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Saturday 22 June 2024

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Plumhall return with new album and tell us why this is their most exciting year yet!

May 22, 2024

Best-known for their harmonies and song-writing abilities, Yorkshire-based duo Michelle Plum and Nick B Hall (together know as Plumhall) are releasing a brand new album in a year that is proving to be one of their most exciting to date. In February and March, they opened for their favourite band Fairport Convention on a 30 date UK tour, collecting a great number of new fans as they went and Spring saw the band travel out to Ibiza to play the prestigious Costa Festival for the first time. With more festivals, concerts, a mini tour with lain Matthews, and the album release ahead of them, we caught up with them during a rare moment of calm!

So you must be very excited about 2024 then?

Michelle — Yes, thank you! It’s been incredible so far — even though it’s been a lot of hard work. The only worry is how on earth we’re ever going to top it!

Nick — Ha! Yes that is a worry! It has been a fantastic year with so many highs. It does feel like our feet have barely touched the ground.

Michelle — It felt like we’d hardly put the finishing touches on the album, then we were on the tour — with all the logistics that go along with it. It’s been nonstop but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So how was the tour?

Michelle — It was a dream come true! We’ve loved the band for years and to be out on the road with them was incredible. They are all such fantastic people and with their lovely partners and brilliant crew, it just felt like a huge family.

Nick — There were long drives and rain-drenched get-ins and get-outs, but every moment was worth it. It’s such a privilege to work so closely with such professionals — we watched Fairport soundcheck and perform, learning all the time.

Michelle — We’ve also nicked all their jokes! Getting to hang out with the wider Fairport family was a joy as well. We feel like we’ve made lifelong friendships. It was just lovely — we never wanted it to stop! Well, actually…after 30 dates with only one night off per week, we were ready for a break, but we missed it and everyone as soon as we were home!

Nick — What Plum said! Also we met so many lovely people and got to play in stunning venues.

How was Ibiza?

Michelle — It was wonderful! Such great people and great organisation. The logistics of it are off the scale — I don’t know how they do it, but we saw a brilliant team in action everyday, responding to changing circumstances, changing weather conditions, and making it all look seamless! Even the travel was a joy, and considering we hadn’t flown anywhere since before the pandemic, we were a little trepidatious. But no need! We played to and hung out with a wonderful, attentive audience who were so incredibly supportive and happy having a great holiday!

Nick — We’ve never prepared for a gig by going for a dip in an infinity pool before! We could seriously get used to it! We did do some work as well though, honest!

Michelle — It was so good to have catch ups with musician friends too. We’re all like ships that pass in the night usually, so Costa has had and continues to have a huge effect on the music scene. Great things happen when people get to spend quality time together.

Nick — We can’t thank everyone involved in that festival enough — it was amazing from start to finish.

Tell us about the new album…

Michelle — The difficult third album… they’re all difficult! We try to change tack a little with each record so we don’t stand still. Our debut ‘Thundercloud’ had an Americana feel, the second ‘The Ghost Of Noise’ explored synths and ‘found sounds’, and the newbie ‘One Star Awake’ features orchestration, synths, electric guitar, programming…and of course the talents of Ric Sanders and Eliza Marshall on 2 tracks. We’ve moved away from folk, but only next door. We still tend its garden and pop round for cups of tea!

Nick — You can tell we’ve been listening to lots of The Divine Comedy! Michelle is a total whizz when it comes to orchestral arrangements and, because we had to record this album a lot faster than normal..

Michelle — Because we had to speed up when we found out about the Fairport tour…

Nick — We tried to do detailed home demos (with finished orchestrations on them) and then have something solid to work on in the studio proper with David P Crickmore, the esteemed producer on all Plumhall’s recordings. David was able to bring his production vision to the songs but the entire process was a hundred times faster than normal.

Michelle — In the past we’ve had the luxury of going in with a very sketchy acoustic version of a new song and then built an arrangement slowly in the studio. We’d already decided that the process was taking too long and that demos and ‘pre-production’ would be the way forward for this one, but the imminent Fairport tour really made us put our skates on!

Nick — We think it feels more live, immediate and less studied than the previous records as a result. We’re proud of it. It’s got our trademark variety in terms of lyrical subject matter, vocal harmonies and musical genre, but it also takes a sonic leap because of Michelle’s orchestral arrangement skills.

Michelle — Everything about it came quickly. Normally working out things like track listing takes ages but we were done in an hour this time! It’s funny how a deadline gives you more focus!

Nick — It was down to the wire but we needed that deadline. We’re well known for taking years to make a record, so whilst this one felt quick, it was really only quick to us! We’ve got the tight studio unit of David, Michelle and me, with added James Crickmore on drums (keeping it in the family) who did an incredible job and then we’ve got stellar special guests in the form of Ric Sanders from Fairport playing gorgeous violin on the title track and Eliza Marshall playing flute on one song. They are both amazing and we’re so lucky to have them on the record.

Michelle — Both Ric and Eliza recorded multiple parts for us to choose from. That was hard because all the parts were incredible! They don’t know this yet but I’m going to create Ibiza dance tracks from the bits we didn’t use… (JOKE!!)

Nick — big thanks to Dave Pegg of Fairport for suggesting Ric play on that track and then asking him to do it! It was the song that we played with Fairport on the tour and when he heard a rough demo he could just hear what Ric would bring. I love the records by All About Eve and The Mission that feature cameos from Ric and it’s just mad that he’s playing on one of ours.

Michelle — And Eliza has blown us away since the very first time we heard her playing with Ranagri about 8 years ago. Her playing style is so beautifully unique. The list of people she has worked with is eye-watering, and she’s also a really lovely person! As is Ric!

Here’s a sneak peak of the first teaser track from the album:

What does the rest of the year hold?

Michelle — We’ve got a mini tour coming up with the wonderful lain Matthews (of Fairport, Matthews Southern Comfort and Plainsong) which will be such fun. We’re opening, lain’s doing a long set and then we’ll do a couple of songs together.

Nick — Can’t wait for that! Then we’ve got some really lovely festivals coming up, including the brilliant New Forest Folk Festival, Haworth Festival (where we’ll play in the schoolroom the Brontës taught in), Bright Red Festival in Newcastle, Baafest and Otley Folk Festival.

Michelle — We’ve also got more of our own touring, including a show at Middlesbrough Cathedral with our mate Pete Davies…. And a big support show for someone great later in the year… but we can’t say announce that just yet!

Nick — we’ll also be about at Cropredy as usual… don’t miss it folks, it’s such a special festival…

Michelle — We’re also thinking about 2025. If you want us for your festival, club or village hall — get in touch via the website!

So it looks like things are looking bright for Plumhall this year! 

(They are releasing another 2 teaser tracks over the next few weeks: Silent Voices on 24th May and Lost London Rivers on 31st May, ahead of the full album release on 7th  June. On Sunday 2nd June they’ll be chatting live to Sile Sibanda on BBC Radio Sheffield at 5pm www.bbc.co.uk/programmes and then from 13th June they will be heading out for another mini tour of 6 shows with Iain Matthews, opening for him, and there’ll be a bit of collaboration too!)

For further information and to buy advance gig tickets, head to plumhallmusic.com

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