5 Minutes with… George Sansome & Matt Quinn

Live to your Living Room 3-George-Sansome-Matt-Quinn-By-Will-Killen-1024x683 5 Minutes with... George Sansome & Matt Quinn
George Sansome & Matt Quinn

George Sansome & Matt Quinn are both well-known faces on the folk scene, but recently they’ve come together as a brand-new duo! Their debut album, Sheffield Park, is out later this month, but before that, they’ll be playing live for us on 13th April. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with George to find out more about the new album and how the duo came together.

We’re so excited to have you playing for us! We’ve seen you both performing in lots of line-ups over the years, but the duo is quite recent – what brought you together, and what kind of material can we expect to hear?

[George] Thank you, we’re really excited too! We’ve done a few gigs together, but this is our first full tour, so we can’t wait to get out on the road and share some music with people.

We’d been aware of each other for a while through Matt’s work with The Dovetail Trio, and mine with Granny’s Attic, and we liked each other’s musical styles, so eventually we decided to try out making music together. We played a couple of songs together for the first time in a spare moment at Whitby Folk Week in August 2019, and it felt great! We’d just got into the swing of regular rehearsals, and then lockdown happened. So we’ve actually been playing together for a few years now – it’s just that a lot of it has been behind the scenes.

We both have a really strong love of folk songs and all the stories, history and people involved, so that’s been a big driver for us from the start. We sing a few unaccompanied songs, which are a thrill to do live, and some with Matt on mandolin and me on guitar. Broadly speaking, we sing songs about love, heartbreak, revenge, death, geese, and the US postal service. Classic folk song stuff really.

Your debut duo album, Sheffield Park, will be released on 28th April – tell us about that! How did you go about choosing the songs on the album?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been gradually bringing songs to each other, some of which we’ve known for ages and some of which we’ve only recently found in archives or on recordings. We eventually realised we had a nice little collection of songs that worked well together, so decided to record an album. It was all quite last minute – at the end of last summer, Matt more or less said, “Oh, shall we make an album?”, and we looked in the diary and realised that our window for recording it was about a month away. So we made our plans, tightened up the songs we’d been working on, and started the process!

The album is essentially a collection of songs that we’ve heard (or read), which have resonated with us for one reason or another. We each have our own tastes and our own areas of traditional music that we particularly like, but we do also have a lot of common ground. There are some well-known songs on the album, as well as some that each of us brought that were new to the other.

I love the collaborative process, and we’ve worked in a very collaborative way really. It’s not just a case of one of us saying, “Here’s this song that I sing; I want you to play along like this”. We work together on arrangements, making choices on words and chords, and just generally checking in about how things are sounding and feeling. So, it was no different with the album really – we’d already decided how we wanted the songs to sound, so we talked through which songs worked best together, and went with those!

What was the recording process like?

Lots of singing! Last October, we spent a couple of days recording at The Keystone, Tom Wright’s lovely studio at Yellow Arch in Sheffield. All of the tracking was done live, so it was just the two of us playing together in the studio with Tom on the other side of the glass. We captured a few performances of each song and then chose the best takes, so it was all about making sure we were playing and singing at our best every time. There are no overdubs on the album – it’s just us two and our instruments, making the sound we make when we play together live.

Tom is really great to work with, and has such a good ear and musical brain. He’s also extremely well-versed in traditional English folk music, so he knew exactly where we were coming from before we started recording. Tom basically said, “It’s an English folk album, right?”, and we agreed, and then got on with making it!

You’ll be touring the album across England, as well as joining us online. Was it important for you to include an online date?

Definitely! We’ve done a few online gigs – pre-recorded, livestream, and Zoom gigs – and have loved all of them. In fact, because we started playing together not long before lockdown, it was about 2 years before we did a gig that wasn’t an online one! So we’ve found them a really important part of our approach to gigging.

We love the fact that anyone, anywhere, can tune in. It’s a chance to connect with friends and new audience members in places that we aren’t visiting on tour, or have never even been to. It’s also important as not everyone can get to in-person gigs for all sorts of reasons – they should have access to music too! We just really love the community that online gigs can foster; it really brings people together from all over. And of course, it’s not far to get to the fridge – and I’ve never had a green room with a better bed!

What else is in store for you both this year?

After our LTYLR gig, we’ve got some in-person dates for the album launch tour, and then we’re doing a couple of festivals together over the summer too. We’ve also got some more in-person tour dates in the autumn as well, which we’re really looking forward to.

Individually, Matt is working on some exciting new musical projects (more to be revealed at some point!), along with his solo music, and teaching melodeon and concertina. After our April tour, I’ve got a few days off and then I’m back on the road with Granny’s Attic for a spring tour and some summer festivals. I’ll also be doing some solo gigs, as well as some with Sophie Crawford for our Queer Folk project, including a couple of Queer Ceilidhs.

George Sansome & Matt Quinn will be joining us on Thursday 13th April, and we can’t wait to see them play live! If you fancy joining us, you can grab your ticket here.