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The big interview   |   Environment & ethics

Folk sisters

The Sony-signed folk trio Wildwood Kin launched their eponymous new album at Riverford's Field Kitchen last month, where Wicked Leeks caught up with them to talk sustainability, mental health, and why they love C.S.Lewis.

Your second album, Wildwood Kin, came out on 4 October – what’s it about?

Emillie: Mental health is something that really inspired us, and we just wanted to write songs that were uplifting and carried that sense of togetherness and honesty, authenticity and communication.

Meg: It’s been an issue for us – on our last record we lost two close family members, one of which was through suicide, and so the whole issue of mental health really drove us to use our music as a platform to really encourage people, and show them that they’re not alone, and show some solidarity.

How does the writing process work with you, as two sisters and a cousin?

Emillie: Usually one of us will start the song, and then we’ll bring it to each other and add instrumental parts and harmonies. Sometimes it starts with a riff, or some chords, or sometimes an idea that we’ve had that we want to build a melody around. We all sing in three-part harmonies, and I also play guitars.

Beth: I play keys and something called a bouzouki, a mandolin crossed with a lute, and Meg plays drums.

Wildwood Kin
Sisters Emillie and Beth Key and their cousin Meghann Loney formed Wildwood Kin seven years ago. 

How did the band come into being?

Emillie: Someone invited us to go to this open mic night, because we did a lot of singing together at home, and so we sort of nervously went. When we first started out, we stripped it right back to singing and guitars.

Meg: Later on, when we played bigger shows, we were able to go electric and I was itching to get back on the drums. That will be seven years ago in February, it’s gone by really fast.

What are your interests in food sustainability?

Emillie: There are a lot of environmental issues, and they affect everybody. And I know that some people can be quite ignorant of it and turn a blind eye, but I think, especially for our generation, there has been an awakening of how it really is affecting all of us. Single use plastic is massively damaging, for example. 

Meg: Trying to eat healthy in the music industry, it kind of hit us really, how actually you become part of a very consumerist culture. So you’ve got the streaming side of music, but it’s almost the same attitude towards food, and convenience – consume it, don’t think about it.

Emillie: We’ve all tried to make some changes. But when we go to venues and a promoter might provide a rider, so in your dressing room you might get water and snacks, and every time I’m like oh god, the plastic.

Meg: So we’ve been starting to message in advance to say, we don’t want that, or even doing things like this to at least use the platform of music to make people aware of environmental issues, and of ways they can make changes in their personal lives.

Do you think musicians have a responsibility to help sustainability awareness?

Emillie: Naturally you have a platform so you can do more to spread awareness. I think people do look up to their favourite musicians. It’s the same for us with mental health, we can actually use it as a platform, and we have a responsibility to look into what is useful and then we can share that. Healthy living actually goes hand in hand with mental health.

Meg: So many studies have come out about diet, what you put into your body and how it affects your neurological pathways and emotions. If you’re eating well, and living well, and living consciously, how that leads into every area of your mind, body and soul.

Do you have one musical and one non musical inspiration?

Emillie: I would say, being a guitar player, a lot of what Jose Gonzales does. His melodies are very ambient but also like mesmeric, and hypnotic. And then I guess, probably for all of us, it’s C.S.Lewis.

Meg: We grew up on the Narnia books, and he wrote a lot of other awesome books. And the way he writes is really spiritual and allegorical.

Emillie: Because we have faith, as well, and he has written about his faith, so that for us really resonated. Musically, I just absolutely love Phil Collins, which is the most unexpected answer. I just love his voice, I love his rhythms, and I love his song-writing. He’s like the underdog, just great tunes. And James Taylor as well, because we grew up with folk-Americana.

Meg: I just love Sigur Ros, I love their soundscapes and their use of sampling. Non musically, I really love Brené Brown. I think her talks are amazing. She’s written loads of amazing books about connecting humanity and opening up emotionally about being vulnerable. I’ve found her books really life changing.

Beth: The Enneagram. It’s the oldest personality test and we love it. It’s changed our lives and our tour dynamic, because we know each of our types now, it just helps you understand each other so much more and how you respond to things.

Wildwood Kin are on tour around the UK until December. For dates and tickets, click here.

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