Interviewer Eliza Carthy, could you tell us a bit about your family background, your parents and grandparents?
Eliza Um, I come from a musical family; my parents are folk singers, my father is a guitarist who is known for playing for playing the guitar, um, and inventing a particular style of English folk guitar. Um, he started playing when he was 17, back in the fifties, and, um, really was, was quite instrumental in his youth in sort of building the, the sixties folk club scene in London.
He was a friend of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon many, many years ago, and, um, is known for reconstructing old traditional ballads, traditional English ballads. My mother comes from a folk-singing family called The Watersons, and they were from the north of England, they’re from Hull, which is in the north of England, and they were also instrumental in the beginning of the sixties folk revival, the formation of the folk clubs, and the, the beginning of, basically, the professional music scene that I work on now.
I And were your parents both from musical families?
E Um, really, both sides of my family are musical: my, my mother’s side of the family were all travellers and gypsies, my-er, her grandmother, she was brought up by her grandmother, both of her parents died when she was very young. She had an uncle that played the
trumpet, you know, her father played the banjo, he used to listen to American radio in-during the Second World War and he used to learn the songs off the radio like that. Her grandmother was very into the sort of old romantic ballads like The Spinning Wheel and things like that, and she used to- she used to sing when they were little; the whole family sang, the whole family danced. And I was brought up in that kind of a family: my mother and her, her brother and her sister were in a singing group, my dad joined that singing group, and then, when I was old enough, I joined the family as well.
I So you had a very musical upbringing?
E My upbringing was-I suppose some people might think it was quite a hippy upbringing. I was brought up on a farm, um, that had three houses in a row, with me and my mum and dad in the end house, my uncle – my mum’s brother – and his wife and their four children in the middle house, and then my mum’s sister and her husband and their two children on the other end house. And we grew up basically self-sufficient, we had animals and we had chickens and goats and pigs and horses and things like that, and we, we grew up singing together and living together in that environment in North Yorkshire in the 1970s. Um, we had- Because my parents were professional musicians and touring musicians, we had a lot of touring musician friends who would come and stay at the farm and they would sing and play all the time and there was music all around when I was a child, and that really, that really formed the basis of, of, of how I live now.