Interview: Melodic UK Folk Band Ten Fields Discuss New Album ‘Change In The Light’

Known for their rich vocal harmonies and poetic songwriting, UK-based folk band Ten Fields is riding the high off of the release of their new album, Change in the Light.

The band has developed a reputation for their warm welcoming sound and introspective lyrics, and they (together or independently) have had music featured in independent films and played on national, local, and internet radio. They’ve also opened for acts including Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook (Squeeze), Abigail Washburn, and Simon Felice, and have performed at festivals and venues around the UK and Europe.

The group – made up of Deb Harris, Rhys Kelly, Rick Robinson, Nathan Kelly and Henry Barker – has been performing and honing their unique melodic folk sound together since 2016.

Ten Fields music can be compared to bands on a larger scale like Crowded House, The War on Drugs, and Fleetwood Mac to name a few. The group has two albums thus far, released about seven years apart, with their most recent album, Change in the Light hitting streaming services on January 29th, 2022.

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We got to chat with Rhys Kelly to learn more about the band, their new album, and much more.

You guys have a new album! What was the most exciting part about creating Change in the Light?

The most exciting part of making the album- for me, anyway – was getting the first set of masters back. Mixing had taken a long time, and isn’t an easy process when there are 5 strong-minded people in a band. Hearing the tracks after they had been professionally mastered, and listening to everything in sequence as a whole album, made me feel confident that we had done a good job, and all the time spent on the details of arranging and mixing had been worthwhile. Otherwise, I think the most exciting part for me (as the songwriter) is when I write a new song and everyone in the band reacts positively to it – there’s that honeymoon period when you just enjoy making something new.

While it may be like picking a favorite child, do you have a song or few songs that you’re most excited for fans to hear or perhaps are most excited to perform live? 

At the moment – and it might well change – my favourite tracks are the title track “Change in the Light” and “Small Wonder.” I like the sound and production on the former, and I think it represents lots of the best elements of what Ten Fields do: strong melody, vocal harmonies, crafted arrangements. We went to town a bit with the musical arrangement on “Small Wonder,” but I find it one of the best realized songs on the album. It is perhaps the vocal I’m happiest with too, which always influences my choice. Having said that, the album has ‘many flavours’, as one listener put it. I wanted every track to have its own sound and interest; I don’t like albums where you can’t remember which track is which. There’s a lot for people to discover and different listeners seem to have different favourites.

You shared your song, “Lonely Road, ” with us. What inspired and influenced this particular track?

The song was inspired when I was following the events at Standing Rock a few years ago – the protests against plans to build an oil pipeline across native American lands. The song isn’t literally about that – as in, I’m not trying to tell the story of those events – but I was thinking about it and related struggles for change, and trying to reflect some thoughts and feelings about what is both inspiring and challenging in these movements and moments in time. The song had a strong folk-rock feel – there’s a bit of a Byrds/Laural Canyon influence – so the themes and music seemed to fit well together.

I see “Bottles and Rust ” was released as a single from the album, and it was one that caught our ear. What made you decide to release it as a single as opposed to others?

“Bottles and Rust” was the second single. The first single – “Butterfly” – is quite slow and atmospheric, so we wanted to release something more upbeat and that showed another side of the band. Also, it was one of the first songs we wrote for the album with the current band line-up. When we did the chorus with the Fleetwood Mac-esque harmonies, it gave us a sense of direction and purpose – an idea of the sound that we could make together. So we put it out as a single because it seemed one of the most representative tracks (and was one we could all agree on).

What are some things in your everyday life that inspire the music you create?

I found this the hardest question so far. All of us in the band have full-time professional careers and families, so in some ways everyday life gets in the way of making music as much as it might inspire it. That said, I think the songs on this album very much reflected being at a certain life-stage and also living our lives in a context of certain global challenges. During the making of this album we’ve had family bereavements, the joys of children growing up, the Covid pandemic, real evidence of climate change, the risks and rewards of lasting love and relationships… We’ve also been listening to some great music, learning new tricks with recording, discovering new sounds and skills. It all goes into the creative pot….

What is the most rewarding thing you guys have done as a group?

I’m afraid this answer has to be: making an album. Although three of us have been playing music together for a long time, we hadn’t done much together as the five-piece we are now. We started the album before we’d really got to know each other properly, so there was a lot of learning involved – personally and musically. It was a great shared experience and I think we are all proud to have created something together of this quality.

Have there been any challenging obstacles you face or have faced as a group that you feel have made you better musicians and bandmates? 

Another obvious answer: like everyone else, we’ve been had the obstacle of a global pandemic. We weren’t able to meet and play together for well over a year. There’s no question that this was a challenge. It did also mean that we spent more time on refining arrangements and mixing the album that we might have done otherwise. Now that we are playing together again and indeed working on some new material, it has changed how we work. I think we are communicating better and being more intentional when working on arrangements.

Can you tell us more about your ‘Monday Night Band Nights?’

Probably like a lot of bands in our position, with lots of other commitments, you can only make it work by having a fixed date for rehearsal in the diary. We don’t manage to meet every single Monday, but we do all try to avoid arranging other things on a Monday night and that makes it possible to rehearse fairly regularly. We are really lucky to have our own rehearsal space/studio at my brother’s house. Everything is set up for us to play or record – no hauling gear in and out, no time wasted setting up. It’s also a nice space – we’ve done our share of dingy rehearsal rooms over the years. We get a nice cup of tea at half time. Having this home for the band makes rehearsal something we all look forward to much more.

Is there anything exciting in the works in the near future for Ten Fields? Touring, music videos, etc.?

We are booked to go to the famous Rockfield Studios (Led Zeppelin, Queen, Coldplay, Oasis all made classic albums there) in Wales in June 2022 to record a new EP. Having recorded the current album in our own studio, we are really excited to go to a top-class studio, to have someone engineer for us, and to record some music in a more live format. We are also booking gigs for the Autumn and next year.

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