National Folk Festival Interview: Mark Moldre

Mark Moldre
Image Courtesy of Mark Moldre

Central Coast singer-songwriter Mark Moldre is heading to The National Folk Festival this year having spent the last two years solidly touring his fantastic album An Ear To The Earth. Moldre is a favourite on the folk scene and we sat down with him to talk about the festival, his album and what’s coming up next.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You were in the first round of artists announced for The National Folk Festival this year. What’s drawn you to play there?

Mark Moldre: I just wanted to play some festivals to tell you the truth. We were sending out a whole bunch of applications and I was keen to get onto some festival bills. I’d heard lots of really good things about The NationalSarah Humphreys who I’m good friends with had told me heaps of good things about it. She always enjoyed playing there, crowds were so attentive and it was such a great musical atmosphere. For that reason I was just really keen for The National.

GHE: One of the cool things about folk festivals is that the people who go to them are music lovers. They truly are there for the music, not just to see the big name artist at the top of the bill or to follow a particular genre.

MM: You can see it from the performers. The genres are quite wide aren’t they?

GHE: Definitely. And I think the reason you’ll fit in really well is because you straddle multiple genres with your music.

MM: There are some people who are really really good at writing for a single genre and absolutely nailing it and sticking to it. I think about people like Pokey LaFarge for example – he’s just so good at what he does, that kind of jazzy, western-swing thing. I don’t know whether my head’s too scattered or what it is but I find it really hard to sit down and think to myself “ok, I’m going to write an album and I’m going to stick to this”. I listen to so much music and I’ve enjoyed listening to songwriters who’ve really delved into different genres and tried to pull together then own sound. I’ve always admired people like Paul Simon for example who’s a master at that. You can tell straight away it’s him but he can write for so many different genres. I kind of like when there’s a lot of styles all pulled into one common thread.

GHE: I also think that songs can transcend genres as well. Paul Kelly is a great example of someone who can adapt his songs for whatever genre takes his fancy, whether it be folk, pop, rock, soul or bluegrass. I like musicians like yourself who serve the song first and foremost.

MM: That’s nice to hear! I think what I pull from people like Paul Simon or Paul Kelly is they’re really strong lyricists as well. I think a lot of the time people are listening just as much to what they’ve got to say as they are to the music.

GHE: What can audiences expect from you at The National? Will you be solo or with a band?

MM: I’m enjoying the fact that we’re taking the whole band this time. We’ve got me on acoustic guitar, Jamie Hutchings on electric guitar, Michael Carpenter filling in for our usual drummer which is going to be fun, Reuben Wills playing double bass and Adam Lang on banjo and lap slide. It’s the full lineup.

GHE: That’s really exciting. It’s nice to be able to do that for a festival because I know how expensive it can be carting people and gear around the country.

MM: Yeah, it is hard and it is expensive. I just really wanted to do it with the band and I think the festival requested if the band could come if possible.

GHE: As far as your live set goes are you mainly drawing from An Ear To The Earth? I know it’s been out for a while but is that still the album that you’re touring?

MM: I can’t believe it’s been out for two years. We had this discussion with the band just before we started rehearsing for The National and we decided because we haven’t played Canberra that much, and a lot of people wouldn’t recognise those songs, we playing mainly from An Ear To The Earth. I have a couple of new songs which we ended up not having the time to rehearse and just wanted to stick with the songs that were strong. I think there’s one song from The Waiting Room and one song from a collaboration I did with Michael Carpenter and then the rest of it’s from An Ear To The Earth. And we’ve been playing Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues” for a while and we love playing that so that’s remained in the set list.

GHE: I feel the music industry and the music media, myself included, are so obsessed with what’s the next thing. It’s kind of nice to settle into an album like An Ear To The Earth and see where it takes you. Do you feel like the songs have evolved in the two years since its release?

MM: The band plays them a little grittier and harder than they are on the album, that’s probably one thing. What you just said I think is really true – I think more and more because of people’s short attention spans and social media people do move from one thing to another very very quick and forget about what they left behind. Albums are just having a shorter and shorter shelf life. That kind of makes me a little bit sad because I always enjoy really letting an album wash over you and repeated listens and rediscovering things. I’m still really into track lists and not listening to songs where I’ve pulled singles off iTunes. I like to listen to an album from start to finish. And kind of my whole goal of doing this concept of a clip for every song on the record is to give the album a lot more longevity than it normally has while waiting to find some inspiration for the followup.

GHE: And it’s a nice way to keep creating something new from an existing album, releasing clips every few months.

MM: I’ve really enjoyed doing those. I love movies and I love talking about that stuff, writing down the concepts and coming up with the ideas. I’ve really enjoyed doing that probably as much as I had making the record. And I’ve worked about five different people making the clips – it’s been a ball.

GHE: It feels like between yourself and Sarah Humphreys, Bill Chambers, Mike McCarthy, etc, that there’s a nice little folk and acoustic scene in the Central Coast. What do you think that’s down to?

MM: Yeah there is. There’s a nice bunch of people and there is a nice little folk scene. Everyone knows each other and we all gig together and everyone’s quite supportive of one and other. I think we had to do that because even though we’re not that far away from Sydney we feel a bit isolated in that there isn’t many places to play here. As you probably know Lizotte’s [Kincumber] is closing its doors – that was a place where a lot of us over the last eight, nine years all had a lot of support shows there. Brian [Lizotte] was really supportive of all the local artists. With that going, it’s good that there’s this folk community, this group of us who kind of get together and organise little shows whether they’re at places like The Glass Onion Society or Quatro or wherever it may be. I think without that we’d kind of all feel isolated.

GHE: I kind of feel like the music scene always finds a way. Just because venues close doesn’t mean there isn’t an appetite for live music, whether it moves to other venues or starts popping up in living rooms as people put on house concerts.

MM: That’s right – the house concert thing is really taking off.

GHE: And I think that’s a response to venues closing down. Live music has found a way.

MM: The thing with house concerts is you know that those people who live int he house are going to work to bring some people along. Whereas you can go to a venue in some obscure location and never want to have the owner book you again because no one turns up. You’re kind of guaranteed with those house concerts that you’re going to play to a nice, attentive audience that are keen to chat to you afterwards and buy CDs and talk music. They’re a great idea.

GHE: So after The National Folk Festival what’s next on your plate?

MM: I’m definitely head down for writing on the next record. I’m planning on recording pretty much the same way with the same band. I’m looking for Jamie to produce it again and we’re going to record to tape again – we had such a good time doing things that way. The joy of just going straight to tape and playing live with the band was just one of the best recording experiences I’d ever had. And for me it was probably my favourite result. So writing and then a new recording.

1 Comment

  1. April 3, 2015 at 06:01

    […] “We had this discussion with the band just before we started rehearsing for The National and we decided because we haven’t played Canberra that much, and a lot of people wouldn’t recognise those songs, we’re playing mainly from An Ear To The Earth. I have a couple of new songs which we ended up not having the time to rehearse and just wanted to stick with the songs that were strong” – Mark Moldre chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here […]

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