Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Jan-Feb Contents PUB FOLK
THE YOUNG’UNS STUMBLED
ONTO A SECRET SEA SHANTY
CLUB IN A PUB... THE REST HIS
By Robert Dunstan
The Young’uns, comprised of three 30-year-old singers, Sean
Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes, who render forth
with traditional and original folk songs mostly in a cappella
mode, and are headed to our shores for the first time.
The trio, from Stockton, UK, very recently snaffled the title
of Best Group at the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards to add
to a spiralling awards collection but came together in a very
The three friends, Cooney, Eagle and Hughes, were having a
casual night out at a pub when they came across something
that was set to change their lives forever.
“We were teenagers at the time,’ David Eagle says, “but we’d
somehow stumbled across a local folk club at a pub. And we
were completely blown away and somewhat startled when
everyone stopped talking and someone suddenly broke in
the chorus of a sea shanty.
“Of course, we didn’t know it was a sea shanty at the
time as we’d never heard anything like it before,” he
laughs. “And then everyone around him just joined in with
unaccompanied singing. And it was just wonderful and we
all thought, ‘What is this strange thing we’ve discovered?’
“It was like a cult that no one knew about – not even family
members – so we kept going back week after week to soak it
all up,” Eagle adds.
It took some time before the trio joined in.
“We were the youngest there by far and then, one night,
someone said, ‘Aye, have you young ’uns got something for
us?’ So we started getting up and singing each week and
became known as The Young’uns which has stuck with us.
“And then we started getting offered gigs at the club
but, to be honest, I think that was more due to our youth,
enthusiasm and energy rather than any talent,” Eagle says
with a chuckle.
“We weren’t very good and were just shouting things out
and attempting to harmonise with each other,” he now
admits. “But some people saw that there was something
there. And we did actually get better and better over time –
we started to learn how to sing proper harmonies together
– even though we’ve still maintained that very early rawness.
“So while it’s all been very organic, it has been a process that
has happened gradually over the past 12 years,” he adds.
The trio has since performed alongside Billy Bragg, opened
the main stage at Cambridge Folk Festival and played at
over 40 other festivals.
The Young’uns draw upon traditional material while also
penning their own material in a similar style.
“Sean is our primary songwriter – he writes the vast majority
of the lyrics – but then we all come together to nut them
out,” Eagle, who reveals during the course of the interview
that he became blind nine months after he was born, says.
“And I usually do the musical interpretation of it after Sean
written a song often using a three-chord structure. So I play
around with it.”
The trio is now celebrating the release of their fourth album,
Another Man’s Ground, which honours the working class of
the past and present.
“ Without being too grandiose, we like to think of them of
songs of social conscience,” Eagle notes. “We are given a
constant barrage of news, but certain stories aren’t covered
as much as they perhaps should be.
“Everything seems to roll into the next with tragedy after
tragedy so we take certain elements of those – a certain
event or a character – and turn it into a song,” he says. “And,
with song, you can build empathy more effectively with an
audience. It’s more of a story than just seeing something on
the 24-hour rolling news service.
“For instance, we wrote a song, ‘The Streets Of Lahore’,
about honour killings and the death of Susannah Parveen
in Pakistan who was killed outside the law courts in Lahore
because she married against her parents’ consent,” Eagle
“And, closer to home, we wrote a song called ‘You Won’t
Find Me On Benefits Street’ about Stockton and the people
who have become stigmatised by being on benefits as part
of the welfare state,” he adds. “They are stories that need to
Folk music, by general definition, has always been about
people and events.
“And that’s the idea,” Eagle says. “Folk music from the past
was people writing songs about what was going on then.
But, people writing folk songs these days are writing about
what’s happening now or not so long ago.
“Folk music is about people and it tells their stories,” he
The Young’uns play Port Fairy Folk Festival, Blue Mountains
Festival and National Folk Festival, full dates in the Gig
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