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35 f Intent On Success


Five years on from formulating a masterplan that started with living in a tent, Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin got the Folk Awards duo gong at the Albert Hall. Colin Irwin was there.


his living playing music. So his first step was obvious – he moved into a tent in Devon.


W


“It was nice,” he says, cuddling a cup of something hot and steamy in a rented house in darkest Surrey where he, Hannah Martin and their small but perfectly formed band (Matt Downer, double bass, and James Taylor on percussion) are installed for a cou- ple of days as their own version of the tour that never ends hits the south of England.


“I’d been living in a ten-room house at uni with loads of people and wanted to do something completely different so I thought I’d live in a tent for a while. It was good. Being Devon there are lots of nice camp sites and it meant I could concentrate fully on practising music. It was a great incuba-


hen Phillip Henry graduat- ed from university, he for- mulated a cunning five year plan to achieve his ultimate dream… to make


tion period. I was trying out all these things with harmonicas and there was no-one around to hear me apart from a few horses. I’d go out busking to make some money. It was an uncomplicated way of life.”


A mighty busker he was, too, by all accounts: “The key to busking is to get into a groove, make people tap their feet as they walk past and then just take it down and it’s always about builds, a bit like dance music, with troughs and building it up again to a crescendo. It’s something we use in our music now when we perform live.”


“I used to work in a pinstripe suit and sit on a stool and I had an old ammunition box I used as a stomp box and I had a lap slide guitar so I looked the part and people went for it. I sold a lot of CDs. People still come up at gigs and say they remember me from busking at Sidmouth seafront.”


As winter set in the farmer who owned the land took pity on him and upgraded his


spartan accommodation into a marginally less spartan caravan. There wasn’t room to swing a cat… or even a mouse once Hannah Martin had moved in and the family of instruments had reached the point it was impossible to open the door without first piling them on to the bed. And thus the great bohemian experiment ended and they moved into a flat.


But the musical ambition grew apace until in 2014 – five years from the day Phillip concocted his great five-year plan – they went to the Royal Albert Hall in that there London where Mr Steve Knightley, a long-time champion of their music, pre- sented them with the BBC Folk Award for Best Duo. It felt like more, much more, than a funny-looking ornament to stick on the mantelpiece.


Now Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are one of the most accomplished yet sur- prising acts in the new British folk canon.


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