Interview with Terry Young of My Sweet Patootie
By Pete Austin
Hailing from Canada, the co-founders Terry Young and Sandra Swannell are joined on this 20+ venue 2015 UK tour by the Welsh percussionist Anthony Thickett.
A hectic two-month schedule sees the trio criss-crossing the land but in-between gigs Terry found the time to get in touch to reveal a little more about My Sweet Patootie, its people and its music.
He said: “The name is a term of endearment which was popular in the 1920’s and means a ‘hot dame’. My style of guitar playing reflects that of the Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake song called Sweet Patootie Blues which he recorded in 1928”
In my reckoning that was almost 90 years ago so it was inevitable that I began my interview by asking Terry about his musical roots.
“I was born in South Ontario,” he said: “and still live only a short distance away from where I grew up. As a boy I used to sing in the school choir and was in a rock band in High School. We were listening to groups like Led Zeppelin and The Who, the British pop invasion in Canada was very strong. I also listened to John Renbourn and Bruce Cockburn from which I developed my own style of acoustic fingering, playing running bass lines on my guitar and feeding them through an amplifier for greater effect which gives the illusion of their being an actual bass player with us.
“I met Sandra at a gig and she had been playing viola since she was a wee young girl. We both had similar tastes in music, which covered everything from country to pop and all points between, and decided to create My Sweet Patootie. Originally we were a duo and were doing pretty well but then found it was hard to get into playing bigger venues. In particular, in America, we found they were not hiring smaller acts, anything less than a trio, so we had to think what a third person would do in the band. With me and Sandra doing the vocals and with my guitar and Sandra’s fiddle the most obvious choice was a percussionist to fill out the sound, and it works.
“We recruited Anthony for this tour after I auditioned him – over the phone. He really played well and was brilliant.
“We came over a few days before the start of the tour to rehearse but after just one and a half hours we had a show we could put together.”
That sound is hard to describe on paper/computer screen (please refer to the link at the end of this article for audio and visual examples) but with Terry’s help, I will try.
The one term he used continually was – Hybrid.
As with all art forms, development is continuous, but probably, none more so than with music. While the tradition of rhythm and beat remain key factors, that which is interwoven around them changes constantly. The recipe that My Sweet Patootie follow is to dip into well-known areas, give them a bit of a stir and a shake, add some of their own musical magic flavourings, then serve up a cocktail of up-tempo songs laced with satire, humour and harmonies.
“We are constantly evolving. On this tour we are also including some new material as well, including a show tune – we have arranged our own version of a song from Paint Your Wagon, we really ham it up.
“Ours is a high-energy entertainment show and we throw in a few stories about us to give our audience a sense of us as people.”
“We also do covers of popular songs, as being reasonably talented musicians (Terry is a classically trained singer, Sandra a classically trained violinist/violist) it gives people the opportunity to appreciate where we are musically.”
Music is never far from either Terry or Sandra. Home is an old school house overlooking a wide countryside vista which lends itself to both relaxing and creative moments (a new album is in the cards) as well as providing the space for the exercise and open air enthusiasts to go out running. (Terry was hoping to dodge the English raindrops and go out for a run following our interview). The home also includes a studio plus a room where Sandra can conduct her violin/viola classes. Throw in a Sudoku puzzle or two for Terry to solve, invite friends and family round for a meal and you have the idyllic My Sweet Patootie setting.
I am sure you will find their music idyllic too.
Tickets for their concert at Kettering Arts Centre cost £12 (Concessions £10) and are available by clicking here. For more information on My Sweet Patootie along with audio and video examples of their music please visit: Our Gallery, My Sweet Patootie or search for them on YouTube.
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