5 Minutes with… Grace Smith Trio

Live to your Living Room Grace-Smith-Trio-by-Elly-Lucas-1-1024x683 5 Minutes with... Grace Smith Trio
Grace Smith Trio

Grace Smith Trio have just released their debut album, Overleaf, and now they’re taking it on tour! They’ll be joining us on 19th October, and we caught up with Grace before the gig to find out more about the band’s influences and how the album came together.

Hi Grace, we’re thrilled to have you joining us! For anyone who hasn’t come across the band before, tell us a bit about the trio.

Thank you! We’re really looking forward to the gig. The trio is made up of myself on fiddle and viola, Sam Partridge on concertina and electric guitar, and Bevan Morris on double bass. We’ve all played music together in various bands and settings for several years now, after meeting at Newcastle University on the folk course up there.

I formed the trio in 2019. I’d been working on a project through a Seed Funding bursary from the English Folk Dance and Song Society and wanted to make a band to continue developing the music I’d started through the project, so it’s grown from there! 

As you mentioned, you met on the Newcastle University Folk and Traditional Music course. How do you think the degree has impacted on your musical career?

The course was an opportunity to meet like-minded musicians, and so many of these people are friends who I still play with and work alongside. I also started working in music when I was in Newcastle, so the performances with bands and opportunities to develop my skills as a teacher are things that I’ve continued to build on ever since.

You’ve just released your debut album together, Overleaf, which has been a long time in the making! Tell us about that.

Yes, it’s so exciting that the album is out now! Having started the band in 2019, we had a hiatus over the pandemic, but we managed to get together again coming out of lockdown and played a few lovely gigs. Then I’m really lucky to have received some ‘record and release’ funding from Help Musicians UK, which meant we were able to go ahead and make the album this year.

Some of the tracks are tunes which we’ve played since the band started, and others we’ve arranged over the last year or so. We worked with an incredible team to make the album; Tom Moore who recorded, mixed and co-produced the album at Slow Worm Records, Sam Proctor on mastering, and Elly Lucas on photography and design – it was a total dream! Now the album has been released, it’s been so amazing to hear what people think, and we’re on tour this month to launch it too.

Grace Smith Trio – Saison/Overleaf

You had the support of Help Musicians UK to make this release possible – what impact did that have?

It’s been amazing to have this support. Making an album can be an expensive endeavour and takes a huge amount of time (from writing, to recording, to the release process), so this funding made it all a lot less stressful and allowed us to work with such fantastic people and create a really special record.

The charity also provides tailored advice about the wider music industry, as well as physical and mental health, so that’s been really useful and I’d definitely recommend that other musicians check out their resources on this.

The album includes traditional tunes and new compositions, which fit together really seamlessly. How do you go about blending the old with the new, and is this something you’re mindful of when composing?

We love playing traditional tunes from the archives, and working with these old dance tunes to create something new. I think my compositions as a folk musician are always rooted in the form and function of these older folk tunes, so the new tunes hopefully fit together with the older tunes fairly naturally.

The structure of the tunes is a great starting point and template for composing, and there can be a lot of common ground for the old and new tunes. When we put the tunes together as a band, the three of us all share ideas for melodic lines/riffs/harmony/structure to use the tunes as part of a full set.

Grace Smith Trio – Quadrille

The album draws together some quite diverse musical influences. Tell us about some of the artists who inspire you as a band.

We’re definitely all massively inspired by folk repertoire innovators including Chris Wood, Leveret, English Acoustic Collective, Emma Reid and The Gloaming – as well as lots of music from outside the folk scene. Post-rock/minimalist/indie bands such as Balmorhea and Phoenix, and hypnotic loopy textures are our bag!

You’re also a clog dancer – do you think your love of dance has an influence on the music you make?

Definitely! So many of the folk tunes we play are dance tunes. As well as clog dancing, I love social dancing, from bal-folk to ceilidhs, and dance is definitely integral to how I approach playing folk music. The three of us have played for a lot of dancing outside of the trio too, in dance bands and for dance teams, and it’s really important to us – the feel and groove from playing for dancing is key!

As well as playing with the Grace Smith Trio, you’re all busy with lots of other projects. What else are you up to in the coming months?

So after the Grace Smith Trio tour, I’m straight into some rehearsals and education workshops with another band called Cri du Canard. We play French and Breton dance music and it’s a lot of fun! Sam and Bevan both play in Pons Aelius, who have some gigs coming up in November, and we’ll all be teaching and working on various education projects. 

Then hopefully some cosy relaxing time over winter, before more gigs and making more music in 2024; Grace Smith Trio have some lovely gigs planned, as well as Cri du Canard, and I also have some shows with Katie Doherty & The Navigators – I’m very lucky to get to play music with so many fabulous people!

The Grace Smith Trio will be joining us live online on 19th October (tickets here!) and their debut album, Overleaf, is out now.