Combining breathtaking harmonies and melodies, folk duo Ninebarrow bring their unique sound to The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, next month
It’s only been eight years since folk duo Ninebarrow branched out from their daytime jobs to launch themselves onto the music scene, but they’ve already packed a lot in.
Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere are now multi-award winning artists, have released three albums and, in a not so usual move for musicians, written a book of walks in their home county of Dorset which have inspired their music.
But until 2012, the duo who had been friends since the age of 12 were following very different careers – Jon was a primary school teacher and Jay a GP – and music was simply a hobby.
“Our first gigs were back in 2012,” explains Jon. “We did it because we love music and we were very fortunate that we were able to take our love beyond it being just a hobby.
“In the beginning though, that was a real struggle for us as we had to split our music with the day job.” It wasn’t until 2016 that they were able to concentrate solely on their musical career.
It was an early folk award nomination that set the ball rolling. “It brought us amongst a wider audience and helped to make that step into full-time musicianship,” said Jon, adding: “We’ve not rested on our laurels though, you can’t.”
They’ve supported the likes of Fisherman’s Friends, Kate Rusby and Seth Lakeman, among others.
“Fisherman’s Friends are a spectacle to behold and are really charming guys who’ve all led very interesting lives,” enthuses Jon.
“(Kate) Rusby and her band are absolutely incredible to watch, a masterclass; and (Seth) Lakeman, he brings energy and a unique rawness, and that’s why we’ve not rested on our laurels, we’ve learnt from them.”
With a number of albums to their name – Where the Blackthorn Burns (2014), Releasing the Leaves (2016), The Waters and The Wild (2018) – perhaps the most surprising project they took on was Ninebarrow’s Dorset Walking Book.
Eighty pages in length, it contains ten walks in and around Dorset described as ‘taking readers on a magical journey through the landscape that has played such a huge part in the success of their music’.
“A lot of our music is inspired by the landscape,” explained Jon. “There was a time, when family came to visit, we hadn’t realised where our music came from, and that it had originated from the walks we’d done.
“It’s because of that we wanted to do something different, and that’s what inspired us to do what we did and it’s been really well received, much better than what we expected.”
2020 is set to see the release of their next album. “Two years is a good time between albums,” says Jon, “that and we’ve been exploring new and different ways, mastering techniques etc so, to be honest, there’s likely to be another album later this year so we’ll be recording that around April time ready for an October release.”
They’re also heading out on the road when they will be returning to The Apex following their gig last year. “Performing at The Apex will be part of a pretty special tour for us this year, states Jon. “It’ll be our first one as a band which followed on from a one-off show we did in Dorset last year, which was rather well received.”
For the first time, the duo will not only be joined by cellist and long-term collaborator Lee MacKenzie, but also the talent of John Parker on double bass and Evan Carson on percussion.
“As for the venue itself, The Apex is a beautiful, brilliant venue, somewhere we are looking forward to performing.”
The Ninebarrow Band, Wednesday, March 25, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Call 01284 758000 or visit theapex.co.uk
More by this authorPeter Mann