WordSong live

WordSong is a unique event: a showcase of contemporary storytelling and acoustic music. Performing as Moses Wiggins, Nicholas John and Keith Thompson use multi-media formats, short films and FX.

“We use music, films and backing tracks to enhance the storytelling experience as live performance, in an almost theatrical way. I was reading my stories at bookshops and one of them, “Sweetheart Like You” loosely features the Bob Dylan song of the same name. In a stroke of genius, or lunacy, I asked Keith to incorporate a live version of the song into the story and the result really worked. We started to write together, incorporating literature and music from the beginning. Audiences responded really well and we then looked at the actual performance aspect: illustrating stories with visual imagery and sound effects was the next logical step.

This is the studio version of Black Fields, a story set in the Yukon at the turn of the 19th century.

Live version of Josey from Alain Rouveure Gallery, showcasing Keith’s guitar skills.

I love using films, it sets the scene for the stories brilliantly and creates atmosphere right from the start. The secret is not to overdo it – if the film is too interesting, the audience just watch the film and don’t bother listening to the story. The Unthanks toured a few years ago with songs performed in semi-darkness to the backing film of the Tyne shipyards: it was incredibly moving.

I think the show surprises a lot of people. We’ve always found more ladies come to hear the stories – they drag their other halves to our gigs and the guys wonder why the hell they’re there but, put a pint in their hand and let them listen to a story about murder in the Yukon Gold Rush and they love it! I think it’s about developing the art of storytelling and placing stories in the theatre of live performance.

Larger venues are well-equipped with screens, mixing desks, sound engineers and suchlike, which makes our job easier. For smaller places, we are fully self-sufficient and have our own PA, amps, lights, projector and screen. It all gets into the back of the jeep. And, although primarily WordSong is a vehicle for my own stories and our own songs, I love throwing the odd cover into the set. A run-through of Bob Newhart’s brilliant “Driving Instructor” never fails to loosen things up!”