Tommy Ashby released his duet with Lydia Clowes, Happy Just To Know, on March 8th, via Wow & Flutter Records. This is the first single from Tommy’s Lay Low EP, set for release on May 14th 2021. All five tracks feature vocals from fellow musician and one half of female electro duo Bad Honey, Lydia Clowes. Tommy spoke with The Fountain about the new track and about working with Lydia on this project.

TF: You have a new single out, what can we expect from Happy Just To Know?

I wrote Happy Just To Know just after I had moved out of a one bed flat in London into rural Suffolk. My girlfriend was still in London finishing her work and so I was just by myself in my new studio writing all day with the occasional forays out to wander across the local fields. It was March last year so also the beginning of lockdown and everything was feeling slightly weird.

I wanted to write a song that was pure escapism; just kind of unapologetically joyful. The seasons were changing but summer was slow to emerge and I was missing human contact and conversation. I poured that into this song, trying to show how much we value that interaction and how much socialising makes us human.

I’ve always loved playing folk instruments and the energy and warmth they can bring to a song; once I had played the mandolin on Happy Just To Know it really came alive. I bounced around the studio between acoustic guitar, double bass and banjo while clapping, tapping and hitting all sorts of odds and ends to create the percussion.

TF: How would you sum up the record in one sentence?

A contemplative folky bop about the changing of the seasons and a general search for happiness wrapped up in a love song.

TF: What has it been like working with Lydia Clowes?

Normally when I write a song I am restricted by my own vocal ability but with Lydia it’s pretty limitless. It’s almost a problem because she can make anything sound good which makes picking the best bits difficult.

I’d been meaning to ask Lydia to sing with me for such a long time but we were both so busy with touring that it was never really possible. Only with the pandemic and our diaries being pretty empty did we actually manage to collaborate. Due to the current situation a lot of this record was actually made over email and every time Lydia sent over vocal files it was like a mini present arriving.

I engineered the session when we recorded her vocals and she is just such a pro. Any time I asked if she could sing a different harmony on a certain word or suggested a change of tone on a certain vowel she would do it immediately. All those finesse touches that most people can’t even contemplate she does with ease and they really make a difference.

So yeah, it’s been great 🙂

TF: Where is your favourite venue for playing live, where is the next place you look most forward to gigging?

In general, I absolutely love touring in Europe; they have so many interesting venues, some really modern and others steeped in history. It’s so cool that only a short drive can result in a totally different culture, architecture, language and musical references. So I can’t wait to go on a wee tour of Europe again soon!

When I’m playing solo there’s something about playing in churches; they were designed to enhance human voices and they do it amazingly. I would love to play Union Chapel in London again soon. I supported Nina Nesbitt there on one of my first big gigs and it was a joy. That’s definitely a goal venue for me.

Also I can’t wait to head back up to Scotland, just to play in the local pub with my dad. The pandemic has definitely highlighted how much I took for granted, being able to pop home and communally make music with people. This is probably my number 1, just to play music with people in a pub somewhere!