Ted Barnes is one of Britain’s most prolific guitarists. He was Beth Orton’s regular guitarist, appearing on her first three albums, ‘Trailer Park’ (1996), ‘Central Reservation’ (1998) and ‘Daybreaker’ (2003).

In 2004, Barnes formed folk trio Clayhill with former Sunhouse singer Gavin Clark and one-time Beth Orton double bassist Ali Friend. They have recorded four albums together, ‘Cuban Green’ (2004), ‘Small Circle’ (2004), ‘Acoustic’ (2005) and ‘Mine at Last’ (2006).

Barnes is also a solo artist and has released three albums, Short Scenes’ (2002), ‘Underbelly’ (2005) and ‘Portal Nou’ (2008). ‘Portal Nou’ features guest appearances from Orton, Clark, Dan Michaelson and French singer Francoiz Breut.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Ted Barnes at a one-off gig to promote ‘Portal Nou’ at the Purcell Rooms in the Southbank Centre in London.


PB : We are now up to solo album number three with ‘Portal Nou’. The second album, ‘Underbelly’, was an instrumental album. This new album is full of guest vocalists. Did you want to return to the feel of the debut album, ‘Short Scenes’ ?

TB : Yeah, possibly. I have always had a love for song writing. On the last one, it suited the mood. It started out as a soundtrack to Shane Meadows’ ‘Once Upon a Time in the Midlands’. I did record some songs for it but when I played them they started to sound as if they were better kept for me.

This one I felt happy to let people have an imprint on. I was keen to do more song writing and I had songs lurking , so I was bold enough to ask some singers whether they wanted to get involved.

PB : Did you write the lyrics for these songs ?

TB : No,,not all of them, Beth Orton wrote her song completely, Dan Michaelson wrote his song. In the case of Francoiz Breut , I love her work, and was keen to get her involved, but once I got in contact with her she said, “Actually I don't write. I like to sing other people’s songs.” So I suddenly I had to write lyrics. That was the first time that I have written lyrics. Well, it is not the first time. I have always tried, but I have been a failed songwriter. It was the first time I had succeeded. I did it with the help of Gavin Clark and my partner. We strung it out together.

PB : How long did it take you to record and write this album ?

TB : It was quick actually but some of the songs I had already from ‘Underbelly’. It took it about a month.

PB : ’Portal Nou’ has come out as the first release of Mornington Records. Is that your own label then ?

TB : Yeah, I have just set it up.

PB : Is it just for you then ?

TB : I would love it to be for other people. I have some people I really love and they struggle to get stuff out, so I would love to do it. Setting up a label now is a ludicrous thing to do. I don't know why I did it, so to invite other people on it will become a financial burden, to me which I couldn't afford to do. Maybe in the future, but right now it is a means to an end to get my record out there. I finished it and it was mixed a year and a half ago, but as soon as it was done the label I was on said they couldn't afford to put it out. It was in limbo for a year and so I gave myself a New Year Resolution to release it myself.

PB : Are Clayhill still together ?

TB: I have appeared on Gavin's solo record, and we both did the soundtrack to Shane Meadows’s new film ‘Somers Town’ together .

PB : How did you meet Shane then ? Was it through Gavin because they are both Nottingham based ?

TB :.My association with Shane is purely through Gavin. Gavin’s old band Sunhouse provided some of the songs for Shane’s early film ’24 : 7’. He used me for ‘Once Upon a Time in the Midlands’ which didn't work out, so to work with him with ‘Somers Town’ has been great. He is a force. He walks into a room, and you know he is there. He is incredibly witty, very domineering.

PB : Why did he make ‘Somers Town’ in black and white ?

TB : I don't know. I think he has always had a love for it. Originally it was a short for Eurostar and then it got longer. The plan is to tour with them, show the film and then Gavin and I will play a gig afterwards.

But go back ack to your question about Clayhill, yes, I still work with them, About two years ago we started the next album, but because we parted with the label it became really hard. Gavin landed himself some work with UNKLE, and that has gone really well.

PB : Clayhill did a Smiths cover with ‘Please, Please, Please’. Were there any reason why you did that song ?

TB : That was Gavin's call. We toured with Kathryn Williams, who had done a covers tour, and he was inspired by that. I'm not a Smiths fan, but I love our version. It was always a joke that I was doing a cover of a song that I wasn't smitten by.

PB : When you have a record out, do you tour a lot ?

TB : No, I don't tour solo stuff at all.

PB : But you make enough to survive on?

TB : No.

PB : Have you got a day job then ?

TB : No. Every year, goes by and it’s like, “I can’t afford to do this anymore”, but I love what I do.

PB : You could always work as a session player.

TB : I did a few tours with some female singers I know, and they were great, but it gets harder each year to survive, and cutting down your overheads to zero.

PB : You toured a lot with Beth Orton.

TB : We did loads and it was what we wanted to do and it was a happy band.

PB : And now she is a happy mum with a girl called Nancy in Norfolk.

TB : ‘Trailer Park’ is going to be re-released.

PB : .As a remaster ?

TB : Yeah, I'm hoping with some extra tracks, because there are some out takes that are incredible.

PB : Thank you for your time.

TB : Thank you.

















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