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Sunday Spotlight: Burnt Paw

Sunday Spotlight: Burnt Paw


1. Hello! Who are you, where are you from and all that good stuff.

Hi! I’m Andy and ‘Burnt Paw’ is my solo project. I’m originally from the West Midlands, now living in Edinburgh. Writing and performing music is the creative path that’s opened my world up to all kinds of unexpected and revelatory experiences. In the last few years I’ve spent quite a while living in the United States, over in Tennessee and also North Carolina. It was a really wonderful time to make new friends and develop as an acoustic musician. Recently arriving in Scotland has been a whole new adventure! I love learning about its history, myths and folk culture. There’s a community of amazing musicians in Edinburgh and Leith. The landscape is fascinating, all bright spires and dark undertows.

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2. Tell us a bit about the music you make.

I’m a fingerstyle guitarist and songwriter. Although I don’t think definitions matter much these days, Burnt Paw roams freely somewhere around the borders of alternative folk music. I like using strange open tunings to create landscapes where the stories I tell have their own space to grow. Some songs often begin with elements of real-life oral histories. Others tend to shift towards the elusive, mythological, fragmentary images that hide beneath the everyday, or within the unconscious. The guitar is a pretty versatile raft to go sailing down those particular rivers. I often get thrown overboard. That’s good too.

3. When did you start and what made you want to start making music?

I first started playing guitar a long time ago with some really heavy post-rock bands, including one called Una Corda. This was back in my homeland of Birmingham U.K. After that, I ended up living with my partner in Memphis for a year. Left to my own devices, I bought a Taylor acoustic and decided to set out on a new path. I spent a year learning fingerstyle traditions and that’s when Burnt Paw was first born. I was listening to Charlie Patton, John Fahey, Jack Rose, Robbie Basho, Elizabeth Cotton, and a great radio show called the ‘Avant Ghetto’ by Jeff Conklin. Oh, and reading lots of Walt Whitman! At the same time, I was slowly reexamining the darker, more pagan and psychedelic aspects of British folk music. Music is a patchwork of all the wonderful places and people we’re lucky enough to meet. It’s an open-ended conversation of sounds and spirits and histories. I should also mention friends in Nottingham who have been extremely important, providing Paw with support, shelter, inspiration- and snacks.

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4. Stage or studio?

That changes with each new creative season, but at the moment I really love the performance aspect! I was pretty shy as a young person, so maybe I’m making up for it in my adult life. I didn’t do vocals in my early life as a musician, so now I find that really thrilling. The freedom to create and tell stories directly with an audience is a great gift. Of course, studio is good too. Especially the only studio I can afford at the moment- which is basically a corner of my tiny apartment in Edinburgh. It’s a feral lab of weird creations. Any recording, whether d.i.y. or studio based, can have a mysterious magical element. You have no idea what its chances are, who it might reach, or where it will end up, right?

5. What gear do you use to make your tunes?

These days I keep it very simple: the much loved Taylor 114e and a guitar strap. Home recordings are done using some very basic kit by Focusrite. Otherwise, it’s just my fingertips. I don’t ever want too much between me and the music. I used to play with steel fingerpicks when I first started fingerstyle. But even that seemed excessive. Too fussy. Get real, Burnt Paw! Be direct as possible. Let the energy flow.

6. And what is your choice bit of gear and why? 

Apart from the Taylor, I’d say the one reverb pedal I sometimes use when I perform. It’s an old-ish RV Stereo Reverb by Hardwire/Digitech. Is that even still available? I don’t know. I like it because it lifts the space around the notes, without changing the natural sound of the guitar. It’s the only pedal I kept from my post-rock days, so maybe it’s a point of psychic continuity. Back then I had lots of guitars, lots of pedals and lots of trouble getting it all to work. My set up now is exciting because it’s so minimal and unconfined. Long gone are my old racks of pedal boards. You can’t carry that stuff up the hills of Edinburgh anyway.

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7. Where can we check out your tunes?

I’ve recently released a new collection of short story songs called ‘Stolen Apples Lost Crowns’ which can be downloaded on Bandcamp, along with many other of my recordings. Much of this discography has been self-produced, although I’d love to collaborate with others in the future. Other than that, there’s some Burnt Paw videos on Utube and other eclectic offerings on Instagram. I tend to post my gigs on Facebook. (Clearly, I don’t have a life, do I?) Come see me play live! You might get a free Burnt Paw drawing.

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