time, we also wanted to retain the honesty and organic quality that the other records had as well.
“Having Mark Tucker on board as producer was really key in helping us achieve that. Collaboration has always been a really important part of the recording process for us”
For tickets, go to http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/selseyfestival or call in to Selsey Town Council to buy.