National Folk Festival Interview: Nancy Kerr

Nancy Kerr
Image Courtesy of Nancy Kerr

The headliner for this year’s National Folk Festival is the irrepressible Nancy Kerr, who will be performing as Nancy Kerr & the Sweet Visitor Band, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan and as part of The Fagans. We sat down with Kerr ahead of the festival to chat about what we can expect from her performances at The National.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You’ve played The National Folk Festival a number of times – how does it feel to be headlining the 50th anniversary with your various projects?

Nancy Kerr: Obviously I’m absolutely honoured that the festival has made it possible to bring the band and the family out to Australia. I have been away for three years and it’s been a big time for me so I can’t wait to present our new repertoire and sounds, as well as familiar pieces from the duo’s history, to what I know is an incredible audience to play for.

GHE: In terms of folk festivals around the world how does The National rate?

NK: I think what makes The National special for me is the way it homages and appreciates the raw, grass roots qualities of folk and traditional music, presenting it all with great respect on both big and small stages. The level of knowledge, friendliness and depth with which the audience throws itself into proceedings is second to none, at least as far as I’ve experienced at festivals around the world.

GHE: You’ve found “fame” (if there is such a thing in the folk scene) in your native UK but over the years you’ve spent a lot of time in Australia touring and performing at festivals. What is it about Australia that keeps you coming back (apart from the obvious)?

NK: Well it may be obvious but it’s also true! James [Fagan] and I have been together for 20 years now – or do you mean the weather? Australia is a huge part of my history musically, culturally and in terms of family. A British colleague of mine recently returned from her first trip to Aus and said to me “Ah, I understand you now – you’re Australian!” The subjects of many of my songs will be more current and recognizable here than they are at home in the UK. It’ll be so nice not to have to explain what a Jacaranda is.

GHE: You’re well known for involving yourself in numerous projects – is collaboration an important part of your art?

NK: It’s always been central and that’s why it took me until I was nearly 40 to make my debut solo recording – I think collaboration is the source of so much musical learning and strength but I also think it’s important to step into the light on your own terms sometimes – that way the listener gets to experience everything you’re capable of and things stay fresh and creative.

GHE: After The National what’s next for Nancy Kerr?

NK: My album Instar is nearly finished – the follow-up to Sweet Visitor and also self-written – and I’m delighted with how the band sounds on it – it’s released in September. I have tours with all my projects including a trio with Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting [Simpson·Cutting·Kerr], and I will also be recording and performing political songwriting collaboration “Sweet Liberties” which was commissioned by the Houses of Parliament.

The full list of shows for Nancy Kerr at The National Folk Festival are below:

Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – The National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Nancy Kerr & the Sweet Visitor Band:
– Friday 7pm – Buddawang
– Sunday 8pm – Marquee
– Monday 4:40pm – Buddawang
Nancy Kerr & James Fagan
– Saturday 8pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle
– Sunday 10:50am – Buddawang
The Fagans:
– Saturday 10:40am – Buddawang
– Monday 12pm – Marquee

1 Comment

  1. March 25, 2016 at 09:44

    […] “I think what makes The National special for me is the way it homages and appreciates the raw, grass roots qualities of folk and traditional music, presenting it all with great respect on both big and small stages. The level of knowledge, friendliness and depth with which the audience throws itself into proceedings is second to none, at least as far as I’ve experienced at festivals around the world” – Nancy Kerr chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here […]


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