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69 f D

id your joint obsessions with music come from your family? “It was a major expectation,” says Kacy. “My grandpa is a real teacher type; he got us

both started. I just thought, ‘This is what I have to do.’ Since I can remember, I sang and played. I don’t feel like I’m trying to accomplish any giant feat. I still love play- ing with my grandparents and aunts, it’s just fun for me. I’ll play fiddle, sing and play guitar. My grandpa plays accordeon.”

“There’s a pretty big obsession with family history in our family. It’s a huge family and there are certain members who are really obsessed with like, Great Grand- ma Aquina and her piano. She was a piano teacher; I think her name was made up. She came from South Dakota. But she taught all of the people in the area’s chil- dren piano lessons and was a real pusher of music, which is kind of where my great uncle, Kacy’s grandfather Carl… he has a bit of that as well. I think it’s a way to feel involved in the family history. You either can get into cattle or… If I wanna feel part of the passing down of the family stuff it’s got to be music.”

Over the course of your last two records, the songs you both write have increased to the point where the current album is almost completely original (aside from an arrangement of Go And Leave Me, learned from a recording of Norma Waterson.) Are you done with trad now?

“No,” insists Clayton. “I’m definitely still very much interested in traditional music. I’m starting to feel like I wanna find out more about music that’s relevant from where we come from; learning more about Métis fiddle music and cowboy songs. Stuff that was actually a part of the Saskatchewan culture. But we’ve been try- ing to become better songwriters as well, so that takes up a lot of time.”

How do you know when a song needs to be written? “When I look through my notebook and think, ‘Oh my god, I’ve gotta work on this song!’” Kacy gasps. “That’s how I write songs. I start a million songs and look through them all and see if any make me wanna finish them.”

I’d imagined you walking out onto the plains, pencil in hand.

“Oh I do,” says Kacy. “I have a very whimsical brain.”

Watching them perform a few days earlier I’d concluded that there’s no point in my life where I wouldn’t have fallen hat over laces for Kacy Anderson’s singing voice. That edgeless, airborne, lonesome howl… it’s a marvel.

Do you know where that voice comes from? “I do. I’ve been singing since I could speak. And I love singing. I also listen very attentively to other singers. I sang classical music as a kid in music festivals. But I remember driving to a festival and listen- ing to a Loretta Lynn album, a Dolly Parton album and a Steve Earle album, just singing along and thinking, ‘This is so much more fun. I like this music better.’ Then I found people like Anne Briggs and Sandy Denny that showed that more clas- sic high singing. And I was like, ‘I think I might be capable of doing this as well.’ I

was trying to find different possibilities with my voice.”

“She often sings instead of speaking these days. It’s really something.”

“I’m not trying to cut out a great path for myself,” Kacy continues. “I’m just try- ing to follow in other people’s footsteps.”

“I think that’s why traditional music has a great appeal,” thinks Clayton. “You know that you’re not doing anything new. The complex that I have about not taking over my parent’s ranch, I can find some- thing else to feel like I’m living some sort of passed-on thing. It soothes that panic that I’m not becoming a big cattle baron like I’m supposed to!”

“I feel that all the time. I’m the last kid on the ranch. Clayton’s an only kid and I’m the youngest kid and we’re at the very end of the line. I’ve got three cousins that live north of us, I think they’ll hopefully take over the ranch. Like, ‘They went out play- ing folk music and we had to stay here and do all the work!’”

Clayton, how did you find your style?

“I’ve always been crazy about the gui- tar playing on early country records like Don Rich and James Burton, the Bakers- field guys. That ’50s Telecaster country gui- tar playing that influenced a lot of people, like Robbie Robertson. That’s kind of my favourite electric guitar style. And I spent a good number of years trying to become an acoustic fingerstyle guitar player. Then tried to satisfy both of those hobbies of mine, at the same time.

I try to be very melodic and also very rhythmic; I hate noodling. We don’t really like to play long songs and long sets in our band. So it’s very in and out, that’s our approach.”

“I feel like that’s been my mentality

forever,” adds Kacy. “It’s like, ‘Get in there, do your job and get out.’ It’s because we have very conservative, workaholic par- ents. That has a lot to do with our strong guilt about performing very well. Coming from a successful family and feeling like not being successful isn’t really an option.”

That first meeting three years ago was characterised by a long van journey across London in which Kacy, Clayton and Ryan reeled off their favourite English folk

singers and I told them who of their heroes was still around. To them, these ’50s, ’60s and ’70s folk musicians were like mythological figures. The idea they might be able to meet them almost too much to fathom. But that’s changing.

“We got to meet Martin Carthy which was absolutely the most incredible feeling. On the same day that I met Martin Carthy, I met Augie Meyers who was the organ player from the Sir Douglas Quintet. It was at a Canadian folk festival and I met two of my idols in the same afternoon. We hung out at the airport with Martin Carthy and conversed with him for a couple of hours about everything.”

“He’s so gentle and speaks so quietly,”

smiles Kacy. “We had to be so attentive. We went through the security line togeth- er. He had really nice Doc Martens on.”

Who do you still want to meet?”

Oh, Shirley Collins!” Kacy replies, in the knowledge that in two days’ time they’re popping round for tea with the woman whose records first forged Clayton and Ryan’s friendship.

What will you ask her about? “I have no idea. I probably won’t say


“I’ll make sure to take my shoes off in the correct place,” considers Clayton. “I’ll wear proper clothes and try to be polite.”

She has met young people before. “Ha ha. That’s good to know.”

he day after their visit I receive an ecstatic message: “We sang Babes In The Wood together while holding her hands on the Lewes High Street!” That glori- ous image has a pertinence with the final question I asked them.


Do you think, like so many of your favourites, you’ll still be doing this into your eighties?

“Yes of course,” answers Kacy without a pause. “My grandpa’s eighty-five and he still plays. Old people should play music.”

“It’s a long time from now,” Clayton reflects. “But it’s certainly a good way to spend your time.” F

Photo: Dane Roy

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