Fairport Convention: Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
Simon Nicol is spending a day at home catching up on administrative tasks for Fairport Convention shortly before they embark on their 2012 Winter Tour.
The conversation turns to fans’ devotions to various iterations of the band and their mournful fan board posts about various players’ departures.
“One of the [positives] of losing somebody is that it’s a bit of fresh air for everybody,” he suggests. “My biggest fear about the band in the last 25 years is that we would become our own tribute act. If it’s possible, I want to open up new markets—focus on new albums.”
As the band celebrates their 45th anniversary, though, they are presenting two albums of past materials. One is a live version of the 1971 album Babbacombe Lee, and the other, By Popular Request, is filled with 13 fan-chosen songs from the band’s catalog.
“It’s important that people know that although we’re a band that formed in the 1960s, we don’t live in the ‘60s,” says current Fairport drummer Gerry Conway, whose career includes playing with Cat Stevens, Thompson and Paul McCartney.
He points to Leslie’s songwriting and playing as an integral part of the band’s continued musical advancement, noting that Leslie adds banjo to fan favorite “Matty Groves” on By Popular Request.
“Currently, we have two albums from the past [that we just re-released] but that’s not the way the band operates, generally,” says Conway. “Although we try to compass [past songs] that are the basis for the group’s founding, we are a forward-going band.”
Back at Leslie’s home, his voice registers a bit of melancholy when he talks about attending the Newark School of Violin Making where he intended to spend his life making and repairing violins. He was so insistent on that path that he initially declined an invitation by Swarbrick, to join Whippersnapper.
“I still have my workshop,” Leslie says, adding that it provides something of a sanctuary for him after months of touring. “When I’m on the road, it’s very sociable. We play and come off and talk some more [to fans] so it’s very nice to have almost the complete opposite when I come home and concentrate on the bits of wood. I love getting into the workshop and working on instruments—just me and the radio.”
Although Leslie continually talks about how lucky he feels to have joined Fairport, it seems clear that Fairport could have returned to what one critic noted was a status of a “living museum piece” if Leslie hadn’t joined the band.
“It’s my belief that for Fairport to endure they must always consider bringing in younger members in order for [the music] to have a freshness,” says Hutchings. “Maybe it is no coincidence that Chris’ input is mammoth. His songwriting is so important, to setting the band apart and it seems to fit the band just perfectly. That is their way forward.”
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