Youthful English songwriter Blair Dunlop is faithful to the art of storytelling that has defined folk since its very beginning
Name: Blair Dunlop
Location: Chesterfield, England
Style: Folk with a hint of bluegrass
Look out for: Albums Blight & Blossom and House Of Jacks are out now, joined by recent single Fifty Shades Of Blue
hesterfield’s Blair Dunlop may not be long into his career, but he’s already an award-winning folk songwriter. Having collected the Horizon Award at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, he followed that up a year later by winning the Premio Campi award.
The product of a musical background, with his mum having ‘done the folk clubs’ during her youth, growing up he always loved music. It was during his formative years, though, that it evolved from a mere enthusiasm, into something that he took more seriously. As Blair tells it: “When I was in my teens, I really got really into improving on the guitar and felt I could really express myself.”
He wasn’t satisfied with simply being able to express himself, and took lessons so that he could get into “the nuts and bolts of playing guitar”, although it was after he quit lessons that he really became in-tune with his writing. As he says, “My rate of improvement went through the roof when I took it away and did it on my own, and then my writing became more prolific.” That’s not to say that it’s only his guitar playing that he seeks to hone. Possessed of a fine voice, Blair utilises this to bring a storytelling aspect to his music. As he says, “I really enjoy listening to vocalists, there’s such an art to being able to tell stories, I feel like I have a story to tell and hope that people find it interesting.”
And he has plenty of stories to tell, with his latest single Fifty Shades Of Blue inspired by real events – though he leaves the precise nature of these to the listener to discern – and being “about lying to yourself and being honest to yourself when you don’t want to be”. Surprisingly for a songwriter who puts so much time into his craft, this was a song that was born in a flash, with Blair revealing that it was written “in about an hour, after I began playing a kind of west coast-y kind of thing on the guitar. Normally I’ll spend hours toiling over words, but this was the shortest. It was just natural.’
His second album House Of Jacks was released last year and work on its follow-up is well under way. Blair, though, won’t be rushed, and he has no release date in mind just yet. He explains that he wants to put his trust in letting the album design its own complexion. “I’m not working to any timescale aside from my general impatience. You want to present your ideas to people. Palette-wise, it could go either way, I’m just going to see how it feels and go with that. There’s a song for instance that’s a bit The xx-ish. I’m really fortunate to have people around me that support me, a manager that really trusts me. I think you’ve always got to be open to different ideas and possibilities.”
He won’t be resting, though, with 2015 to be a year in which he settles into a new life in London and takes his music to ever more venues. He’s currently on tour with the brilliant Emma Stevens, and he’ll be doing the festival rounds during the summer. And next year? He’ll be hoping continuing his quest for quiet domination of the world of folk by playing shows in Australia.
To find out more about Blair Dunlop you can visit his website . In the meantime you can catch his track Fifty Shades Of Blue below.