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At the heart of English folk
Reg Meuross

Exclusive interview: Reg Meuross

Modern day troubadour Reg Meuross takes to the stage of Cecil Sharp House with a rare full band show on Thursday 8 October, giving his critically acclaimed album England Green and England Grey a suitably grand finale. We had a chat with Reg to find out a bit more about the show and his thoughts on songwriting.

What was the idea behind your latest album?

England Green & England Grey (the album) grew from me realising I had written quite a lot of songs about disenchantment; about the way things have been going in this country and the constant media onslaught of dissatisfaction, blame and corruption. England Green and England Grey (the title track) kind of summed it all up.

It’s not about party politics for me, these are personal reflections on my country and how it and its people are being treated by those in power. I originally wrote it for a gig at Sidmouth Parish Church, as a contemporary folk song for folks to join in with, and they have!

The other songs seemed to fall into place behind it, some with a political message, others inspired by people I’ve met and stories I’ve read or heard.

I feel very proud to be reuniting with the wonderful musicians who made the songs on the album with me at Cecil Sharp House.

Which song from the album is your favourite to play live?

Tony Benn's Tribute to Emily Davison. It fills me with satisfaction and a sense of achievement. It says what I wanted to say in a gentle and beautiful way I think. I'm not a soapbox kind of singer, my approach is far more intimate and I think I achieved a kind of intimate protest with that song. It is also very simple to play.

What can we expect from the show at Cecil Sharp House?

This will be a very rare full band concert with some of the finest musicians in this country. It is always a massive pleasure and privilege to play with them so it will be a total indulgence in talent and empathetic musicianship, a lot of laughs and hopefully some thought provoking songs.

In what ways do you have to change your approach to performing when playing with a band rather than solo?

I have to practise! It is much more of a responsibility which is why I try to find the very best and sympathetic musicians, so that I can feel safe. Playing solo is the best thing of all for communicating with an audience though, I can make up the set as I go depending on the mood.

Your lyrics tend to be very descriptive and visual. How important is creating this vivid imagery to you as a writer?

The lyrics, the story and the poetic content are essential to me since I decided that this was what I wanted to do as a creative person for the rest of my life. I wanted to say something worthwhile and share my ideas, thoughts and beliefs with people. That is what happens in the response I get at gigs and from people who buy my CDs. People like to tell me their stories and share their ideas with me; I find that hugely rewarding. I believe it is all about communication and I feel I am doing that in a creative way.

You sometimes run songwriting workshops; how did these start? How do you approach developing such an instinctive skill as songwriting?

I think songwriting is easy so it isn't hard for me to teach. If you write songs or make up tunes, you are a songwriter. The trick is to make them appealing to others and to learn how to focus your thoughts and ideas in a musical way. I don't believe it is possible to teach people how to write a hit song, if it was I would just write hit songs and be very rich. But I do think songwriting has its own craft and sets of skills. They are different for each one of us, it's a question of finding your own way into your own thoughts and feelings then finding your way back out again looking and sounding good with your pants up and your shirt buttoned. I have set proven techniques which help people to think differently and unlock things but I also like to work individually with people and help them to find their strengths and weaknesses.

What have you got planned for the next 12 months?

Well I am involved in an exciting duo project with the brilliant young Wiltshire songwriter and singer Jess Vincent called Pretty Peggy O, where we are writing original duets and reviving a few more well known ones for a show in celebration of two part harmony. Apart from that I have another trip to Australia planned. I went this year and was very successful so they've asked me back. I am hoping to do a new CD in 2016 as well as a duo CD with Jess based on our show. Then just more gigs and more miles and more happy faces.


Find out more about the show
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National Youth Folk Ensemble


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