21st-century folk and shanty group The Salts have just signed an actual record deal (yes they do still exist). They join a growing army of musicians and artists making it in later life…
Just as The Rolling Stones and The Who are still rocking all over the world well into their 70s, so too have more recent bands built reputations on making new music accessible regardless of their age – which is exactly what sea-shanty folk group The Salts are all about.
Founded by singer and guitarist Jeremy Hart, the band – which proudly boasts a collective band age of 265 – fuses maritime, seafaring musical tradition with their own energetic and unique sound.
“About eight years ago, a mutual friend introduced us with the concept of a modern take on shanties,”
“About eight years ago, a mutual friend introduced the original line-up of the band to each other, with the idea of a modern take on shanties,” says Hart. “We felt the history of sea shanties was really interesting and could lead somewhere musically.”
Initially playing pub gigs in and around Surrey, the quintet soon realised that they were onto something with their sound. It wasn’t long before they released their debut album, She Rises, and began performing in theatres and joining a wide range of festival rosters, before securing a record deal with Braccan Records for their follow-up release, Brave, due for release on April 20th this year.
Not bad for a bunch of oldies, right? And what’s with the ‘record deal’? Do those things even exist any more?!
“Many artists, probably younger and more media-savvy than us, do self-publish, but we’re too old for that and have jobs, families and mortgages,” Jeremy continues. “So this is a great route and opportunity for us.
“I’m surprised we’re signing record deals in our 40s and 50s, yes, but I’m not surprised that someone would want to sign The Salts, as it’s the best band I’ve ever been in. I’d sign us!”
Today, the line-up comprises Jeremy on vocals and acoustic guitar, along with Brian Doran on vocals and mandolin whistle, Lee Collinson on vocals and banjo, Richard Nash on vocals and drums, and most recent member, Tim Cantrell, on double bass.
Despite their seasoned status as older rockers, they remain unfazed by any stigma, accentuating the positives in their level of experience, which can only come with age.
“I think our age is a benefit, as the sort of music that we do lends itself to our current ages”
“I think our age is a benefit, as the sort of music that we do lends itself to our current ages,” explains Jeremy. “After all, we’re not a boy-band bunch of rappers – if anything, we’re more ‘hip-op’ than hip-hop!
“We’re proud of our age and experience; think of all the knowledge we bring to our music. I wouldn’t have imagined myself to still be writing and gigging at this age when I was younger, but can’t see any of us giving it up for a while yet.”
So, what are the challenges that they face as an older group?
“Making sure there’s always a toilet nearby!” Richard jokes. “But no, actually, the challenges of doing it at our age are the other life commitments, such as work and family. The advantages are that we don’t have young, fragile egos and all get along really well. But it’s harder to organise a time for us all to rehearse and record, especially since there are five of us. Also, there’s the general tiredness; stuff like how my back aches when packing up the drums!”
“The advantages are that we don’t have young, fragile egos and all get along really well”
But the show must go on, as a whole host of live Brave dates have been pencilled into the band’s diary, including upcoming shows at Croydon Folk Club, The Old Court in Windsor and Chatham’s Brook Theatre in April, to name but a few. As for still getting, shall we say, ‘special attention’ from their adoring female fans backstage after a set, however, they’re not holding their breath when it comes to groupies.
“I wish – we don’t even get ‘gropies’!” laughs Lee.
Adds Jeremy; “Apart from the occasional pair of Spanx and surgical stockings thrown on stage, it’s all very polite – especially considering the subject matter. I did get my bum pinched by the organiser of a festival we played last year, which was a bit awkward. Does that count?”
“Groupies? I did get my bum pinched by the organiser of a festival we played last year, which was a bit awkward. Does that count?”
It’s clear that these guys have lost none of their sense of humour, and don’t take themselves too seriously – except when it comes to the music, of course. With the new album and record deal, they’ve certainly pushed themselves further, but Brave is only one part of the puzzle, paving the way for more radio play, better festivals and bigger venues, while growing their audience and gaining new fans.
Which isn’t to say that they’re stuck in the past, of course, as they’re well aware of how much the musical landscape has changed in 2018.
“The ‘youth’ bracket has extended, and music has no real gatekeeper anymore, leaving audiences to find their own likes and dislikes,” Jeremy considers. “Plus, the social media thing nowadays opens up the possibility for our music to cross traditional demographics. It’s great to see older people reclaim the gig scene, but also to see young people seek out traditional music.”
“The ‘youth’ bracket has extended, and music has no real gatekeeper anymore, leaving audiences to find their own likes and dislikes”
It’s this transience that has become a big appeal for The Salts and their followers, safe in the knowledge that, despite appearances, preconceptions or stereotypes, age really is just a number as far as rock and roll is concerned.
“I think the media is obsessed with age, but most real people don’t care,” reveals Brian. “They decide on merit, and our audience covers all age groups. It’s important to remember that a lot of 70-year-olds now were 20 year-old-hippies during the 1960s.”
Agrees Richard: “The age landscape is changing partly due to the fact that rock and roll has come of age – The Rolling Stones are in their mid-70s, and everyone is living longer.”
As for what’s next for Jeremy and the boys, only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure – they’re not letting their age slow them down, and are going to keep rocking ‘til they drop.
“I think this band has the potential to play larger and larger venues, and we will try to make that happen,” Brian concludes. “We’d love to take this abroad – there’s a lot of interest in shanties in places like Sweden, Poland, Canada and the US, and it’d be great to capitalise on that. Anywhere with easy parking and a cup of tea!”
Adds Lee: “We haven’t got much time left, so if we get to have a nice little extra part-time income, that would be nice – that, or the O2 for 64 consecutive nights. I’m not fussed. Ultimately, I hope to make millions, but realistically I’d be over the moon if I made a moderate living. But I’ve got a whole season of Jessica Jones to watch now, so I’m staying in.”
The Salts’ new album, Brave, is released on April 20 and available to download on iTunes. To find out more, head to www.thesalts.co.uk