A Chat With...Mossy Christian
This week, we are chatting with talented multi-instrumentalist and folksinger, Mossy Christian
Instrument(s): Fiddle, Anglo Concertina, One Row Melodeon, Voice
Your band(s) or collaborations that we should know about: Mossy Christian and Megan Wisdom. Also work with Taffy Thomas, and fiddle duet collaborations with Jim Eldon.
Number of years on the folk scene: Well, I did my first paid gig at the age of 12, and I’d been around the scene for a few years before that!
What are you currently working on, and what’s in the pipeline for the coming year?
I’ll be heading back into the studio soon with Megan, and there’s new shows under development for the Christmas season with Taffy Thomas. I’m in the process of acquiring funding for a major new project, which is very exciting – but which I can’t talk about yet! Solo performances at clubs and festivals continue, as do workshops and private lessons, both in person and online.
If someone is reading this who hasn’t listened to any of your music before, where should they start?
My debut solo album ‘Come Nobles and Heroes’ would probably be a good starting point. It has quite a broad spread of instrumental tracks and traditional songs. It was made with Jon Loomes at Talking Cat during 2020, and the various rolling lockdowns at that time gave us multiple logistical challenges with recording the various session musicians involved, but it really stands up. For something a little different, you could check out last year’s Live Sampler EP with Megan Wisdom. Traditional songs in harmony: stripped back, simple, and fun. There’s also a traditional tune set with one row melodeon and saxophone – a very pleasing pairing!
What’s on your playlist at the moment, and why does it appeal to you?
There’s two albums I’ll never tire of: One More Dance and Then, and Prospect Before Us.
The New Victory Band’s only studio album One More Dance and Then is a riot of an album. Not very in keeping with the current tastes of more modern acts on the folk scene today (it was released in 1978, and is an infectious mixture of dance music and music hall songs), but it’s a whole lot of fun!
Whilst the New Victory Band looked backwards to the music halls of the previous century, The Prospect Before Us (1977) looks forward – quite literally – to what might follow. It was the first album I ever borrowed, lent to me by my then mentor Liam Robinson. Traditional dance tunes and songs brought, seemingly without too much protestation, into the bouncing world of folk rock.
I couldn’t forgive myself if I neglected to give an honourable mention to Bandoggs, and their eponymous 1978 album. Pete Coe, Chris Coe, Tony Rose and Nic Jones combined into an acoustic folk supergroup, which has left a lasting mark on my own music making.
Which folk albums, in your opinion, should everyone listen to at least once, and why?
I think I’ve outlined the albums fairly well in the previous answer… go and have a listen! Listening to source musicians and singers is always a good idea, even if not the most palatable to modern ‘produced’ tastes, a wealth of resources is out there… have a listen to some of the Veteran releases recorded by the late John Howson, since they were edited together for commercial release, they often are a much more enjoyable listen to both scholars and interested enthusiasts.
Where are you most ‘at one’ with your instrument?
Over the years I’ve been really privileged to play with some wonderful traditional musicians, such as Jim Eldon, Frank Lee and Jimmy Little, in very intimate settings. Spending an afternoon or evening sharing music in a front room or kitchen is one of the nicest ways to expand musical horizons. It has been at times like these that I’ve felt most at one with my instrument, and most at one with the person I’m sharing the experience with.
Please tell us about your practice regime, or how you keep developing as an instrumentalist.
I don’t have a strictly set practice regime, and I never have. I know musicians who will practice for 4/5 hours a day, but that’s never been my way. I’ve also had the pleasure of sharing music with more traditionally leaning musicians who would be aghast at the very idea of the word practice! I tend to use an organic compromise between the two positions, practicing as and when I can in general, and setting studio time aside either when I have a project coming up that requires something different, or when I feel the urge to develop a particular element of my musical practice.
What’s the most nerve-wracking thing you’ve done (musically), and what did you learn from it?
Last year I had the privilege of Directing the 30th Anniversary Memorial production of Peter Bellamy’s ballad-opera The Transports. Almost a year of prep fed into the production, which ran for just two performances at Whitby Folk Week. The Musical Director was John Kirkpatrick, and my Co-Producers were Taffy and Chrissy Thomas. The cast included James Fagan, Damien Barber, The Wilsons, Bryony Griffith, Pete Morton, Megan Wisdom, Brian Peters, Jenny Bellamy, Gavin Davenport and more. Silhouette animation projections were commissioned from Doty Kultys, which illustrated parts of the story.
The production was an immense undertaking for all involved, with just two days of rehearsals to mount a full scale theatrical production. The strain involved took a lasting toll, but I am very proud to have worked with such wonderful people. The show was archived by Doc Rowe, and the film is scheduled to be shown at Whitby 2023.
A close second would have to be my recent work in Morocco with Megan and Taffy. A fantastic if exhausting experience in north Africa, playing gigs in the city of Marrakech, the coastal town of Essaouira, and even in desert camps, under the royal patronage of King Mohammed VI.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a musician?
I think possibly the best and most broadly applicable advice I’ve been given, is that no matter what stage of mastering your instrument you’re at, you can always learn something from others – no matter what stage they might be at. This has proved very true in my experience, and I’ve learnt lots of things from students – even just a different way of seeing things.
What’s your dream band line-up (dead or alive)?
As well as being involved in traditional music and dance in a professional capacity, I have an involvement with several dance teams. In early March I had the pleasure of playing for Sallyport Sword Dancers at DERT (The Dancing England Rapper Tournament) in Rochdale. The national competition sees rapper sword dancing teams competing with each other during the day, before coming together for a showcase concert in the evening. Unfortunately I had to leave part way through the evening to catch a train home, and so Becky Graham, who had been there as a judge during the day lead a scratch band to play for Sallyport’s spot in the concert. I arrived back at the train station to find my train had been cancelled… I trapesed all the way back through the snow just in time to join in the scratch band deputising for me! Asking 30 or so musicians to play together without rehearsal sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the resulting sound was superb. At the end of the evening we were awarded a prize for cooperation – so I suppose I would have to say that that is my dream band line-up!
To satisfy the instrument/equipment geeks amongst us, please tell us a little about the gear you use to make music.
A fiddle, a squeezebox and a voice box! I’m most at home playing acoustically, and try to steer away from getting over technical. When I do have to mic up, I use Headway Bands for my fiddles.