Sunday, 11 December 2011

Meg Baird of Espers hits the road solo: by James Nuttall

Espers singer and guitar-player, Meg Baird, embarked on a tour of  the UK this month to promote her third solo album Seasons on Earth.

Arriving a little after seven o'clock at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, I was swiftly invited into the upstairs bar by the lady herself for a prearranged interview.  

This was the sixth night of Meg's nine date UK tour, which spanned from Edinburgh to Brighton. 

Very softly-spoken, humble and polite, she invited me to sit at the back of a small room, which was to play host to the nights gig. As the opening act completed their soundcheck, I was worried that her soft, Philadelphia accent wasn't even going to get picked up on the microphone... thankfully I was mistaken.

How have you enjoyed playing in the UK? 

"It's been good... definitely different; and also because I'm doing it all by myself somewhere that's all kind of unfamiliar, even (getting the) trains... It's kind of a funny dynamic that I don't usually have even though I sing by myself at home all the time." 

Do you get more nervous playing on your own as opposed to with a band?

Not exactly nervous, it's just that you're responsible for every single detail, (so) you never really relax because it's your fault if everything goes wrong haha! But you have to worry about playing and then all the other stuff, but it has its up-sides for sure." 

Have you got a favourite track from your new solo album, Seasons on Earth?

"I probably like Stars Climb up the Vine the most."

What kind of music do you listen to when you're not on the road? 

"Pretty much the same as what I play but I listen to a lot of other stuff, too."

Do you listen to your own albums?

"I listen to them for work, and then it starts to get weird. Sometimes it's good to check in on them, but I don't just hang out and listen to them." 

What's happening with Espers? Will there be another album?

"We don't have any plans to do anything right now, but we never said that we were stopping, so I guess somewhere down the line we will work together again."
Asked if she has a favourite album by Espers, "No" was the immediate reply.

Espers have released four albums- Baird's haunting and powerful vocals leading each one of them to high critical acclaim. Her new solo album is similar to a stripped down version of the last Espers album from 2009, simply entitled 'III'.

Meg's second solo venture, the 2007 album Dear Companion, gained as much critical acclaim as her efforts with Espers. All Music commented that the new album is " poetic as it is authoritative." Often being compared to Sandy Denney, Baird's solo show consists of her and a guitar; travelling by train to get to her gigs with next-to-no entourage she is the definition of a travelling folkie. 

After being given a free copy of the new CD and a spot on the guest list for that night's show, I made sure I got a front row seat.

With a pint of beer in one hand and a capo in the other, Baird walked onto the stage, unzipping a simple-looking acoustic guitar from a brown suede gig-bag from the back of the stage. The audience shuffled in their seats and the rustling of crisp packets  was rife, but once Baird plucked her first note there was silence throughout her 80 minute set.

Playing songs from her solo albums, her voice reverberated around the small but packed room to an in-awe crowd. The highlight of the show was the penultimate song, Friends from the new album, which led onto the final song of the night, the encore song which was a cover of another Philadelphia musician to combat Bairds homesickness.

Before heading to the merchandise stand to sell copies of her album, Meg walked over to me to answer a question she was unable to answer previously...

Who would you like to work with?

"If I could I would really like to work with Neil Michael Hagerty." This is the American singer-songwriter of Pussy Galore and Weird War fame.

Final question of the night: Are you coming back?
"I hope so... If I can manage it, yeah!"

Meg's new album, Seasons on Earth, is available to buy at:

Follow Meg Baird at:

Many thanks to Meg's press officer Lucy Hurst, and Ben Wileman from the label for setting up this interview. 
Also, many thanks to the Hebden Bridge Trades Club:

All photographs © James Nuttall, 2011

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