Harmonica master and accordion virtuoso bring fiery folk to Petworth

Will Pound and Eddy Jay won new fans at the launch of the 2015 Petworth Literary Festival.

Eddy Jay (left) and Will Pound
Eddy Jay (left) and Will Pound

They were immediately invited to join the main Petworth Festival this year, with a date on Friday, July 15, at Leconfield Hall, Petworth, starting at 7.45pm.

Will, a three-time nominee for BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year, is a master of the harmonica; Eddy is similarly a virtuoso of the accordion.

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“We met quite a long time ago,” says Will. “It was about ten or 11 years ago. We just met through music circles, gigging circles. We kept in contact through the years, but last year I said ‘Do you fancy maybe doing something as a duo, as a proper duo doing gigs regularly?’

“We got together and recorded an album that was released last April, which was called Ignite. The front cover was pretty full-on. It was quite flamey, quite weird art. It represents the music quite well. On stage, we are quite fiery. It is interesting because it challenges what people’s preconceptions are of how harmonica and accordion would sound, and a lot of people would imagine they would sound awful. And you can understand that! But it is interesting then to see people’s reactions afterwards. They think the harmonica can’t do that. They think the accordion can’t do that. Because we haven’t got a drummer, we do the percussion on our instruments, and people seem to love it.

“I love working as a duo because you can really hone in on things. If you are doing a 45-minute show or longer, you have to keep things interesting for the audience, and with just the two instruments, that means that you have got to try to push things. We have done lots of different styles. It’s folk stuff, but within that there is bluegrass and latin and jazz and almost like TV-theme type stuff. There are almost little jingles and then right up to a full epic movie sound.

“We write stuff as well. We both write. It is not all traditional stuff. I would say it is 50-50. We compose stuff, but not always in a traditional style either. It is all instrumental. You certainly wouldn’t want to hear us sing, me definitely not! And at the end, people are saying that they never expected it to be like that.

“Things have happened for us pretty quickly. We got an agent very quickly. It’s been good. We have got an October tour coming up, our first full tour. We did a mini-tour back in April this year. You are always honing your show. You are always trying to improve.”

It was for health reasons that Will took up the harmonica: “I had open heart surgery when I was tiny, and as a result of that, when I was quite young, I had breathing problems. My dad, when I was about ten or 11, gave me a harmonica and said ‘Just try this and see if it works.’ I had a go. I tried it and I steadily got more interested and played the instrument relentlessly for a couple of years. My poor neighbours! But I was more in control of my breathing generally and it made me fitter. That’s the surreal thing.

“If I come off tour, I try to take a couple of days away from playing just to wind down, and then I notice when I am playing again, if I have had a break, that I am slightly shorter of breath again. So really I always try to play a bit every day for that reason.”

Visit www.petworthfestival.org.uk to find out more or call the box office on 01798 344576.

Also at Petworth

Theatre company Illyria celebrates its first quarter of a century this year with a tour that brings it back to the Petworth Festival.

They bring Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World to Bignor Park, Pulborough, on Sunday, July 17, starting at 2.30pm (ending approx 4.15pm; unreserved seating).

When Danny discovers his father’s secret passion for pheasant-poaching on the estate of a greedy local landowner, an adventure begins that sees Danny becoming the mastermind behind the most incredible and exciting plot ever attempted against Victor Hazell.

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