A Chat With...Amy Thatcher
This week, we are chatting with one of UK’s leading accordion players, Amy Thatcher.
Instrument(s): Piano accordion and keys
Best known as: “Kathryn Tickell’s right hand woman”
Your band(s) or collaborations that we should know about: Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening, The Shee, We Are The Monsters (aka Monster Ceilidh Band) and possibly my new duo – Amy Thatcher and Francesca Knowles
Sub-genre: folky foundations with more jazz, prog-rock, EDM and classical influences than a genuine folky would admit to!
Number of years on the folk scene: This will show my age – although I was very young when I started – 25 years.
Greatest achievement or claim to fame: I recently played at a party at Stings house in Wiltshire, I put my arm around Bob Geldof’s shoulder while we all sang xmas in NY
What are you currently working on, and what’s in the pipeline for the coming year?
I’ve been focused on getting this new duo up and running. Fran and I have just completed our debut album – Emergency Of The Female Kind – and it’s out March 9th 2023. Fran is a drummer. Actually, we’ve just started writing brand new material again – making albums is very distracting and you find you miss the creative process whilst doing all the promo stuff.
If someone is reading this who hasn’t listened to any of your music before, where should they start?
Start with Solo – I brought that out 2019, it’s nearly completely solo accordion. If you not keen on hearing any more accordion, I wouldn’t bother going any further! It’s also a bit quirky, safe to say that’s my style – so again, if you’re keen, you can continue with the EP – Let What’s In Out.
What’s on your playlist at the moment, and why does it appeal to you?
Apart from a load of ASMR mic brushing! (I am autistic and it gives me a lovely sensory massage) Anna Meredith – fantastic composer and heavily into instrumental noise, odd rhythms and electronics. Totally my thing.
Which folk albums, in your opinion, should everyone listen to at least once, and why?
I’d put May Monday on there – Karen Tweed and Timo Alakotila, although they’re not the only players on there, you get Maria Kalaniemi for your money as well. Great tunes, and a masterclass on how to harmonise and arrange. I’d also put The Two Duos Quartet on the list too – again, Karen, Andy C, Chris W and Ian Carr – dynamic, interesting, varied arrangements and tunes and beautiful playing.
Where are you most ‘at one’ with your instrument?
Ooo, great question – I think it has to be on my own, practicing (I know I sound like a total swat, I promise it hasn’t always been that way and I don’t get this much time as often as I’d like) I’ll get deeply into something really difficult, or deeply into the communication of something. There’s a moment when you feel there’s no instrument between you and the sound in the room – it’s wonderful.
Please tell us about your practice regime, or how you keep developing as an instrumentalist.
I write a lot of music – I go off what’s in my head, which I can’t always play straight away. My technique is always playing catch up to a ‘brilliant’ idea that I’ve had (often in the middle of the night). Unfortunately, I haven’t had a huge amount of time because I’ve had 3 kids bombing (accurate adjective) around the place for the last 3 years. It’s full time nursery time now though so I’m looking forward to something more like a regime.
What’s the most nerve-wracking thing you’ve done (musically), and what did you learn from it?
Playing on my own – I wasn’t brought up playing on my own so it’s daunting. I also don’t particularly enjoy having all that attention – I like vibing off other people on the stage, and at times blending into the background.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a musician?
Play what you mean and mean what you play.
What’s your dream band line-up (dead or alive)?
Janis Joplin, Sarah Thawer, Anna Meredith and Tigran Hamasyan
To satisfy the instrument/equipment geeks amongst us, please tell us a little about the gear you use to make music.
I’ve got a Pigini p37 converter (it does free-bass too), I play a korg monologue synth and a mini-nova synth, I use a line 6 pedal board with the accordion. At home I use a Blue USB microphone on my laptop with GarageBand – nothing fancy as I don’t rely on the home recorded stuff a lot.
Is there a question you wish we’d asked you?
Why do you make music? – it would be tough question to answer if I hadn’t thought a lot about that answer recently. I understand that it serves a very important purpose for me – putting my emotions and feelings somewhere I can understand, recognise and acknowledge. I have alexithymia which is a struggle with recognising ones own feelings, describing them or in fact feeling them. Music is all that which I can’t say, especially Look At You Now, which I wrote after returning from Berlin after having my twins 11 weeks early in a foreign country. This also helps me realise at which point music making becomes a success – for me, it’s at the point of creation. I could spend hours worrying about what to do with it from there on, but I try not to, because that’s not why I do it.
Amy’s duo with Francesca Knowles
Amy playing with Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening
The Shee performing at Celtic Connections
The Two Duo’s Quartet
Look at You Now – Amy wrote this after her twins were born prematurely