To get your copy of the book, please visit Amazon or Eliza's online shop.
Eliza Carthy has received two Mercury Music Prize nominations for her music. Here is an extract from Wayward Daughter detailing the first nomination - and how she and her band found the award ceremony.
The surprise media attention for Red Rice culminated in a nomination for the 1998 Mercury Prize.
‘Everything was surprising to me at the time,’ Martin [Green] recalled. ‘Perhaps I hadn’t realized what a big deal it was because that was the first proper record I’d made, or played on, that had a record company involved. And then I went to HMV and there were big posters with Eliza’s face on it and it was hard to know whether that was normal or not.’Eliza and her bandmates were beside themselves with excitement.
‘It felt like we were doing what Liza had set out to do: put English folk music in the mainstream, wake people up to the idea that we have some sort of a cultural identity, the music we had been left by our ancestors,’ Sam enthused, ‘that felt very realized and really strong.’
‘I felt shy, out of my comfort zone,’ Barnaby admitted. ‘We had to play one of our tunes at the awards ceremony and when we went to sit back down at our little round table, suddenly Jarvis Cocker and Cerys Matthews were there. Jarvis has always been a fan of Norma and the Watersons, and there he was, chatting away with Norma on one side; on the other, there was Eliza and Cerys talking. I remember just thinking “wow”! And Eliza really enjoyed the attention – that comes from her dad!’
Jarvis Cocker was there with his band, Pulp, opening the evening’s ceremony in celebration of their nomination for This Is Hardcore. They had previously won the Mercury in 1996. Eliza was also up against a feast of other names including Cerys Matthews’ Catatonia, Massive Attack, Cornershop, Robbie Williams, Asian Dub Foundation, and the album for which the Verve will be ultimately remembered, Urban Hymns.
However, it was Gomez’s debut album, Bring It On, which went on to win the Prize, stealing it from under her nose, or so the twenty-three year old Eliza thought.
‘I got so monumentally pissed that I was just off my face on champagne,’ Eliza stated matter-of-factly, without so much as a hint of remorse. ‘I remember rampaging around the back of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and being in the dressing room where it had those tall windows with the top bit that flaps out. I leant out the top of one of those, watching Gomez get in to their cars to go home after the ceremony.
And I remember yelling – in a friendly, joshing manner,’ she concedes, ‘various things at them, as they’d just won my £20,000 as far as I was concerned. I was screaming at them! It was friendly abuse, though, of course.’
Some kindly souls, obviously realizing the rather tired and emotional state that Eliza was in, took care of her fiddle and the award she had received in recognition of her nomination to ensure they weren’t abandoned to the general post-event, booze-sodden detritus with which the Shepherd’s Bush Empire was likely to be plagued.
But Eliza and her band hadn’t a clue. As the venue emptied, the doors of carefully polished hire cars closing on their famous musician residents, preparing to whisk them away to after-show parties in the company of an excess of notable names from the British cultural scene, Eliza and her merry party were gently escorted out of the building by the stage manager, and pushed out into the night.
‘Where’s my fiddle and where’s my fucking award?’ Eliza shouted at the stage manager, at the building, at any other person who happened to be nearby.
She was still clutching an empty bottle of champagne. The door was closed and locked behind her.
Alongside her own musical projects, Eliza has been involved in a wealth of different collaborative ventures over the years. Here’s an extract from Wayward Daughter about her involvement in The Harry Smith Project – and how she managed to embarrass Bryan Ferry.
The Harry Smith Project made its live debut at the Meltdown Festival, at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 2 July 1999, a performance set to include a range of different big name artists, the majority of which are not usually associated with folk and traditional music, including Nick Cave, Beth Orton and Bryan Ferry. As Eliza was only assigned one song on the bill, she decided to make herself available as a fiddle accompanist, should any of the others require it.
‘I got this call to go upstairs, to the cafeteria on the top floor – there’s been some good parties up there, that’s a fun room – and I went up there and Van Dyke Parks was up there, with his wife Sally, along with Bryan Ferry and a couple of other people,’ she said, her words tumbling out in excitement.
Bryan Ferry took her up on her offer:
'I can’t remember what song we had to do but it was just after Bryan Ferry had been ill, he was just recovered and he hadn’t been singing. I think it was the first time he was due to be on the stage for ages and he had real stage nerves. We practised the song and I went back downstairs, back to the dressing room I was sharing with Jarvis Cocker and Beth Orton. Jarvis actually borrowed my eyeliner, it was brown and there was only a tiny bit left, but I kept the eyeliner for years afterwards! It was the eyeliner that Jarvis borrowed!
Anyway, we were backstage and someone came in to the dressing room, an hour before the gig, and said that the running order had changed because Bryan Ferry was not doing his song. Maybe he’d had a bit of a freak out and so he wasn’t going to do it. "Fuck it", I thought, "I’m going to write a note and put it under his dressing room door." I asked Beth if she would help me and she said yes, so I wrote this thing, saying "oh, I thought it was really good, you shouldn’t be nervous, it sounded great" and we pushed it under his door and ran away, you know.
The gig went on, it dragged on and on. In the end, I thought it was about four and a half hours long. Beth was getting bored and I was really bored, so we started nipping out to the fire escape for a smoke. We came back in and someone came running out saying "Where were you? Where were you?" I had no idea what they were talking about. They said "Bryan Ferry was just on stage – where were you?" But nobody had told me he was doing it! Apparently he’d changed his mind – I like to think it was because of the note – but he went onstage to do his two songs and there was a fiddle solo in one of the songs and apparently he was singing away and then spun round to where I was supposed to be on stage and did this big air fiddle thing and I wasn’t there! He stood there kind of going "Oh".
I like to credit myself with Bryan Ferry’s revival, of course, but I’m sorry I embarrassed him! I didn’t even get to speak with him afterwards; that was it. I was just mortified.'