Blair Dunlop back on the road for major tour after lockdown in Chesterfield

Singer and guitarist Blair Dunlop is back in his happy place as he tours his songs.

Monday, 28th February 2022, 12:29 pm
Updated Monday, 28th February 2022, 12:32 pm

Blair hits the road this week for his first major run of shows for more than two years.He said: "I'm looking forward to The Greystones in Sheffield (March 5) which is always great, that's like a home gig. London will be good too because I lived down there for a long time and got a lot of friends."Prior to the tour Blair laid down tracks for an EP in the capital city, the recording of which followed his 30th birthday. He said: "I had a few drinks with some friends the day before we went into the studio which was a shocking idea because I lost my voice for the first week and we had to do the vocals right at the end."Ellie Gowers, who sang backing vocals on the recording, guests on Blair's tour and will be getting up to do a few songs with him.

Blair said: "My last proper run of dates was when I was in Australia. I've got a great agent over there and I do as well there as I do over here. The plan was to move out to Australia after that tour - but then the pandemic struck."With the health crisis halting live gigs and the tenancy up on his base in London, Blair moved back to Chesterfield to live with his mum, folk singer Judy Dunlop, and catch up with his dad, Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention fame. He said: "It's been lovely spending time with my parents as I wasn't at home a lot in my teens and early twenties.

"It's been great to see my dad who lives near Matlock. I went on his Christmas tour, driving him around, guesting with him on a few songs and helping him with the merchandise and he absolutely loved it."At the back end of last year I played a couple of village halls in the Peak District and I've hopefully got one or two gigs coming up in Derbyshire over the spring. I love them, they are very informal. They don't get music as often as the cities so you really want to give them a good show."While lockdown may have enabled Blair to spend precious time with his parents, he admits that the period didn't stoke his creative fire.He said: "I found it quite hard writing in lockdown because so much of my life is being out on the road and meeting people. I found it a real chore to write because I wasn't stimulated. I learned how to play drums, which was a great release, and how to play slide guitar."

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Blair has spent the past two years back home in Chesterfield with his mum Judy Dunlop and accompanying his father, folk star Ashley Hutchings who lives near Matlock, to gigs (photo: Emilie Cotterill).

Blair is a talented songwriter and musician whose debut album, Blight and Blossom, gained a coveted BBC Folk Award in 2013.

He has gone on to play to thousands of people at prestigious festivals such as Cropredy, Cambridge and Glastonbury in England, Woodford in Australia and Tonner in Denmark.

Blair’s destination as a recording artist was mapped out very early in life. He said: "My mum said I used to have this Fisher-Price recorder that I used to take around when I was about two or three and record my voice and record pets. After that I started to play guitar at six and never stopped."

At just 12 years of age Blair had his first taste of fame when he was cast as the young Willy Wonka in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film starring Johnny Depp. Blair said: "Johnny and I didn't have any scenes together but he took time out to say hello - he was lovely. I worked very closely with the director, Tim Burton who was really kind - he knew it was my first experience of acting and that I'd been thrown in at the deep end. I was so lucky to have that experience and it was amazing to be part of. You could act your whole life, have a great career and never do a Hollywood production."

Blair Dunlop starts a 19-date tour of intimate venues across England this week (photo: Emile Cotterill)

Blair won a drama scholarship to Repton, which he describes as an amazing school. He said: "While it gave me some skills, having to be in all the productions on stage at school kind of killed it for me. I enjoyed acting but as soon as I realised I wasn't going to be a footballer, I wanted to be a was all about the music."

In his younger teenage years Blair was into indie bands and bought CDs at Hudsons Music and HMV in Chesterfield. He said: "People call it the landfill indie generation, disposable early noughties identikit was what a lot of northern kids grew up on.

"In my late teens I really got into west coast Americana like Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon."From my early 20s when I moved out, I listened to anything and everything. I'm a big hip-hop fan."Despite his heritage in traditional folk which is music that he loves, Blair describes himself as a modern British songwriter playing new folk, indie folk and folk-rock.He said: "What I like about Australia and America is that folk is a really broad umbrella term, it encapsulates elements of roots music and specialist jazz blues as opposed to the UK which is very much a traditional connotation."