[Interview] Exclusive interview with Mandy Morton

Dear readers we have the pleasure to offer you in this article an interview with an English Folk music artist, journalist and novelist. We welcome Mandy Morton.

Hi, how are you?

Good thanks, and great to be talking to you and your readers.

You were an exponent of Folk Rock scene in the 70s, how did your passion for this music come about?

I suppose it really started with The Beatles. I was a huge fan and when they hung up their guitars I started to search for something different. I was attracted to the American West Coast sound with bands like Jefferson Airplane and I soon discovered bands doing similar stuff in the UK, like Fairport Convention, who were recording songs by Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. It was a natural progression from those songs to traditional story ballads based on folk tales.

Your project Spriguns Of Tolgus has released several albums, with changes of style and lineup. How has the project evolved over the years?

Spriguns of Tolgus was really a duo that Mike Morton and I formed to play folk clubs. We were invited to run our own club and during that time more musicians joined us. We had no money to buy equipment, so we decided to make a homemade cassette to sell at the club to raise funds, and that cassette became Rowdy Dowdy Day – our first recordings that were fairly primitive and raw. We went on to record an album called Jack With a Feather, which got us a major deal with Decca Records, and at that point we dropped Tolgus and became Spriguns. My writing gradually became more contemporary and more rock as the music progressed, following the paths and trends of the time and I was happy to introduce a more progressive rock feel to the music choosing rock oriented musicians to record and play the music.

In July 2023, Guerssen Records reissued the album “Magic Lady,” how does it differ from the original version?

It doesn’t: they’ve made a really beautiful job of it, and it also has some great photos and sleeve notes taken from the recent retrospective collection ‘After the Storm’ which I put together for Cherry Red Records. That collection on CD has all the albums and a rare DVD of the band performing in 1979. Guerssen decided to release Magic Lady on vinyl from it and are soon to release Jack with a Feather combined with Rowdy Dowdy Day. It’s great to have those albums out there on vinyl again, and they even did a limited edition
blue vinyl to mirror the ten original copies that Mike gave me as a present back in 1978. Those sold out overnight, but I did manage to get one!

Both the music and the vocals are very intense, what themes do the lyrics deal with?

My early songs were mostly reworked traditional folk ballads; as the music evolved I began to write more of the lyrics but often stuck to the original folk song themes of magic, which encompassed witchcraft, murder and supernatural elements.

The album is dedicated to Sandy Denny, who passed away prematurely, what was your relationship with the artist?

I loved everything about Sandy’s music. She was a huge inspiration, and I doubt that I would ever have played music professionally if it hadn’t been for her. Her songs were gut wrenchingly real, her voice has never been matched and her death was one of the greatest tragedies of music history, but her legacy lives on in the masterpieces she left behind.

The album features Tim Hart (Steeleye Span) and Graeme Taylor (Gryphon, Albion Band) as guests, what did they bring to your sound?

Those artist were huge on the folk rock scene at the time and were all playing the sort of music I was writing, so it was a no-brainer to invite them to contribute their talent to the album, it was a collective of like minded players. I had left Decca by then and found myself in charge of my own destiny so I was able to pick and choose my musicians and to produce my own music by forming an independent record label which became Banshee Records. Tim Hart had produced my first album Revel Weird and Wild and had become a
great friend to me and Mike, he was never down to play on the Magic Lady sessions but turned up because he wanted to be part of it which was lovely.

The 70s were full of festivals, events and quality artists. What memories do you have of
that magical time?

It was hard work. We travelled up and down motorways crammed all together in vans with our equipment, arriving home at four in the morning and then going to our day jobs. The festivals were fun and it was great to be on the bill with so many amazing artists. We toured extensively in Scandinavia, taking our music to tiny villages in the mountains and even beyond the Artic Circle; looking back it was a privilege to be part of that scene but I’ve no idea where we got the energy from. We were a very active band on stage and the complications of travelling long distances between gigs by land and sea was exhausting.

Music is constantly evolving, how do you see today’s Folk Rock scene?

I don’t think there is one as such. The musicians now are much more diverse in their musical taste and swing from one sort of folk on one album to another. The use of electric instruments back in the late sixties and seventies was a revolution; now it’s just commonplace so there’s no real distinction between folk and folk rock.

After your experience in the music business you dedicated yourself to writing as a journalist and novelist, what themes do your books deal with?

My years as a journalist at the BBC gave me the opportunity to reverse roles and promote the music I loved by interviewing artists and making programmes about them, I still do that via my Eclectic Light Show, accessed on the global Mixcloud channel. My books are tongue in cheek comedy satire but really quite dark in places. There are no people in them, just anthropomorphic cats who I often channel my own life experiences through but there’s always a grisly murder at the heart of it for readers to solve. I guess my books are an extension of my songwriting.

You recently published your new book “The Windmill Murders,” how would you describe this work?

A lot of fun to write and bursting with comedic situations, history and the supernatural. The books have become my annual treat. I write them in the winter to transport me away from those long dark cold days until the sun returns.

What advice would you give to young artists approaching music with more sophisticated sounds like yours?

Keep at it and please yourself, write from the heart, play from the soul. It’s still a privileged profession and should be treated as an intimate connection between you and your audience. Fame comes to very few so treat every gig as a personal spiritual workout; that’s the best reward.

I thank Mandy for the interview and wish her all the best for the continuation of her artistic and literary activities.

It’s been a pleasure and thank you for some really interesting questions.

Mandy Morton |Facebook Page|Twitter|Spotify|

Guerssen Records |Official Website|Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Twitter|Instagram|YouTube Channel|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *