A Celebration of Welsh Music with Liam Millinship from BarlowCree

Transcript of video

So hi there, I’m Liam Millinship – I’m a singer songwriter, guitarist and one half of the duo BarlowCree. I’m from Wales and I’ve been playing guitar for – ooh, nearly forty years.

So you must be pretty good at it?

Ah, well, I suppose, yeah. I’d have to say yes, some might say no! No excuses, anyway.

How long have you been performing with BarlowCree?

Um, since about 2011. We released our first album then, that spurred us on to start performing live. But before then, I’d spent years and years in different bands in Newport, where I grew up, just playing other people’s songs. I was always into folk, it was always there in the background, but of course being younger it wasn’t cool – being in rock bands was the cool thing to do, so we did loads of covers, rock, rock ‘n’ roll and stuff like that in Newport. But it was always there, the acoustic guitar was always sat there, upset in the corner.

How did you get started with BarlowCree?

We first knew each other ‘cause our kids were in the same school, so we met in the school yard while waiting to pick the kids up. And then, I knew Johnny was from Yorkshire, you know you can’t miss his accent. Our name itself is a combination of Yorkshire and South Wales; so when you were playing tag or tig as a kid, in South Wales your place of immunity, your safe place would be called Cree, and you’d cross your fingers and you’d be immune. And Johnny in Bradford used to say “Barlow”, and they would do this with their arms (sort of a crossing forearms, tapping shoulders motion) and that would mean safety. So we’ve combined our two names for a safe place in BarlowCree. People were worried that it might involve Gary Barlow, but it doesn’t at all, fortunately.

How has your work changed with different musical influences and life experiences?

Certainly when we were living in Cardiff, when we recorded our first album, we were influenced by folk legends and tales about our local area. And then growing up in Newport, in South Wales, under the lights of the steelworks where everybody worked, and where I was supposed to go and work (which I didn’t in the end) helped us write a song on the new album called Man of Steel. Which is a song about a conversation between myself and my dad. The night before I was taking up an apprenticeship in Llanwern steelworks and he told me not to go, and not to do it, because he’d worked there for thirty years and he didn’t want me to go there. So I suppose, more life experiences than welsh bands.

How do you find that different audiences relate to your music?

You find that, especially with common legends, everyone’s got their own variation. We sing a song about a devil that came from London to Cardiff to dam the river Taft, to drown everyone in Wales – when we’ve played up in Shropshire in the Midlands, they’ve got a story similar to that of a tump or a mound of earth in their village. So everyone seems to say “Oh, we’ve got one of those, we’ve got that” and of course, a song about working in a steelworks and working double shifts, and nights, and the tough work that people did in those days in the steelworks, it resonates with everyone right across the UK. So, I think that folk songs tell real stories about real life.

Any exceptions or difficulties?

Well, only with the song the Devil and the Cobbler, because the inference is that the devil’s English. So it really works well in Wales; in fact people cheer. (Laughs) But when we play it in England, I get Johnny to say it, ‘cause he’s English, and it doesn’t go down very well. So if we play up North, we have to say the devil’s from London – but it’s tongue in cheek, we never get into any sort of ethical trouble because of it. At least, not yet anyway.

What does music mean to you?

As a person, it’s food and drink, you know. It’s in my bones, it’s in my marrow I think. I couldn’t survive without it. Probably the most assertive I’ve ever been in my life was to knock on my next door neighbour’s door and ask him if I could have one of his guitars, and he said yeah! That was it, I taught myself – I had lessons in school but I didn’t like it because I wasn’t learning the songs that I wanted to know like Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac. My parents bought me a Beatles complete book – I always remember the book ‘cause it had really inappropriate, sort of saucy pictures in the front which they’d cut out ‘cause I was only about eight or nine. But we didn’t listen to the Beatles, so I learnt all the Beatles songs without ever hearing the originals, which I suppose now feeds into the fact that I can write songs without hearing the originals, which is odd.

I see that you have one of our Fusion bags, any thoughts?

They’re fantastic, I was really surprised – it was so solid, I thought there was a guitar in it when it came out the box! They’re brilliant, I can’t wait to go and gig next month and take my guitar, I’ll be showing everyone.

Happy St. David’s Day, if that’s your thing!


Interview by Will Binns

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