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Dragon Interview: Tristan Seume

Published on: 15 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 15 Sep, 2012

Guildford born Tristan Seume is one of the UK’s leading acoustic guitarists. He plays solo, as a session musician or as an accompanist and is currently on tour as part of the band for award winning folk singer Jackie Oates. Here he chats to the Guildford Dragon News about folk music, touring Europe and how to nab the best busking spots in Guildford.

By Flora Windebank


FW: So how did you get started with the acoustic guitar?

Tristan: Completely by chance actually. I was twelve, and my parents were moving house. Everything had been packed up, and the last thing left in the house was my dad’s guitar. As there was nothing else to do I simply picked it up, started playing and found out I enjoyed it. I mainly continued because at that age I was extremely competitive, some of my friends also played and my main motivation was to be better than them at it.

 FW: Did it take long for you to know it was what you wanted to do for a living?

Tristan: I decided quite early on that it was something I wanted to do for a living, but it has been a long journey since then. I went to university to study music but after I graduated I was only playing guitar semi-professionally alongside a string of day jobs to pay the bills. It was only five years ago that I turned to music full time. It was a difficult decision but definitely the best I ever made, I’m now doing my dream job.


FW: Who were your biggest musical influences?

Tristan: My biggest influence would definitely be my friend and mentor, Gordon Giltrap. I met him at one of his concerts. I got chatting to him after the show, and he invited me to come up and jam and record with him. Once my nerves had calmed down we became good friends! I supported him in a series of shows which helped me gain confidence and grow my own audience.

 FW: What was Guildford like as a place to grow up in, with your career plans?

Tristan: Obviously Guildford is a great place. I went to school at George Abbot and enjoyed my time there. However, I would say the town is a little conservative in its arts programming. Things are better now, with G Live, GuilFest and places like ACM (the Academy of Contemporary Music college). It’s definitely a great place to study music. But I would like to see local bands promoting themselves better and slightly less predictable acts. However, I do have fond memories of busking in Guildford. There used to be a large underpass where Debenhams is now that was a prime spot for busking. When I was 18, I would go there with a few friends, usually in the Christmas season. We used to turn up at 8am to make sure we got the spot, and would just keep buying cups of coffee to keep us warm! It was in these busking days that I met Anna Tabbush (a respected UK folk composer, choral director and musician) who introduced me to the folk scene.

Jackie Oates performs with Tristan

FW: What projects are you working on at the moment?

Tristan: Well, as a solo artist I have just released an album called You Just Know which is available on iTunes and Amazon. I am also currently in a band with folk singer Jackie Oates (winner of two BBC Folk Awards). We have been playing at folk festivals all over the country this summer and it has been tremendous fun. The band is like a big family, you get very close when you spend so much time together. I definitely prefer touring and performing as part of a group, you get exposed to larger audiences and it is not nearly as lonely. The last festival we ae played at was the Moseley Folk Festival in Birmingham.

Tristan with Jackie Oates and her band

FW: What are the most exciting places you have visited while on tour?

Tristan: The most exciting places have to be Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. My favourite was probably Austria. It is a beautiful country and we had a driver so could just enjoy hours of beautiful scenery. Touring is a lot less glamorous than people think, there are long hours of being squashed into a car and a lot of dodgy Travelodges, it’s not all sex drugs and rock n’ roll! So it really helps to be able to see something beautiful on the way. Vienna also does the best coffee in Europe, you would think it would be Italy but actually Vienna was by far the best!

 FW: Have you met anyone famous?

Tristan: I met the comedian Al Murray once and he asked me to perform at a few private parties for him. At one of these parties I met Brian May, which was pretty exciting!

FW: What is the UK folk scene like, is there a place in it for young people?

Tristan: Oh definitely. There is a very healthy young folk scene. Folk dancing is also very popular with younger people and one of the types that has been most successful is morris dancing! It’s a very lively type of music, and great fun to be a part of.

 FW: What are your plans for the future?

Tristan: Now the festival season is over, things with Jackie Oates’ band will quieten down a bit, although that is an on-going thing. I will be returning to Guildford to teach at the ACM this term, and I have regular columns in guitar magazines, Guitar Techniques and Guitarist.

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