Sound Effect: Sam Lee interview

Sam LeeSam Lee is a pioneering musician and songwriter who is changing the face of the British folk scene. His debut album Ground of its Own was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize this year.

Sam is also an award-winning promoter and his Nest Collective initiative offers a vital platform for both new and traditional folk musicians.

In the latest issue of M magazine we asked him to talk us through the songs that have shaped his life.

The first music I remember hearing was…
Yiddish folk songs, sung to me by my grandfather as I sat on his knee. They made no sense to me but seemed so wonderfully exotic. Then my dad used to sing the Paul Simon Songbook to me when I was growing up,so luckily music was within the family.

The first record I ever bought was…
When I was 13 I joined one of those music clubs where you get five free CDs and I chose Michael Jackson Dangerous and Thriller, Madonna Erotica and some others I care not to publicly mention! All three albums I still love to this day, especially Dangerous which has maintained such a fresh and inventive sound.

The last great record I listened to was…
I am in love with Gerry Diver’s Speech Project – a unique piece of work – but lately have fallen in love with trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf’s new album Diagnostic.

The song I wish I’d written is…
Joni Mitchell’s Old Furry Sings the Blues from her Hejira album. It’s a song that captures the decay of the old order and the relationship between new enthusiasts looking into this other world.

The song that makes me want to dance is…
I made a pact with myself when I was younger that if I ever hear a Michael Jackson song I have to dance. It is a repaying of the debt I owe to him for learning how to dance from him.

The song that makes me cry is…
Whenever I hear songs sung by my late teacher Stanley Robertson (the Aberdeenshire traveller), and if it’s late and I’m tired or emotional, I struggle to stay dry-eyed at all.

The song that I know all the words to is…
The Irish folk song Whiskey in the Jar, which I learned as a kid. The last verse goes: ‘Some folks take delight in their carriages a-rolling, some folks take delight in the hurly and the bowling, me I takes delight in the juice of the barley and courting pretty women in the morning bright and early’. I remember each moment in my growing life when the penny dropped on each line and that verse piece by piece made sense.

The song I want played at my funeral is…
I have saved a little song called The Linden Tree that will be my little requiem. One day I shall record it, but until then all I can say is that it’s a stunning and tiny little ode to the cycle of life I once found, sung by a Polish-American traditional singer. It’s a gem.