Filming with Martin Simpson

Filming with Martin Simpson

We headed North on a warm August morning to meet up with legendary guitarist Martin Simpson. The job had been booked earlier in the summer; I was on holiday in Croatia when I got the call and subsequently spent a day sitting on the beach listening to a rough mix of Martin’s excellent new album ‘Rooted’. Having been asked to suggest tracks from the album that I thought might suit an outdoor video (apparently Martin had enjoyed the ‘Man Friendship’ video I shot with Kitty Macfarlane), I sent back four titles that I thought would work.

Amongst them was the opening track of the album ‘Trouble Brought Me Here’, a sprightly track with lush strings overlaying a hypnotically repeating guitar riff and Martin’s wonderfully authentic vocal. I was excited when the decision came back to go with that track.

When we arrived at his house in Sheffield, Martin and Kit immediately made us feel welcome and over a cuppa we got into discussing the shoot.

Anyone who’s read my previous blog posts will know that, while I’m happy to film out in the countryside, it’s not my natural habitat. So when Martin announced “Right, we’re heading out into the Peak District” I felt the need to set his expectations about our levels of outdoor preparedness:

“Cool. You’ll have to bear with us though ‘cos we’re city boys” I replied. “And I’m assuming there aren’t, like…bears up there? Nothing that’s going to attack us?” I was joking of course. Sort of.

Martin laughed “I won’t let anything attack you.”

“I’ll hold you to that” I said.

Half-an-hour later we were hiking up a wooded footpath, Martin singing along with the track while I walked backwards and filmed him. Scott was walking behind ensuring that I didn’t fall in a ditch. By the end of the day I’d walked about 20,000 steps backwards and uphill. I’m in Ok shape (at least for my age) but my old joints were creaking that day…

Martin was lovely company and extremely easy to work with. He didn’t seem to mind when we said things like “That’s great Martin. Now do you mind going 200 yards back down the hill and then walking back towards us again? While looking…sort of reflective?” Well, at least he didn’t give the outward impression of minding anyway!

When we’d walked up to the point the treeline broke and it got kind of moor-like and ‘heathery’ (ok that’s probably not the right description but as I said, I’m no Bear Grylls), the job reached a whole new level of peril. Firstly the path became not really a path, so trying to walk backwards up without going arse over tit was a real challenge. Martin was strolling up the hill, attempting to stay ‘in the zone’ with his performance while I stumbled around like an idiot in front of him, Scott yanking my shirt from behind shouting “Left, left…now right!” Most of my video shoots seem to involve me flailing around in this way, none of which of course ever gets seen in the final videos, which is probably just as well.

The second thing that heightened the danger levels of this shoot were the cows. Now, I know what you’re thinking; cows, placid creatures. No big deal right? Right well firstly these weren’t like normal cows; they’re f***ing enormous and they’re just wandering around up there. The picture above doesn’t show how big they actually are. I’m not very big and quite frankly I did not fancy my chances against one of these things. Secondly they were not in the slightest by intimidated by human beings and wandered right up to us in the middle of filming. At that point Martin’s “I won’t let anything attack you” comment took a whole new significance.. Martin found the incident highly amusing…

We survived the cow encounter, reached the top of the hill, filmed some more “Look reflective please Martin” footage and then, happy that we had the bones of a video in the can, headed back down the hill.

Having dropped our very important artist back off at his house we then turned around, went back to the location and walked back up the hill again to shoot b-roll. You might ask “Why didn’t you shoot the b-roll while you were up the hill the first time around?” The answer is because I didn’t want to keep Martin hanging around while me and Scott faffed about looking for interesting bits of flora and foliage to film. As solid as this client-centric policy is, the second time walking up and then back down the hill definitely lost it’s novelty. By the time we’d finished, my knees were happy to be back on the M1 heading South.

So that was how we filmed ‘Trouble Brought Me Here’. Martin and his label were both really happy with the first cut and the video premiered on Folk Radio shortly afterwards.

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