Jon Wilks

Writer and folk musician
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The Old Songs Podcast

Hopefully this news will please some of you – mainly those that were once fans of the Grizzly Folk blog that I used to publish. Having not done anything particularly journalistic or traditional folkish for a long time, and having been told multiple times by so many of you that I really ought to, I’ve decided I’m gonna.

However, it’s going to be a bit different this time. I’m going to podcast it rather than write it all out. And it’s going to have a very specific focus.

What’s this all about?

When I interviewed Steve Roud back in 2017, we talked about the idea that there’s no such thing as a folk singer, as “folk singers” (or source singers, as we might also know them) weren’t consciously singing folk songs. They were just singing songs they knew and loved. The concept of a traditional singer specialising in traditional songs came later.

That’s obviously a controversial opinion, and we won’t go into it here. However, one thing that struck me and really chimed with my own experience and enjoyment of traditional folk songs was the idea that the songs are more important than the singer. For a brief moment of time, the singer essentially looks after the traditional song. It has existed before them and will continue to exist after them. For that period, the song comes to stay with the singer and their audience, and then it’s off somewhere else.

Isn’t that lovely? The timelessness and egoless-ness of that concept is something I completely fell in love with, and I know many other singers of traditional song who feel exactly the same way.

Of course, the singer is still important. Their attraction to the song and their interpretation of the song is what allows it to reach larger audiences.

So, the idea for The Old Songs Podcast is to focus on the songs – where they came from, who originally sang them and where they might be heading – but to do so by interviewing some of the current crop of singers to try and get to the bottom of what makes each song special.

At the same time, I hope to introduce new audiences to the world of traditional music. I know through personal experience that it’s a vast and daunting mountain to be stood at the foot of, and if you’re new to it all, it can seem a bit too niche for comfort.

However, once you step into the traditional folk world, it’s incredibly welcoming and there’s so much to explore. With this podcast, I hope to help people take that first step.

Why ‘The Old Songs Podcast’?

One of the stories that most appealed to me when I was starting to read about the collectors of traditional songs came from George Gardiner, collecting in North Hampshire around 1906/07.

“Once I called on an old lady who was prepared for my visit. Unfortunately, someone else answered the door, and when I spoke of old songs the answer was, ‘We don’t want old songs. We have no money to give for old songs. We really don’t require any today.’”

George Gardiner

While the words “no money to give for old songs” resonated on a number of levels, I particularly liked the idea that “The Old Songs” were already old over 100 years ago, and even then people didn’t really have a good grasp of what “the old songs” might mean.

Hence, “The Old Songs Podcast”.

A little help required

The Old Songs Podcast will launch in January 2020 and it’ll be made free on as many digital channels as possible. In order to do it real justice, I will need to travel to the singers to interview them, and I want to improve the equipment I’ll be recording on. I will also have to pay to host the podcast.

So I’m setting up a Patreon page (see below). If you’re interested in supporting this idea, please consider supporting the podcast in this way. You can either sign up as an Old Songs Listener (which allows you access to the songs on any channel, but means you’re supporting its creation), an Old Songs Benefactor (which includes mention of your name as a benefactor in the podcast, and access to the recording a little earlier than others), or an Old Songs Librarian (which means you’ll get the above, plus a digital download of the podcast, as well as notes and photos related to the recording, so you can peruse to your heart’s content).

If you’re perhaps involved with a record company or organisation that might be interested in sponsoring the podcast, drop me a line at jonwilksmusic@gmail.com and we can have a chat.

Clicking the donate button below will take you to Patreon. Please read the instructions regarding tiers, choose the one that suits you best, and I’ll be with you as soon as I’ve got something recorded. 

Jon Wilks

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