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When musician Eliza Carthy last inhabited this bedroom, at her parents’ house in Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire, she was a teenager. “It’s a lot nicer and cleaner than it was then!” she laughs, recalling that its walls – now a restrained duck-egg grey – were once covered by a mural of a sunset scene complete with mountains and a castle.
After living off and on in Edinburgh since her early 20s, she moved back recently, in part to help her mother, folk musician Norma Waterson, convalesce from a serious illness. “It’s nice to be back in the bosom,” she says but, especially musically speaking, she’s never been far from it. She’s performed and recorded in various combinations with her mother and father, Martin Carthy, since she was a child. She is now 36, and her current projects include an album with her father, a forthcoming tour with her mum and an Olympic-themed project.
As she points out, “It’s a family business, for sure” – though it might be a little early to say whether three-year-old Florence, Carthy’s elder daughter, will be such a phenomenon on the fiddle as her mum. At the moment she’s content to square up to a bemused Tiggy the cat in her new lion suit. Watching over her is a wooden skull in Mexican-Day-of-the-Dead style, which Carthy bought to bless the room when she returned to Yorkshire. But most of the numerous artefacts crammed on to the mantelpiece go back much further: they include a photograph of her and her mother on the first holiday they ever took together, her first skipping rope and a bottle containing a paper rose that she made for the first boy who broke her heart (he ended the relationship before she could give it to him). Holding up the fairy lights is a door knocker in the shape of a ship – Carthy has been fascinated by maritime history ever since she made her Mercury-shortlisted album, Anglicana, a decade ago.
On the TV sits a “dress-up dolly” from her childhood, and a lamp she bought in Edinburgh . For now, her wandering days are over: with a family studio three doors down, she’s taking an “unofficial” break from touring, “to re-establish hearth and home”.Eliza Carthy is part of the line-up for Robyn Hitchcock and friends’ The Floating Palace at the Barbican on 8 February (barbican.org.uk)
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