Exclusive Interview: Joshua Burnell - Into the Green
Joshua Burnell’s new album ‘Into The Green’ takes on Tolkien influences to narrate the story of a Shepherd who has lost his sheep, and embarks upon an adventure to find them again. Joshua’s music combines both folk and progressive rock, appealing to audiences across the board. The album’s cover art is fittingly illustrated by Ted Nasmith, a Tolkien style artist, who captured the albums epic, woodland adventure tone. We asked Joshua about his experiences creating the album.
Q: What interests you about folk and progressive rock?
A: I’ve always enjoyed retro 70’s music. I grew up listening to Queen[.] Because of that I got really into bands like Genesis and Yes. [...] When I came to the UK I was really into folk music. I’d go to sessions and the real hard-core beard-stroking folky kind of guys were really good to listen to.
Q: What were your influences for ‘Into The Green’?
A: When I sat down to write ‘Into The Green’ it was probably things like early Led Zeppelin. Sort of acoustic, summery, fantasy feeling. That vibe was there when I wrote it, but then it sort of changed by itself. [...] The sort of Genesis sound crept in when I put the Hammond Organ on it and then I thought, “Actually I do need a drum kit on this as well ”. [...] It sort of evolved organically
Q: What are your favourite albums? How have these influenced your own style?
A: The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists is one of the best albums [...] it’s quite forresty as well. It’s sort of like blues meet rock. Pink Floyd, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and also their first album ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’. ‘Queen II’ is sprawling and full of storytelling.
Q: What is it that interests you about music with a focus on storytelling?
A: I think it’s because when I was younger I really didn’t want to be one of those artists that just wrote love songs. Obviously I’m very into Tolkien, Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit [...] I think with music you can create atmospheres quite well. You can obviously tell the story through words, but you can also have this opportunity to set the scene with the music and take you on an adventure through sound.
Q: How is ‘Into The Green’ different from your EP? Was the recording process any more challenging?
A: It was 100 times different in every way pretty much. Lend an Ear, the EP, was a very quick project. I recorded it at the Chapel at York St John. [...] I’d asked them whether I could do that and they said “No, unless it’s at 11 o’ clock at night ” so I was in there, in the middle of the night, didn’t really know how to use the gear, it was rushed over a couple of days. [...] Whereas with ‘Into The Green’ I thought ‘let’s do it properly’. I met Dan Webster at The Habit sessions, and he owns a studio. [...] I sort of lied to him. I said it was a folk album [.] Then gradually as the instruments began to build up (and there was about 50 tracks on one of them) he realised it wasn’t at all a folk album. He really enjoyed the process and made sure everything was done really professionally [...]. He mixed it, it was mastered by Jon Astley as well.
Q: What is your favourite song on the album?
A: I really quite like The Smuggler’s Tale because it’s quite epic and at the same time it’s quite funny when you hear all the backing vocals. It sounds quite piratey. It’s a bit of a pastiche.
Q: You play in a lot of York venues. Which one is your favourite to play in?
A: We play in The Basement a lot [...] It’s quite an intimate setting as well so you can make it really loud and then actually talk to the crowd as well. We play the Fulford Arms which is really good. They’ve got some very good lights in there and a smoke machine, very big fan of smoke machines so that won me over! In terms of pubs, Snickleway is my favourite. You sort of cram into the corner by the bar like sardines, playing lively folk music for hours. It’s great.
Q: What was your favourite performance?
A: One of our favourites was the gig we did before this at the basement. It was the first gig we did as a full band with a Hammond Organ and all seven of us on stage. I think we just really nailed that and we really enjoyed performing it. Everyone came off stage with a buzz.
Joshua worked with numerous artists on the album, including Yom Harding from Blackbeard’s Tea Party playing the Cajon whom Dan Webster was keen to have on the album. Nathan Greaves playing guitar and bass guitar. Joshua’s brother, Ben Burnell, playing banjo and mandolin. Dan Webster’s wife, Rachel Webster played cello on the album and also let Joshua (after much pleading) use her Yamaha Grand piano. Antonio Curiale plays fiddle on the album. Joshua says ‘I don’t think he was expecting what it was, he was expecting some folk tunes [...] but when I had him overlaying his violin about fifteen times to make an orchestra sound he was quite taken aback, but he really enjoyed it.’ Angela Gordon from Mostly Autumn also featured: ‘She [Angela] came in to do the flute parts and the whistle parts. In fact, there was one particular part that I’d written on piano years ago and I’d been trying to play it myself on whistle and I really couldn’t do it. [...] I did one take, well I did like fifty takes with Dan and we put them all together into one pretty crappy take. We both sat there and thought ‘let’s ask Angela and see if she can do it’. I sang it to her twice and then she did it perfectly. She said ‘it falls under the fingers really nicely,’ and I thought ‘right, okay that’s it, I’m never playing the whistle again!’
Q: Are you planning on touring?
A: A UK tour and a few festivals we’ve got booked in. We’re playing the Riverside Festival down in Devon. We’re doing Folk on the Water. It’s a little boat that moves, good little pun there as well. We’re playing the Big Gig in Halesworth. Ideally we’re going to do a little French tour as well. The cover of ‘Into The Green’ is the view from my parent’s house in the Alps. It was written in the Alps. Sitting at that view I thought ‘hmm, what can I write a song about... that!’
Q: Tell us more about the ‘Into The Green’ Album launch at The Basement?
A: We have been playing bits for the album up until now, but we’ve been saving up the whole thing for the launch. So we’ve never played the whole thing through before, it’s going to be ‘Into The Green’ from front to back, which is quite a challenge. The rehearsals are very challenging. [...] it should be quite a feat if we pull it off. We’re intending on having a light show and I’ve got some huge print outs of Ted Nasmith’s work.
When we asked Joshua if he’d been into music since a young age he said: ‘I always knew I wanted to do music, but it didn’t feel that realistic until really I started doing gigs around York and being asked if I wanted to form a band. That made me realise you can just do it, just get out there and start doing it’. It’s fantastic to see a determined artist supported by their local creative community. To further support Joshua Burnell you can attend his album launch at York Cityscreen Basement on the 25th of June at 20:00, book tickets here: https://www.picturehouses.com/cinema/York_Picturehouse/film/joshua-burnell-and-band-special-guests/tickets/7420Like Joshua Burnell on Facebook