Discover more from Volatile Weekly
Interview with Chris Ricketts and the Worldwide Shanty Project
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I have loved music from a young age but weirdly am the only musician in the family. I remember being fascinated by the guitars and singing of a brothers friend when I was young and it was one of my first experiences of live music. Music was always the direction I wanted to take so cannot imagine a world where it didn’t play a significant part. If music hadn’t been a thing I for me I would definitely be working within community projects and contributing to creativity in other ways. I am also a part time teacher of music in a local secondary school where I teach Music and Drama, I love this job!
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I used to enjoy playing badminton and running in my spare time but have failed to pick this back up since the Covid years. I am currently studying my PhD in music education and find that much of my ‘spare’ time is dominated by reading and writing articles and trying to get my head around complicated words that I don’t understand. Creativity is in everything that we do in one way or another and I enjoy its limitlessness (is that a word).
How long have you been making music?
I did my first ever live show at 16 and played nothing but Bob Dylan covers. Something spoke to me in those relatable words and it was a true inspiration seeing and hearing the positive message that music can spread. I am now 34, so around 18 years. I have always been folk and acoustic based.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I live in Portsmouth in the UK but travelled extensively over the last few years teaching in Thailand, before that I worked on cruise ships as a vocal entertainer. The influence of my hometown has had huge impact on my love for the songs of the sea due to Portsmouth’s rich naval history. I originally went to University to study Folk and Traditional music and was advised in my first module to only explore songs from my home county (Hampshire). My rebellious side looked for a loophole and I used the nautical heritage of Portsmouth as a way to sing songs that may have travelled to Portsmouth or been in Portsmouth at some point. I failed that module.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
I keep coming back to Canada for the live shows because the people really make the experience (along with the Timmies and caesars). There was a small venue called ‘The Cellars’ where I was a frequent support act for many touring artists and was fortunate to open up for the likes of JD Souther, John Tams, The Paperboys, Nik Kershaw and Little Feat. Unfortunately our grass roots venues have taken a big hit and the building is now flats.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The venue that I witnessed whilst touring in Canada last year was the Carleton in Halifax. I saw Sean McCann at this venue and it reminded me a lot of the Cellars in the UK. A wonderful intimate venue with excellent people and a great line up of acts. I am very excited that the dream of playing there is coming true on this tour.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Bruce Springsteen is an immediate name that comes to mind. Line up would probably include The Eagles! I also saw Ed Sheeran’s arena tour whilst working in Bangkok and I would very much like to see him perform again at a more intimate venue. Also looking forward to sharing the stage with Lennie Gallant and Sean McCann whilst on this tour.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
This is a hard question! I suppose it would be that you should take time in finding your voice and accept that this voice may change depending on the experiences life throws at you. Students are forever trying to document things on their phones instead of living that moment, so a good bit of advice would be to “Be present in the moment!”. You can probably hear me shouting this in my classroom quite often!
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
It took me seven years to release any new recordings and the album title track ‘songs in the key of sea’ came to me at a very weird and unique time. I was about to start in my new job teaching in Thailand and it was the first day of moving into the flat that school were providing. I couldn’t help but think I had made a terrible mistake with leaving family and friends in the UK and I think I secretly knew that this would be a short one year endeavour. On that first day in this new flat I subconsciously made the decision that I would go back to touring and playing my own music after years at sea. The title track of the album was then written that afternoon and symbolises the idea that I am back in the writing and shanty game. I have not looked back since!
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I tend to end the show with Tom Petty’s “I won’t back down” which was recently slated for being on the latest album as the reviewer didn’t understand the story behind why it was there and it was not strictly original or shanty/sea song. The song was included to symbolise the university experience of failing my first module due to (what I thought was) out of the box thinking. I also have a new song that was written about my experience at the Fundy Sea Shanty Festival last year which is called ‘old and new friends’ and was inspired by the incredibly hospitable and friendly atmosphere created by this community driven event. I look forward to taking this song out on the road with me.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
Songs, lyrics, chord progressions and riffs always seem to hit me at the most inappropriate times. I find I am my most creative whilst driving in between shows and just messing with ideas whilst warming up in the car. I am in the process of writing a lot of songs at the moment and am enjoying doing this collaboratively with other writers and getting a good mix of experiences in the tunes and stories that we explore. Inspiration comes from lots things but for me its mostly experience. I struggle when given a brief or idea to run with and find the sporadic crazy thoughts that are currently in my head at that time tend to get more attention when trying to write.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Absolutely, I suppose this links to my experience again this year, the album I am about to release has a lot more slower and political tunes with mentions of mental health in a few of the songs. It’s been quite a tough few months for teachers where we have gone from being frontline heroes to a public nuisance due to strike action, this has certainly had impact on me as an individual. I always try to maintain a positive message in the songs whether it be to ‘keep hauling’ or the live in moment vibes of ‘old and new friends’, this feels important to me.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up? How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
I am very fortunate to have a huge east coast Canadian tour that is coming up which allows me to travel in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick playing some incredible venues and festivals! I am returning as a performer and MC to the Fundy Sea Shanty Festival and playing the Carleton in Halifax alongside venues in New Glasgow, Great Village, Guysborough, Yarmouth, Bridgetown, St Andrew’s, St Martins, Hampton, The Fundy Bay Ferry.
All dates can be seen at www.rickettsmusic.co.uk and you can find me on Facebook and Instagram.