Indietracks interview #7: Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long is an English singer-songwriter whose debut album Hoverance was released on Gare du Nord records in April this year, and was The Guardian’s Album of the Week. The beautifully pastoral record features a cast of collaborators including Tom Dougall of Toy, string-arranger Louis-Philippe, Jack Hayter (ex-Hefner) and A Little Orchestra. His new record was described as “really, really beautiful”, by DJ Lauren Laverne on the “Headphones Moment” of her BBC6music radio show.

Your new album, Hoverance, was released earlier this year and was said by The Guardian to be “inspired by the glories of nature” – tell us a bit more about what inspired you most when writing the album.
I went back to where I grew up to write the record, which is just outside London. Movement itself is inspiring, so that train journey out of London often results in a song. I think nature reflects our internal states (and vice versa). You can find echoes of that in Emerson, in the writing of Thomas Merton, and in a lot of Celtic Christian thought. Celtic Christian spirituality had the concept of ‘thin spaces’ – places where the world seems transparent and you sense that something else is there. I find the mystery of a natural world that is at once very familiar and very strange a constant source of inspiration.

Lots of influences have been cited in reviews of the album – Nick Drake, The Clientele, Grant McLennan… does any of this ring true for you? Were there any musicians who influenced the style and sound of the record, and was there a specific sound you were trying to achieve?
I love The Clientele but I was a bit surprised by that one. Nick Drake, sure I can see that. Grant McLennan too makes sense… he has a sort of unshowy artistry, which is something I always aspire to. I always loved the way American Music Club used the Pedal Steel in a non-country context. I like the sound of Bill Fay records and early 70s Dylan records. But in the end a record – and especially a first record – is so much the product of circumstances and accident that I can’t really remember why it sounds like it does anymore.

You co-founded the lovely Gare du Nord label – tell us a bit more about that and how it came about.
Robert Rotifer (journalist, broadcaster and musical polymath) has been a great supporter of my music and one day rang me to say he was founding a new label and would I like to be involved with it. Since then we’ve released three Papernut Cambridge albums (sprawling collective headed by ex-Death In Vegas producer Ian Button), a Rotifer album, my album, a Picturebox album (Canterbury based lo-fi pop) and the latest Alex Highton album (Liverpool-born singer-songwriter). Everyone helps each other out and plays on each other’s stuff. It’s a big and ever-growing family – our compilation album attests to that – but it goes even further to include artists who haven’t (yet) officially released anything on the label but who are very much involved, such as Darren Hayman and Citizen Helene.

Do you enjoy playing live most, or are you happiest in the studio?
Writing is my favourite part. There is nothing so exciting as the first half an hour when a song forms. I like playing live too, but it’s an elusive thing. It’s really important to me do everything to bring the moment, but there’s no guarantee you will.

Indietracks is held in an unusual venue – a steam railway. Have you played any other unusual places in the past?
Indietracks probably wins. Although as a member of Papernut Cambridge I have played on a decommissioned tube train at the Walthamstow pump museum.

What music are you enjoying at the moment?
Recently I’ve been listening to the new Jim O’Rourke, some Laura Nyro, and the Bop English album.

What can people expect from your Indietracks set?
I’m looking forward to playing in the chapel. I’ve just confirmed that there will be some very special guests. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say who yet, but they come as one outfit.