An interview with Andy Cutting
Ahead of his performance at Cecil Sharp House on Sunday 10 February, we thought it fitting to share an interview Andy did for last year's Spotlight England newspaper.
Read below for an insight into the man behind the melodeon and his musical influences.
How would you describe your music?
My grounding is in the English tradition, but my influences extend way beyond these isles ... to Central France and to the storming Quebecois tradition.
How did you first come into contact with English folk music?
I was bought up in a folkie family; my Mum and Dad went to folk clubs in London in the 1960s. When I was four years old my Dad started going to Herga Folk Club (The Lakemans came through there too) which had a strong singing tradition and my father danced with Herga Morris. My older brother and I were dragged to folk club morris and mummers events from a young age.
When did you stop observing and start playing music?
I started out as a drummer having lessons, on drum kit and then percussion, aged eight or nine years. My Mum joined a northwest women’s morris side - Flowers of May – and my brother and I were brought along to provide music; my brother on violin and me on snare drum.
At what stage did you realise you wanted to pursue music as a career?
At about the age of 15 or 16 it dawned on me that I was not an inspired drummer. I lost all enthusiasm and stopped because I wasn’t happy to be ‘just OK’. I didn’t have the x-factor, you know?
My first job after leaving school was on a boat yard along The Grand Union Canal – I was always very practical. A friend of mine from a local pub had a squeezebox which had air leaking out of it. I offered to fix it and returned it to him a couple of weeks later, having re-padding the pallets and sealed the bellows, in working order. When he asked me if I’d had a go on it, I played him a couple of tunes. He was surprised by how quickly I had picked it up; it was then I realised I had a natural aptitude for the instrument. Having been exposed to a lot of morris sides and ceilidh dances throughout my youth, I’d seen and heard a lot of box players. Playing the instrument was a technical challenge, rather than a musical one as I already had so many tunes in my head. I was fascinated with how to make this machine play music. Within six months I was playing with a great local amateur band and a couple of years later I ‘went solo’, and begun to write my own arrangements.
I moved to London and met Ian Dedic, who plays for Hammersmith Morris and is a brilliant box player. He took me under his wing and every week we’d each learn a new tune and swap them at a session in The Swan, Denim Village.
At what stage did you turn professional?
It wasn’t until I became an official member of Blowsabella - a band influenced by British and European traditional dance music - in 1987 that I could give up my day job and become a full-time musician. With them I have travelled across Britain and Europe (touring East Germany before the fall of the iron curtain), around Brazil, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria.
Tell us about a career highlight ...
In 2010 I was invited to put together an evening entitled ‘Andy Cutting and Friends’ in the main concert venue at Sidmouth Festival. The idea was for me to curate a performance which would see a number of musicians I’d had the pleasure to work with over the years together. People like Chris Wood, Ian Carr, John McCuskar, Kelly Rhys Matthews, June Tabor, Kim Harris, Martin Simpson, Blowsabella, Julie Murphy. The 1000-seater hall sold out before the festival started. That was a pretty amazing experience!
Andy will perform at Cecil Sharp House on Sunday 10 February, 7.30pm.