A Chat With...Rowan Piggott
This week, we are chatting with 5-string fiddle player, Rowan Piggott. Be sure to check out the lovely tunebooks on his website!
Instrument(s): Fiddle, Voice, Cittern, Double Bass
Best known as: a fiddle-player
Your band(s) or collaborations that we should know about: The Wilderness Yet (English/Irish Folk), Old Spot (Oldtime) and my duo with my Dad, Charlie Piggott (Irish Traditional)
Number of years on the folk scene: 9 years
What are you currently working on, and what’s in the pipeline for the coming year?
I’m just putting the finishing touches to the debut album from Old Spot, my duo with Joe Danks. It’s sort of an Oldtime Appalachian fiddle & banjo album with our own influences from other traditional musics built in. We’ve got a big UK tour for that when it launches in April. Before that, I’ll be touring with The Wilderness Yet in March (with later tours in October and December) and we’ve already begun arranging material for our next release!
If someone is reading this who hasn’t listened to any of your music before, where should they start?
You could start with my first album Mountscribe, which features lots of musician friends I was working with at the time, and includes both traditional and original material.
What’s on your playlist at the moment, and why does it appeal to you?
I tend to listen to a lot of traditional music, so my most recent Irish trad purchases include the new album from Nathan Gourley & Laura Feddersen “Brightly or Darkly”, the Kane Sisters’ new recording of Paddy Fahey tunes, and Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin’s solo album. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Oldtime music from Nora Brown, Joseph Decosimo and Anna & Elizabeth. The appeal in all of these records is the same – new tunes and songs to learn or to at least inspire!
Which folk albums, in your opinion, should everyone listen to at least once, and why?
There’s that classic self-titled album of Andy Irvine & Paul Brady which is an absolute masterclass in song arrangement, and you can’t beat Many’s The Foolish Youth by The Voice Squad, who uniquely combine the Irish ballad tradition with English-style harmony singing like that of Beggars Velvet. If you’re into Scandi tunes, Draupner are my go-to modern trio, or if Oldtime is your vibe, I couldn’t live without Ways of the World by Rayna Gellert.
Where are you most ‘at one’ with your instrument?
Probably most “at one” with it in a pub session – if you mean in a flow state. It almost feels like meditation and my mind can go entirely clear.
Please tell us about your practice regime, or how you keep developing as an instrumentalist.
I have 2 young children so my practice regime has been scuppered lately. However, we have a whole load of instruments hanging on the walls of our living room, so I’ll take down a fiddle or banjo at various points in the day. Every now and then I hear something on a recording and I think, “ooh I wonder how they do that!” Then I set aside half an hour to figure it out and play along with it.
What’s the most nerve-wracking thing you’ve done (musically), and what did you learn from it?
The Wilderness Yet recently performed live on BBC Radio 3 on Christmas morning, and Rosie woke up with no voice. It really threw us and it’s the first time I’ve been really nervous in a long time. We spent the early morning thinking we might have to change the tracks we’d picked, or figure out different keys for them so I could sing the lead. Luckily, her voice warmed up a bit by the time we got there and we managed to stick to the plan! Keep calm and carry on!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a musician?
I remember when I was a teenager I was really nervous about a gig because I depended on the people in my band to get through the songs, but we hadn’t practiced very much together. An older musician said to me, “You have to depend 100% on yourself – that you can play the gig no matter what happens to everyone else.” I practiced as if I was going to play the whole gig on my own and it meant I couldn’t blame anyone else if we had a bad gig – great advice!
What’s your dream band line-up (dead or alive)?
I’d love to hear Paddy Fahey (of East Galway, Ireland) play tunes with Hultkläppen (of Hälsingland, Sweden). They both composed tunes that had similar modal modulations to them and I think it would be a musical meeting of legends! Since you said “band”, I could add Johnny Moynihan as a singer, Cormac Begley on concertina, Roger Tallroth on guitar… how big can this band be?!
To satisfy the instrument/equipment geeks amongst us, please tell us a little about the gear you use to make music.
I play a 5-string fiddle which has an incredibly dark tone to it, so I use incredibly bright strings (Helicores) and my bow is the Joule from Codabow. I use a DPA 4099 goose-neck mic with an Orchid mute pedal, making it easy to swap the mic onto my other fiddles (a violin/viola pair made by Richard King). My cittern is made by Alan Mayers and has a Headway pickup.
Photo credit: Kate Griffin
The Wilderness Yet
Here’s Old Spot playing one of Rowan’s tunes, Fly That Red Kite
Rowan’s duo with his Dad, Charlie Piggott
Andy Irvine & Paul Brady
Scandi tunes from Draupner
Harmony singing from The Voice Squad