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Dave Swarbrick - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 3 / 5 / 2014

Dave Swarbrick - Interview


Ex-Fairport Convention member and fiddle player Dave Swarbrick speaks to Nick Dent-Robinson about having his death accidentally reported in the newspapers and his forthcoming solo tour

Funny, blunt yet charming, Dave “Swarb” Swarbrick is one of the most engaging folk musicians of his time. At 73 he may creak and croak a bit from time to time, but he shows no sign of fading away. Yet fifteen years ago Swarb's obituary appeared in 'The Daily Telegraph'. This was a big shock to his fans and quite a surprise to Swarb himself! The former Fairport Convention fiddler and folk-rock co-founder was recovering from a chest infection in hospital in Coventry - “That's not the only time I've died in Coventry,” Swarb laughs - when he read the premature obituary. “It took my breath away. Though after all my chest ailments that didn't need much. At the time I did feel quite ill, so they weren't that far out. But I got far more attention from dying than I ever did from playing, and I don't know if I'd ever have expected to get an obit at all really. It was so complimentary though. I thought it was great. It didn't faze me. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I made photocopies and started signing them 'RIP Dave Swarbrick' and selling them at gigs for £1 - after all how often do you get a chance to buy a signed obituary? But then 'The Telegraph' told me I mustn't do that as it was a breach of their copyright...cheeky really!” Five years after his premature “death” Dave Swarbrick had a double lung transplant and a tracheotomy, but since then he has regained his energy and seems fighting fit again. In his long career Swarb has played with a huge range of musicians and influenced many more. Apart from his ten-year stint with Fairport Convention - regarded by some fans as Fairport's golden era - Swarb has performed with the Ian Campbell Folk Group, with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, A.L. Lloyd, Martin Carthy, Kevin Dempsey, Canadian reggae artist Jason Wilson and Australia's Pete Hawkes and Alistair Hulett. He started out professionally as a guitarist with Beryl Marriot's Ceilidh Band, and it is Beryl who persuaded Swarb to return to the fiddle which he had played previously. He became one of the finest and fastest fiddle players in the world. “The fiddle is the finest instrument there is,” Swarb says categorically. “I was only an adequate guitar player, but the fiddle allowed me to develop so many styles of playing. And if you buy one good fiddle you can play it till you die. When I sometimes listen to that old Fairport stuff, it does amaze me. It is just so fast. What could I have been on?” Dave Swarbrick regards his Fairport days with affection, but he is not one for looking back or trading show biz tales. “They were certainly wonderful times, the best. It was all great fun and Fairport were – and are – lovely people, but of course I did have a career before them and after them. I am very proud to have been with the band and to have been part of the launch of folk-rock. But these days I love listening to the new generation of folk – and other – musicians. And I enjoy working with up-and-coming artists, that's what interests me most.” Currently Dave Swarbrick is touring with a number of acclaimed young folk bands – like harmonic girl band Said the Maiden and the Sam Kelly Trio. It is an 18 date UK tour organised by the Folkstock Arts Foundation which promotes new acoustic talent. Swarb is a patron. The Evening with Swarb tour includes these newer acts, but also features Swarb playing tunes and sharing insights and anecdotes. For details of the Evening with Swarb tour see www.folkstockartsfoundation.com

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Dave Swarbrick - Interview

Dave Swarbrick - Interview

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