Answering some of Calum Macleod's questions below, Dan Walsh has been described as the finest banjo player in the UK and has also been dubbed "the real deal" by Uncut magazine with an eclectic style taking in folk, funk, bluegrass, jazz, rock and even Arabic. Also a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Dan has performed throughout the UK at all the major folk festivals. After three years of touring the UK as one half of award-nominated duo Walsh and Pound, Dan’s returning to his solo gigs as well as fronting an all-new Dan Walsh band. He is also one half of duo Copy Room with spoken word micro fiction writer Amy Mackelden and their performances include appearing with poet Simon Armitage at Durham Cathedral. Dan is performing four dates at Highland venues over the next week.
1 The banjo seems to be an instrument that is particularly associated with certain styles of music such as bluegrass and folk, as well as having a bit of a resurgence in the 90s and then more recently with the nu-folk scene. But what was it about the banjo that attracted you?
I saw an Irish banjo player Barney McKenna when I was 13 and just fancied it. I was already playing guitar but really wanted to play Irish stuff. I really didn’t know about American music at all but to be honest I just liked the sound of the banjo I was open to anything on it!
2 Because you play the banjo, do you find yourself being pigeon-holed as playing a certain style of music or find yourself faced by certain assumptions about what you play?
Oh yes! I first started playing in pubs and everyone expected Deliverance! It is hard to convince people the banjo can do so much but they seem to agree once they hear it!
3 You are in India just now, could you tell us how you came to be invited there and what, if any, musical connections you want to make?
Amazing place, this! I was invited by the British Council and the English Folk Society to collaborate for a week out here with three other Brits and four Indians. Hoping to learn a lot and make some music that’s new and exciting. I love Indian music so very excited.
4 From playing in a duo, you now alternate between solo and performances with your own band. Do you have a preference between the two or do they bring out different qualities in your own music?
I’ve always loved playing solo, but there’s a great buzz about playing with bass and drums and everything. I like playing with others a lot but I love the freedom of playing solo and being able to change what I do on the spot a bit more.
5 As a player you have used the banjo to explore not just folk and bluegrass, but rock, jazz, funk and Middle Eastern sounds. Any new areas you want to touch on next or any collaborators you want to work with?
Always! In terms of solo, I’d actually quite like to do an album that’s a bit more focused on one area just for a change after two albums of a big mix! Looking to do more with Alistair Anderson, he’s a legend!
6 And finally – any plans for a musical session or two while you are up in the Highlands?
Oh I would think so! Looking to sample some more malts too...
Dan’s Highland dates are: The Old Bridge, Aviemore, on Wednesday (Feb 20), Hootananny, Inverness, on Thursday, The Grog and Gruel, Fort William, on Friday and the Market Bar, Inverness, on Saturday.