Interview: Sharron Kraus
Interviewer: Phill Bruce
I love music as a whole and I must admit I had never heard of dark folk music. Then I discovered Sharron Kraus. She blends amazing acoustic guitars with her sweet melodic vocals and I was hooked. I had a chance to catch up with Sharron and here’s how it went.
Phill – Firstly can I thank you for agreeing to this interview with Grave Concerns Ezine. Can you tell us a little bit of a background about yourself and where in this beautiful world you are from?
Sharron – I was born in New York to an American father and English mother. My family moved to England when I was 1, and I've lived there most of my life. I came to live in the US as an adult – first in the Bay Area, then more recently in Philadelphia. I now live in the Welsh hills, in an old vicarage that's attached to a church that's built in a stone circle. I'm back in Philly right now, having just finished a short US tour and getting started on writing a new album with one of my musical collaborators.
Phill – Oh that sounds dreamy a vicarage in a stone circle, how did you come about living there?
Sharron – I've always dreamed of living in Wales, in the area around Aberystwyth, where I spent a year as a student a while ago. I fell in love with the place back then and have never found anywhere as inspiring. I got lucky with the house – it came up at the right time. It's not all dreamy, though. I've had to learn a hell of a lot about off grid plumbing, stone repairwork, and ways of dealing with the other unexpected quirks of the place!
Phill – So what part of the world do you prefer Wales or the US?
Sharron – there's no way to compare the two: it's like asking whether I prefer food or drink. I need to spend time in both places, and am lucky enough to be able to travel back and forth fairly regularly. Having somewhere quiet and green to go home to means I get really excited about coming to cities and living a more urban life for short stretches of time.
Phill – Are there any Welsh folk songs or tales that provide a back drop for your music?
Sharron – there's a collection of Welsh tales called 'The Mabinogion' that I'm currently reading and studying and some of the stories are leading into songs. Mostly, though, it's the landscape that's becoming my inspiration.
Phill – At what point in your life did you decide to form your band and why?
Sharron - I'm mostly a solo artist, but I collaborate with a lot of different musicians. I didn't really decide at any point – one thing just led to another. I was writing songs when I lived in California, and recorded them with the musicians I was spending time with. Then I decided to send out some of the songs as a demo and got signed up to Camera Obscura Records, who then started putting me in touch with some really great musicians who invited me on tour with them, and things just progressed from there.
Phill – So what instruments do you play Sharron?
Sharron – I play guitar, banjo or dulcimer when I'm singing, but I also play some wind instruments, a bit of fiddle, piano, and anything I can hit.
Phill – So who have you toured with?
Sharron – The first tour I did was with a psych folk band from Providence called The Iditarod. Then Fursaxa, Meg Baird, James Blackshaw, United Bible Studies, are some others.
Phill – Who besides yourself is in the band and what background are they from?
Sharron – The people I play with and record with are mostly from the US – from the Philly area – but there are some English musicians who I've been recording with recently. They're all pretty busy and diverse – most have solo projects and various band configurations.
Phill – Is there any notable people that you have collaborated with?
Sharron – I've collaborated with Fursaxa on a project called 'Tau Emerald' – that's mostly spooky soundscapes; with Meg Baird and Helena Espvall of Espers on an album of traditional folk songs; with Christian Kiefer; and at the moment I'm writing a second Rusalnaia album, which is the band I have together with Gillian Chadwick of Ex Reverie.
Phill – What are your musical influences?
Sharron – I think mostly the way I work with the things that influence me is to process them so thoroughly that they don't really come through as influences. I'm inspired by all sorts of things: fiction, poetry, films, art, trees, the moon, psychedelic experience, birdsong, .. I think it's important to find a voice that's your own, not to sound like anyone else.
Phill – Poetry, is there any poet in particular that inspires you?
Sharron – Again, I don't know how to pinpoint who's inspiring me in any specific way. I enjoy reading poetry but don't read it in order to be influenced. The poets I come back to again and again include Emily Dickinson, Baudelaire, Robert Frost – pretty predictable choices!
Phill – What do you think that it is about your music that sets you apart from the rest?
Sharron – I guess there are things that I want to say, stories I want to tell, that are different from those told by other writers. Also my approach to writing music tends to involve a more dischordant palette of sounds than most people use.
Phill – How would you describe the style of music you play?
Sharron – I would try to avoid doing so unless pressed to: I'd say have a listen and see what you think!
Phill – Where do you see your band in five years and what are your hopes for the future?
Sharron – My hopes for the future are pretty modest: that I continue to be excited about my musical projects, continue to connect with like-minded musicians, and to find an audience for the music I make.
Phill – What part of the world have you found where your fan base is the biggest?
Sharron – The US is generally a good place for my music, and there tend to be pockets of people dotted all over the place.
Phill – Is there any place or venue you would like to play at and why?
Sharron – I like to play in atmospheric venues: my ideal venue would be a spooky haunted house. But preferably a spooky haunted house with a good PA!
Phill – Out of all the venues that you have played which has been the most magical?
Sharron – It's really hard to narrow things down to one – loads of places that have been inspiring and distinctive. Playing in the museum in Aberystwyth, which is housed in an Edwardian theatre building, was wonderful, and the venue's such a special one I'm now curating musical events there and getting to invite some of my favourite musicians to come and play.
Phill – Do you prefer to play concert hall type venues or something more open air?
Sharron – I find the acoustics tend to be better indoors, and that's a big part of what makes a show enjoyable – if I can tell that the sound is good then I'll play well, whereas when the sound is shitty and I can't really hear what I'm playing, I can find that detracts from my performance. If I get to play a small, secluded outdoor event, though, that can be really special.
Phill - Without giving too much away is there any instrument or program you wouldn’t be without and why?
Sharron - I'm pretty flexible about what I play and if anything I have too many instruments I divide my time between. I like to think that I'd be able to make music of some kind even if all my favourite tools were taken away. Having said that I'd be pretty sad to lose my lovely old Gibson.
Phill – What do you usually order when at a restaurant or ordering a take away?
Sharron – Food. A wide range of, except usually no meat.
Phill – If you could be a villain in a movie which fictional villain would you like to be?
Sharron – Probably Professor Moriarty, because then I'd get to grapple with Sherlock Holmes.
Phill – If you could put together your dream band who would be in it?
Sharron – mostly people I'm already working with, but if I could dabble in necromancy and bring Sandy Denny back to life, I'd love to duet with her.
Phill – What’s your favourite music at the moment?
Sharron – I'm enjoying the new Ex Reverie EP – 'Praxis'.
Phill – If you could be on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and you could have anyone as your phone a friend who would that be?
Sharron – Maybe having the the person who compiles the questions would be a good choice.
Phill – Thank you so much for giving Grave Concerns Ezine this interview Sharron, is there anything you would like to add?
Sharron – Nothing I can think of. Thanks!
Good luck for writing your new album and also for ‘Gwerin Y Gwern’ Sharron
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