Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles are a Cheltenham-based folk outfit (and there will be more on the perils of genre anon), but their frontman has done more than his own fair share of wandering: originally hailing from the north-west of England, Edd first came to the town he’ll be playing during the Decent Days & Night Weekend all of twenty-four years ago.
At the tender age of forty-two, he has now released his debut album. Something To Take The Edge off has received an enthusiastically warm welcome, and Edd’s live shows in support of the record have generated a real buzz. His DD&N gig, then, promises something special. Catch him at the Frog & Fiddle on Thursday 22nd May, supported by Della Lupa, Edd Mann and Nathalie Mac.
In the meantime, here he is to talk about working as a social worker, why he’s still waiting for someone to describe his music properly, and how he has a faintly disappointing aversion to dressing up in other people’s clothing.
Q: Here’s what we know: your name is Edd Donovan. Who’s behind the name?
A: I was christened Edward Donovan by my parents so I guess I hold them responsible! I shortened it when I was a teenager so it looked better in graffiti on the side of buildings!
Q: A key part of your story is that you started at this guitar-and-song writing game relatively late. What effect do you think that has had on your music?
A: It just means I haven’t been allowed the opportunity to make a tit of myself in public, by prancing around a stage and pretending to be someone else! I’m glad to have had the time to develop and refine my art within a protected environment (family and friends) whilst growing up, and that now, as I am reaching my potential, l feel confident I can connect with an audience – a confidence I hope is now more grounded in reality, rather than a delusion!
Q: Part of the reason you started so ‘late’ is that you took the radical step of having a life beyond your songs. For instance, you work as a social worker. How does this find its way into your songs?
A: I don’t perceive it as in any way radical for one to secure an income for one’s future by getting a job, rather than chasing the dream of being an artist– though I feel very fortunate to have got a job! However, Social Work is a radical force within the controlling and risk-averse state we live in, and, yes, what I experience in my job has given me some great insights into the human condition … and thus whole-heartedly feeds into my reflections and song-writing.
Q: Of course, your act isn’t just you: there are the Wandering Moles to account for, too. Did the band just happen, or was it a deliberate choice for your music?
A: After a while it can get lonely on stage and a bit self-indulgent being the solo artist, but also, there is nothing quite like performing with a good band, and I have recruited a great band, so I’m having a great time. Oh, and it was deliberate!
Q: Key question: each member of the band must wear fancy dress on stage. Who comes as what?
A: I don’t like fancy dress so I won’t consider your question any longer. Though I did ask Chris Collins (lead guitar) to shave off his hair from his head and face; apply makeup and contort his face whilst performing his solos!
Q: You seem to embrace the dread work ‘folk’ with a lot more eagerness than some other acoustic musicians. What does that word mean for you, and how does your music sit in that company?
A: I’m not the biggest fan of traditional music, but I like modern folk and Americana-type folk. I’m not completely comfortable with the folk tag as it’s a general term and I guess encompasses a large part of what I do - however, I’m still waiting for someone, somewhere, to categorise my sound a bit more interestingly and accurately (and without using the word “shite”)!
Q: Given all that, choose one instrument that you secretly wish was part of your regular line-up but, despite all the careful thought you’ve put into your sound before I came along to ask so inane a question, isn’t. Then explain yourself.
A: I would have liked violin, bass clarinet and piano, as I have Moles on standby with such offerings to contribute, but this recent album was all about simplicity and space and would not have benefited from any more layers. However, the next album is in the forefront of my mind and will be a labour of Mole activity.
Q: You’re promoting your music very well at the moment, with articles and interviews about the new album all over the shop. How do you find the ‘business’ side of music? How do you engage with it?
A: My manager, partner and mother to our children keeps a sharp focus on the promotion and management of me – she is the wand behind the magic! Paper label records have also worked tirelessly on the business side of things. Together, we have had many fun times experiencing the Wandering Moles grow. Personally, I enjoy contributing some of the creative elements, but become disturbed by some of the realities of the music business and regularly question my motives in all of this.
Q: Plug your wares here: why should we buy your album/come to your gig/join your fanclub?
You can listen to my music for free – I’m a big believer in tasting something before you eat it!, But ,if you like it, then I urge you to buy it on CD or Vinyl - and support this valuable industry and a local music collective. We have invested a lot of money, time and effort to get this far, but if we don’t make our money back we cease to be. This album is quality from start to finish and deserves a place on your CD rack. Come see us live: we are shit-hot, and you can have a chin-wag with the band and get your CD signed. But before all that, visit us on Facebook and like our page, or sign up to the mailing list via our website. Be part of the movement, be a mole and join us on our journey.
Q: For the TL;DR crowd: describe your sound in five words or fewer.
Bed-wetting, truth-bearing, heart-warming, ear-worming and worth-sharing! [Strictly speaking, that’s six. – Ed.]
Interview by Dan Hartland
Dan Hartland writes songs, book reviews and occasionally facetious band interviews. His work has appeared in, amongst other venues, the Los Angeles Review of Books and on the back of train tickets. You can hear more of his music at www.danhartland.com