Feature: Becky Unthank – My 5 Biggest Influences

We’re back with our feature, ‘My 5 Biggest Influences’, where we talk to some of our favourite upcoming and established artists, delving into their greatest influences and inspirations, to see how bands, records, tracks, friends & family, hobbies and even environments have impacted on their work and music

Our latest guest is the fantastic Becky Unthank, member of the sensational folk-group The Unthanks, which also features Becky’s sister Rachel, Adrian McNally, Niopha Keegan and Chris Price

Today they release their glorious new record Lines – a trilogy of song cycles inspired by poetry, focusing on three female perspectives across time – writer Emily Brontë, the female World War One poets, and British Hull fishing worker Lillian Bilocca

Our review of this stunning project will be available very soon, but first, here are Becky’s 5 Biggest Influences…

Tyneside

Rachel and I grew up on the opposite side of the river to Newcastle on the banks of the Tyne. Follow the river eastwards and you arrive at it’s mouth, west and you wind your way into the wilds of Northumberland. Growing up listening to and singing folk songs meant that we were looking all around, close to home for identity. Having the sea, the city, the river, the borders, so close by gave us a rich history of songs to draw from. We are spoilt for brilliant singers in the Northeast; The Keelers, The Wilsons, Johnny Handle, The Elliots of Birtley are a few among many that continue to inspire us as a band.

Family

Our musical education has mainly been as listeners and participants rather than students. It’s thanks to our mum Pat and dad, George, who always sang to us, played albums, and taught us songs on long journeys in the car. Getting to stay up late to watch gigs at festivals and then falling asleep in our tents whilst the music and the fun carried on. No wonder we wanted to be in a band, we needed to find a way of going to folk festivals for free! At family parties everyone was encouraged to do a turn, whether it was a clog dance, a song, or an electric guitar solo, anything goes.

The album The Noah’s Ark Trap, by Nic Jones

I remember this album being played a lot in the car and in the house growing up, but have never owned it myself until I was given it for my birthday last year on vinyl. One of the best gifts I have ever been given. Playing it again as an adult in my own home brought back memories. Not specific memories of particular events, but more of a mood. Songs like Annachie Gordon, Ten Thousand Miles, and the Isle of France, I was immediately hooked in again to that atmosphere. The way singers like Nic Jones and Sheila Stewart tell a story is something I love about folk music, and is always an inspiration and influence. The telling, or hearing of a story, whether it be through singing or being read to by a loved one, is such a treat.

The album Many’s The Foolish Youth, by The Voice Squad

My other favourite thing about folk music is harmony. The way that a few single notes sound, blending with each other is such a pleasure. I am much more often moved by collective chemistry than technical brilliance. The Voice Squad are leaders in both. I have listened to this album endlessly, and I still love it. What a bonus to find out that Fran, Gerry and Phil are such warm, lovely spirited men, when we worked with them a few years ago.

Festivals

Our childhood Summers were filled with camping at folk festivals. Mum, dad, three kids and a dog in a big second hand tent with brown and orange 70’s style flowers on it. The feeling of being part of a community, the line between performer and audience being so fluid. I’ve made some life long friends at festivals, where we felt safe and encouraged. The most valuable piece of armour I had as a teenager, on the days at school that felt isolating and narrow, was knowing there was a whole world out there.


Lines, released today, comes in the form of three tight and intimate records; each shorter than the Long Player, but longer than the EP. They are, if you
will, Medium Players, available to buy as three separate records, or as one neat set in an unshouty slipcase, on 10” vinyl or CD

Head to www.the-unthanks.com for more information and tour dates