There are ten musicians in the Songs of Separation gang, hailing from across Scotland and England. Some of you will know some of us… but in case there are a few of us you’ve not encountered before, here’s an introduction in the form of a short, quirky interview.
Today we feature Hazel Askew – melodeon player, flautist, harpist, singer – is there anything this girl canny do? We’ll be posting an interview with each of the musicians in the coming weeks. Please keep in touch or join our newsletter if you’d like to find out more!
What made you want to start playing music?
I think I just absorbed it really. My parents were Morris dancers and we used to go to a lot of festivals when we were younger. I think I probably originally started learning instruments because my sister did, but then I just fell in love with all the stories and sounds of folk music and it all went from there really.
What made you choose your instrument?
All for different reasons I suppose. I learnt the flute first when I was at Primary School as I’d just always wanted to play it. My secondary school was a comprehensive that at the time had an amazing music scheme where you could learn any instrument you liked for free, I knew they had a really old concert harp locked away in a cupboard somewhere so I asked if I could learn that. A few years later I became much more interested in English traditional music and found it didn’t work so well on the flute, my dad had an old melodeon so I taught myself to play it. It was great to learn something that had a separate melody and bass side and also that was loud! Not sure the neighbours agreed…
Who would you say have been your influences (musical and otherwise)?
I’ve probably been influenced by lots of musicians I’ve heard on the folk scene over the years really. My sister has been a strong influence for me and likewise Rowan Rheingans and Hannah James who I play with in Lady Maisery – all three are amazing musicians I feel very lucky to work with. I think my approach to songs has been strongly influenced by studying English Literature at University and getting really behind the stories and the characters.
Tell us one unusual thing about you
Erm, I was almost born at Didcot Railway Museum.
What do you want this project to achieve?
In light of last year’s referendum and the current political climate I think that it’s an exciting time to be exploring the similarities and differences between English and Scottish traditions and cultures and it’s an important conversation to have. The wider theme of separation can be interpreted in so many different ways, I’m really interested to see what we come up with and I’m excited about all the ideas that will be shared and grown through working with each other. Musically, there are so many brilliant musicians and singers involved in this project, I’m really looking forward to making music with them and being pushed to work in new ways.
What matters to you about the project? Why do you want to be part of it?
Perhaps the most exciting thing is how Songs of Separation will challenge us and ignite new ideas and ways of making music, and hopefully this will inspire lots of new things. It’s also nice to have a group of female musicians working together, it’s (sadly) still seems to be quite a rare thing to have such a large group of musicians playing together who are all female, so that feels quite special. There are also lots of people involved in Songs of Separation who are singers as well as instrumentalists, so I feel like we’re all just going into this as musicians and music creators as a whole rather than any predetermined role, which feels like a really open way to start a collaborative project.
Got any news?
Me and my sister Emily’s album ‘In the Air or the Earth’ just got voted Best Traditional Album at the Spiral Earth Awards which is really nice!
I’m also in the middle of a tour with Lady Maisery, which is great fun, there are tour dates on www.ladymaisery.com
Here’s a video of Hazel and her sister Emily Askew: