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Arts / Singer-songwriter Guest offers a taste of the folk festival with new live EP

The six tracks were recorded at the Shetland Folk Festival last year

“I THINK music’s got a way of bringing people together and making people feel connected,” local singer-songwriter Adam Guest says. “I’m hoping these recordings will help to keep people feeling connected.”

The Adam Guest Band. Adam is front left, next to Kirsten Hendry. Mark Smith (back left) and David Sjoberg (back right) complete the quartet. Photo: Jonathon Bulter

We are currently living in times of disconnect, but Guest is looking to bring folk together with the release of his new live EP.

Right now, people may have been nursing hangovers after attending the opening night of the 40th Shetland Folk Festival, gazing ahead to a weekend of toe-tapping tunes.

With the shindig cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Guest and his band are looking to give people a bit of the folk festival with their new release, which was recorded at the event last year.

Adam Guest Band’s Live At The Shetland Folk Festival captures the group – which also feature Kirsten Hendry (fiddle), David Sjoberg (bass) and Mark Smith (drums) in full flow at Mareel in 2019.

The six tracks evoke a classy feel, with melancholic folk rooted in storytelling which feels modern while simultaneously cap-doffing to bygone decades.

The live tracks were due to be sold in a physical form over the Folk Festival weekend anyway, but it has been restricted to a digital-only release.

Guest and his band have also had plans for an album halted, with the group three tunes into its recording at Mareel when the building was forced to close due to the pandemic.

“With this EP, we just thought it would be nice to still give people a little bit of the folk festival,” Guest says.

“I know this week in particular would be when musicians are arriving, when everybody gets excited about the folk festival.”

The live songs, though, came as something of a surprise – with the band not actually knowing that their set at Mareel was being recorded.

The venue’s sound engineer Tim Matthew, known for doing live sound for acclaimed Scottish folk group Lau, worked on the tunes with some mixing and mastering.

There are little studio tricks at play, with what you hear what the audience heard on the night – although “they did manage to cut out my ramblings about Barnsley and Middlesborough and giving shopping tips to my dad”.

Guest has been playing with his bandmates for over a year after previously playing the isles’ circuit as a solo artist.

“I think it’s been a great experience for me going from playing solo gigs, which at times can feel a bit lonely, to sharing music and ideas with other musicians,” he says.

“When they’re really great friends as well as really great musicians it’s just a lot of fun to build on ideas and have different creative input from people.”

Guest cites the likes of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance as influences, although his move from Yorkshire to Shetland for work in the 2010s also inspired his music-making.

“I’ve been writing probably for the best part of 15 or 16 years now, but I’ve lived for the last six years in Shetland and that’s had a big impact on my songwriting,” he says.

“I’ve met a lot of musicians through moving to Shetland and that’s been a great way to meet friends right from the get go. Musically I think I’ve really tried to grow as a songwriter and I think part of that’s been through meeting different musicians and being exposed to a lot of folk music up here.”

The band’s album, meanwhile, remains stopped in its tracks, with no indication as to when Mareel will reopen.

However, Guest reckons time spent in lockdown could actually see the record look a little bit different than originally planned.

“We had started to build a bit of momentum with that recording process, but I think with the nature of everything that’s going on at the moment, I think it’s completely understandable,” he says.

“As difficult as lockdown is for everybody and not being able to see loved ones and family, there are some positives out of it, where I’ve had to take a step back from things.

“I think if anything to be honest I’ve still tried to push myself to write a bit more, and maybe that might mean, to look at it positively, there might be some material that makes it onto the album that wouldn’t have done, because we’ve got more time, or maybe I’ll think about arrangements a little bit more, so it might take a slightly different path from where it’s on at the moment.”