A Chat With...Andrew Cadie
This week, we are chatting with Andrew Cadie, a Northumbrian multi-instrumentalist living in Germany.
Instrument(s): Singer, fiddle, guitar, Northumbrian pipes
Best known as: One half of Broom Bezzums – an English folk duo based in Germany!
Your band(s) or collaborations that we should know about: Broom Bezzums, my solo projects, which include song-based and genre-straddling material as well as an album of unaccompanied fiddle tunes taken from the Vickers Manuscript, which was written down in Newcastle in 1772.
Number of years on the folk scene: 30
Greatest achievement or claim to fame: I wrote a song called Keep Hauling, which was recorded by Show of Hands, which in turn led to it being included in the Fisherman’s Friends film and soundtrack album. So the song is definitely better known than I am.
What are you currently working on, and what’s in the pipeline for the coming year?
We’re currently trying to arrange our Broom Bezzums duo songs for a 5-piece band, with added drums, double bass and piano, in order to attempt to bring our folk music to a more diverse audience here in Germany. It’s a hard thing to do, because in big halls you need bombastic sounds, but we don’t want to lose the subtleties that make traditional music so good!
At the same time, I’m working on bringing my solo set up to scratch. Since the pandemic struck, it has proven necessary to be nimble, and being able to go out and do solo gigs without needing to check the availability of bandmates and technicians can be an important attribute. This is in no way a chore for me, as many of these songs have been sitting around for years, waiting to be sung. They weren’t suited for the duo, so it’s been an artistic release to be able to explore these creative avenues. I’m gradually sharing most of the developments via my Youtube channel, which I’m trying to grow. I also have a series of interviews with fellow musicians, aimed at music enthusiasts. Just sayin’….
Bizarrely, I’ve just started working on the side as a co-writer and studio producer for mainstream pop acts. This has developed organically over time out of chance meetings and various interactions. I’ve produced a handful of albums over the years for “niche” artists playing stuff like folk (of course), indie-folk, jazzy grunge and singer-songwriter material, but there was never even a minute dedicated to tailoring songs or sounds to a mainstream audience. After all those years of being almost contrary, it’s an exciting challenge to put the skills I’ve learned to use in order to reach for that bafflingly elusive pop-hit territory. But you know what, I think having internalised so many folk songs, dance tunes, rhythms and grooves can give you a good basis for understanding how to tell a good story, bring across emotion and get people moving.
If someone is reading this who hasn’t listened to any of your music before, where should they start?
That’s impossible to say, because I can’t just concentrate on one thing. I often worry that I expect too much of an audience. Maybe the Broom Bezzums album “No Smaller Than the World” shows the biggest scope of things Mark Bloomer and I collectively do in a musical and writing sense. But since then (2015) I’ve started playing electric guitar in earnest again and really dug in to slide guitar, so new possibilities are bubbling up once more.
What’s on your playlist at the moment, and why does it appeal to you?
Our live sound engineer recently put me on to Bonnie Raitt. She’s just released an album called Just Like That. It’s worth a listen for the title track alone. At first the album seemed a little “standard” and unsurprising to me but then I started to really follow the stories in some of the songs and got grabbed by the emotion in her voice and her slide guitar. Then I started noticing the astonishing groove of the drummer and the rawness of the Hammond playing. So much recorded music is chopped up, manipulated, tuned and pushed in to a digital time-grid these days – even folk albums! Some people manage to use that to great advantage, but in the end I can’t help appreciating the thrill of hearing a brilliant band just playing music.
Which folk albums, in your opinion, should everyone listen to at least once, and why?
Heartsease by Shona Mooney has been my favourite fiddle album since it came out in 2006. As a fiddle player, I’ve listened to and enjoyed a lot of solo albums by fiddlers. They’re almost always intended as a showcase for the fiddler, with the accompaniment being almost secondary. This album is different. Shona’s Scottish Borders fiddle style is so deeply anchored in her soul and her virtuosity was already solid years before this was recorded. With that basis, she can just go with the emotion and the inspiration and paint beautiful sonic pictures with the instrument and the tunes. The band she literally threw together for the recording doesn’t just support her in that – it fully integrates with the fiddle. The fact that it was necessary for the album to be recorded in two days means it has a rawness that we rarely get to hear in this digital age. Rawness isn’t always desirable, but when the musicianship is this good, then even the blemishes are inspiring. I will never tire of this album!
Dawn Breaks, released last year in response to the war in Ukraine
Andrew shares some useful insights on song arrangement in this video
Broom Bezzums livestream concert. We love the tune set on Northumbrian pipes at 46 minutes, and if you are a regular in our online sessions, you may just recognise two of the tunes!
Summer Song by Katie Doherty from her album, Flow
Andrew broadcasts the Melomania Chatcast on his YouTube channel.
Katie Doherty released Flow last year (2022) and I really think more people should hear it. Katie sent the master for me to listen to and asked if it was good enough to publish. My first listen was alone, in the car, on a long drive. I was so overwhelmed by how good the album was, I had to find somewhere safe to pull over to record a long voice message to Katie about what she had just created – which made me late! Katie’s always had a knack for combining folksong styles with jazz, blues and pop elements and she has the type of voice you need to put that across absolutely convincingly. Her vocal performances are always authentic and emotive, even in rehearsal. That’s a rare thing and a marker of a great musician. The production by Mattie Foulds, who also plays very inventive drums on some songs, really brings out the most magical elements of each of the songs and the musical performances. With Dave Gray’s melodeon and (here she is again) Shona Mooney’s fiddle dovetailing beautifully, the whole thing is gorgeous, always surprising, original and fresh.
One album I really should dig out again is Happy Hours by Northumbrian piper Andy May, from 2009. I don’t know if it’s possible to wear CDs out, but I gave it a good go with this one! The album opens with a seriously fast set of very tricky reels, with pipes, fiddle, accordion and guitar really ripping it up. There’s so much joy, precision and virtuosity in the music and this really sets the scene for the rest of the album. There are some beautiful tunes throughout the album, with classic variation sets, emotive airs and a great guest appearance by Benny Graham, who sings One Miner’s Life. The final track is a set of very wild Galician tunes, which again just has that joy of a group of friends who happen to be phenomenal folk musicians, playing tunes they love.
So that’s three albums that happen to have been made by three of my best friends. They all come from vaguely the same place as I do and most of the guest musicians on the albums are also good friends of mine. I make no apology for that – I’m so proud to know people who can create such inspiring music and these albums are gems that more people should enjoy.
Where are you most ‘at one’ with your instrument?
I think the easiest place to become at one with your instrument, whether that’s a voice, a fiddle, pipes or whatever, is at home on your own. The next level is to try to transfer that sense of security to playing with other people present in a room, without losing your nerve. Then playing on stage can bring a whole load of unforeseen distractions that can obstruct your connection with your instrument. But just repeating the experience multiple times and really thinking about how to keep better focussed next time can help overcome that. There’s always going to be an element of danger – but that’s what gives you the adrenaline rush to make it exciting and memorable for you and the audience. Sessions are a nice way to drill tunes and rhythms in to yourself in a relaxed, informal atmosphere and to almost forget about your instrument and let the music flow – a good way to work towards your “1000 hours”! Rehearsals are what I actually find the hardest, because I get distracted by trying to analyse whether or not the arrangement is working and what could be improved. That makes me forget the words or lose my place – but you have to learn not to be phased by that. Many people get freaked out in the studio. When I’m working as a producer, it’s my job to distract people from the dreaded “red light fever” and find that connection with their instrument. It’s a weird situation to be in, because you’re performing to an invisible audience and that performance needs to stand up to repeated scrutiny. The thing you have to remember is, you can always do it again or fix bits that didn’t quite work out.
Please tell us about your practice regime, or how you keep developing as an instrumentalist.
I suppose the most important thing is to keep learning new things. New tunes, new songs, new techniques, new approaches. That’s what makes you move forward as a musician. Don’t get too hung up on something that you can’t do. We’re all perfectionists and it drives us mad if things elude us, but if you don’t learn to drop those things and come back to them later, it’ll become a major obstruction to your development. Chances are, whatever it was you failed to achieve will click in to place 3 months or 3 years later after you’ve learned a load of inter-linked skills and your general ability has moved forward. I still try to keep an eye on my technique – even basic technique – as a pretty regular thing. Bad habits can creep in and cause you to move gradually backwards if you’re not careful. I also always try to learn stuff that’s well outside of my comfort zone. In private practice you can do that and work on something for years without anyone ever hearing it. It’ll make the stuff you play for an audience seem nice and familiar and comfy. Just make sure you keep a mental note of what is for private and what is for public use!
What’s the most nerve-wracking thing you’ve done (musically), and what did you learn from it?
My final recital for university. I studied on the Newcastle Folk Degree and the culmination of four extremely intensive years of learning and practice was a solo concert in Hall 2 at the Sage Gateshead. I felt so alone and so small on that stage. The 300 people in the audience were the ones who kept my mind off the 4-5 examiners at a table towards the back, with their notepads and scratchy pens. I got through it and thought – that’s it, no gig can ever scare me that much ever again!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a musician?
What’s your dream band line-up (dead or alive)?
Jimi Hendrix and Chris Buck on guitar, Stevie Wonder on harmonica, piano and vocals, Eddi Reader and Cheb Khaled on vocals, Edgar Meyer on bowed double bass, Bonnie Raitt’s drummer on the kit.
To satisfy the instrument/equipment geeks amongst us, please tell us a little about the gear you use to make music.
Haha – how geeky do you want to get? For live performances I try to keep things as simple as possible. On the fiddle I use a DPA v4099 clip mic. That’s an expensive microphone and some people are happy with the Ovid System, which is a 5th of the price and also pretty good. The main difference would be that the DPA has much better feedback-rejection, which in a loud situation or if you’re close to the speakers can be a pretty good argument. The violin is by an Italian maker called Andrea Pontedoro and I bought it from Dave Mann’s shop in Hexham. My acoustic guitar is a 1970s Fylde Falstaff that I bought from a good friend 20 years ago. That has an LR Baggs Ibeam pickup stuck under the bridge on the inside of the body. It has a really natural sound and response. Whether they work well depends on how the guitar is strutted, but I don’t understand why more people don’t use them. I’ve heard people playing my guitar over a PA and it just sounds like my guitar! I just go straight in to an Orchid DI box – I’m not generally a fan of effects pedals on acoustic guitars, plus I’ve got enough to worry about! For live vocals I really like the Sennheiser e945 dynamic microphone. It’s more sensitive than an SM58 but still has that punchy sound that helps a vocal push through a large PA system. Lots of people like these really expensive stage condenser vocal mics but I find they can sound unclear in the mids and harsh up top. My pipes are a very nice Dave Burleigh F+ set with 19 keys from 1980. They were passed on to me via Kathryn Tickell, who was teaching me fiddle at the time, from an old lady on Merseyside who had to give up playing and wanted to encourage a young beginner. I was incredibly lucky. Andy May tends to do my pipes maintenance, mostly out of exasperation, whenever we happen to meet up. On stage I use an AKG c451b pencil mic about a foot in front of the chanter. That mic is famous for studio sessions on hihats and acoustic guitars on country records – but it has a good bright-but-not-harsh response on pipes (and fiddle). With all these acoustic instruments, for anything louder than a small pub gig, you’re going to need a 31 band graphic equaliser across the master, and someone who genuinely knows how to use it in order to filter out room resonances. Otherwise it’ll be boomy and feeding back all over the place.
Although I’m aware that this is a folk blog and that I’m primarily a folk musician, I find it really hard to confine my answers to the folk music world. I think that that it’s really important, in any style of music, to look out beyond your own boundaries at what other people are doing and learn from them. Otherwise a scene can start recycling itself. I’m pretty sure all the source musicians we got our folk references from were doing that too.