Songwriter’s Circle: An Interview with Four Singer Songwriters
Four acclaimed singer-songwriters will be coming together for an evening of song at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts on Tuesday 21st March 2023, at 8pm. Annie Dressner, Lucy Grubb, Dan Wilde and Luke James Williams will be performing in Maidenhead as part of their tour in March.
This will be a rare opportunity to see four shining lights of the UK’s acoustic music scene, as they will perform individually and in collaboration. Between them, they have appeared at some of the country’s biggest music festivals, including Cambridge Folk, Green Man and Glastonbury. They’ve also had rave reviews and appeared on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music.
The Songwriter’s Circle
The Songwriter’s Circle is made up of four talented singer-songwriters who share a love of classic song writing.
Annie Dressner is originally from New York and has been in the UK for eleven years. She is currently writing her forth studio album and has had considerable airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music. Annie has performed at a number of music festivals, sharing the stage with the likes of Echobelly and Ben Ottewell from Gomez. She was shortlisted for Female Artist of the Year in 2020 by Fatea Magazine, and is also one half of the duo ‘David Ford and Annie Dressner’.
Lucy Grubb from Norfolk came onto the British Americana scene after releasing her debut EP in 2017. She has made appearances at many music festivals, including Glastonbury, Latitude, Cambridge Folk Festival and AmericanaFest. Lucy has three EP’s under her belt. Her debut EP was named best UK EP of the year by Country website Belles and Gals, and her second EP gained 5 stars by Maverick magazine.
Dan Wilde is originally from Blackpool, but now lives in Cambridge. He has currently recorded three albums and is working on a new release. With profound lyrics, he has developed a growing fan-base. Dan’s ‘stunning’ guitar playing (Maverick Magazine) has also led to an endorsement from Fylde Guitars. He has supported acts such as Rick Astley, Ethan Jones and Cara Dillon and has performed at some of the UK’s best loved folk festivals – such as Cambridge Folk Festival, Kendal Calling, Beverley Festival and Galtres.
Luke James Williams is an indie/alternative folk singer-song writer from Cambridgeshire. After releasing his debut EP ‘Drove’ in 2018, Luke gained huge support from BBC 6 Music DJ Tom Robinson. His track ‘Still in Bed’ was named ‘Track Of The Week So Far’ in July 2019, and the song was played across the station by Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq and Tom Ravenscroft. Luke released his debut album in July 2022 which was described as ‘Outstanding’ by Folk Radio. He has supported artists such as Megston, Mark Chadwick (Levellers) and The Little Unsaid
Interview with the Songwriter’s Circle
What music did you listen to growing up, and who has really inspired you?
Annie Dressner: There was always music around me. My grandma played the violin and my father played the piano. I played piano from a young age. I would say that my family inspired me to want to play music. There was a lot of musical theatre (though I don’t think evident in my writing, though possibly gave me an ear for a melodic top-line), Simon & Garfunkel, Carly Simon, John Denver, etc… When I was fourteen, I was given a mix-tape by a classmate that had Pavement, Belle & Sebastian and They Might Be Giants on it. I always would sing along to songs on the radio no matter what it was – and I never knew the words. Melody and vocals have always been what I am drawn to the most.
Lucy Grubb: My parents listened to a wide range of music as I was growing up so I listened to everything from ACDC to Fairport Convention. My mum had a Simon & Garfunkel CD, the Sounds of Silence album, and the first time listening to that just blew me away. That’s when I knew Paul Simon would be my biggest songwriting influence.
Dan Wilde: I really got into music through my brother. He was older and shared a room, so I’d just listen to whatever he listened to. It was stuff like Nirvana, Therapy, Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers and that kind of thing. I started playing guitar and was in a few bands at school playing that kind of stuff. Later on I discovered Jeff Buckley and I read a lot about him. He had an eclectic taste for music and I was really inspired by his range of influences. I’d check out all the artists he’d mentioned as his influences and through those artists, I’d find more similar artists. That was really my way in to discovering music for myself and figuring out what I liked. It got me listening to everything from Nina Simone to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Luke James Williams: The first music I loved was from my parents’ collection; the likes of The Beatles, Annie Lennox, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac and especially Tom Petty. Me and my group of friends in upper school were all heavily into music and would always recommend and share things with each other so I was listening to everything from Björk to Rage Against The Machine, from Massive Attack to R.E.M. Listening to artists like that also turned me on to loads of other music and really expanded my horizons. I love so much music but I would say that the two biggest influences on me and my writing are PJ Harvey and Sufjan Stevens.
As singer-songwriters, do you ever perform covers?
Annie Dressner: There are a few that I like to do. I actually recorded one on my last album Coffee At The Corner Bar. It was a cover by The Magnetic Fields called The Book Of Love. I also like Between The Bars by Elliot Smith and one I’m not going to name in case I record it.
Lucy Grubb: I do occasionally, if it’s something that I connect with and think my audience will also connect with. I recently performed ‘Jackson’ by Johnny Cash with a friend of mine – that one always goes down well.
Dan Wilde: Yes I do. I love learning my favourite songs and when I learn one that really suits me I’ll throw it in to my set every now and then. I try not to do many in a set though, so maybe one or two and no more.
Luke James Williams: Yes, I’ve played quite a few. I love getting inside other people’s songs and creating my own interpretation of them. One of my favourite songs is ‘Always On my Mind’ but I always thought it should sound a bit sadder and more regretful so I made my version that way. I’ve also recorded and often play ‘Dreams’ by Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac).
Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with – either now, or in the future?
Annie Dressner: I love collaborating, so I am always open to it. Last year, I made a record in two days with a friend, David Ford, titled 48 Hours. We wrote it in two days after meeting, within two days and recorded it in a 13 hour live session the following week. I think there can be a certain magic when you write songs with other people, so long as you are open to being vulnerable and honest.
Lucy Grubb: Absolutely! Erin Rae is one of my favourite artists from Nashville right now and her album Lighten Up was my favourite of 2022. I’d love to write with her.
Dan Wilde: Yeah but probably too many to mention. Right now I’m obsessed with Leif Vollebeck. I’d love to just be a fly on the wall in the studio to watch him make a record. I doubt I’ll get the chance to collaborate with him but who knows, anything is possible.
Luke James Williams: Yeah, I perform mostly solo but my recorded material often has other instruments, percussion and harmonies and I’d love to play the songs with a band at some point and then potentially collaborate further though writing together and forming songs as a collective.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
Annie Dressner: This question is a bit hard to answer, as trying to do music professionally for me is like taking baby steps up a mountain, but not quite knowing where you are going – except that you know you want to reach the top. Each thing I have been successful in has been a step, and each one of those has felt as important as the next, whether it be performing very well at a live show and moving people, to writing a song I am very proud of, having music in a film, or having a song play on 6 Music. I don’t think any of these have outweighed the other – and sometimes I feel like I’ve done nothing at all.
Lucy Grubb: Headlining The Den Stage at Cambridge Folk Festival was a big highlight for me.
Dan Wilde: The most fun I’ve ever had was touring the east coast of America with a good friend from Uni. He booked around 15 shows and we were on the road for 21 days. We covered about 14 000 miles but it was a lot of fun. I also love going over to Germany. The audiences and venues there are amazing.
Luke James Williams: It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing. Progress is a long road and each little thing you do plays an important role but definitely something that helped to expand my profile and reach a wider audience was when my song ‘Still In Bed’ was made a BBC 6 Music recommends track of the week in April 2019.
What plans or goals are next for you musically?
Annie Dressner: I have just finished writing and recording my next album, so stay tuned for that as I am working on a plan to release it sometime next year.
Lucy Grubb: I plan to release my debut album! I’m currently in the writing process but that’s my main goal – to release my debut album in the next few years.
Dan Wilde: I need to finish my next record. It’s been waiting patiently for too long. The songs are all there, I just need to make time for them. So that’s definitely a focus for this year.
Luke James Williams: I released my debut album last July and I have lots of new songs bubbling away so I’m looking forward to dedicating some time to finishing them and recording another album. I’m also very much looking forward to playing at Northern Kin festival in Durham at the end of April with the likes of Beth Orton, Levellers, Turin Brakes and The Anchoress.
Photo credits: Photo of Annie Dressner by Elly Lucas, photo of Lucy Grubb by Kate Wolstenholme, photo of Dan Wilde by Zulfiya Wilde, photo of Luke James Williams by Jean-Luc Benazet
Book tickets for An Evening of Song with Annie Dressner, Lucy Grubb, Dan Wilde and Luke James Williams at Norden Farm, Altwood Road, Maidenhead SL6 4PF, Tuesday 21st March, 8pm