Dark folk tunes from Appalachia – interview with ’Harry Pedigo’

Hello Harry and welcome to our little dark group of music lovers! I am really glad to feature your music on Dark Folk Nation, finally! How’s it going today for you?

Thank you so much for having me! It’s a real honor to talk with you – I’ve been following Dark Folk Nation ever since your interview with Osi and the Jupiter. Today has been quiet and snowy – the perfect time to sit down with a coffee and talk music!

Tell us a little bit about your music. How did you begin writing these kind of dark folk songs? How long have you been writing them? Where are you from?

The culture of the region I live in and my music go hand in hand. I’m from a rural village on the Ohio River that is part of the Appalachian region in the United States. Certain styles of American folk music and bluegrass originated in this region and have played a major role in my own sound. Traditional American folk music is already quite “dark” with songs performed in moody, modal tunings and lyrics that deal with death and nature. When I set out to create and perform Dark Folk music in 2020, my intention was simply to intensify these preexisting characteristics; to play faster, heavier, and to deliver in a more abrasive style. I’m quite a fan of Black Metal and I set out to do to folk music what Black Metal did to metal. 

What instruments do you use in your music?

I’ve made it a point to exclusively use acoustic instruments in my music and to refrain from the use of any electrical instruments or amplifiers. Guitar and bass drum are the only instruments really used in my music. Nearly all of the guitar parts are performed in a drop D or in a DADGAD to effect a modal sound reminiscent of American mountain music. On a few songs I’ve incorporated bowed guitar and synthesizers but, ultimately, I try to orchestrate my original work in a way that can be replicated live by just myself. 

When it comes to your lyrics what kind of storylines do they tell? Is there a specific theme that appears often or do you prefer mixing things up?

A number of my songs are inspired by traditional Appalachian ballads and ghost stories I heard growing up. This is especially true on the upcoming release which features a song titled “Voice Like the River” which is entirely based on a semi-truthful story from Kentucky that my great-grandmother told me as a child. 

I’m really inspired by the “crossroads” mythos popularized by blues musicians like Robert Johnson. This comes up pretty frequently in my songs although I try to change it up. For instance, the first three songs on “Dylan is Dead” tell the story of a man who, in desperation, travels to the crossroads to make a deal with the devil. I’m also quite fascinated by the “highwayman” or “outlaw” figure the appears often in traditional American and English ballads. 

How about songwriting in general, do you have a specific pattern of how to write your songs?

As far as writing is concerned, I generally begin melodies and progressions in drop D or DADGAD. I had a fiddle instructor that, as a child, told me that “all of the best fiddle tunes were in the key of D” and I guess that stuck with me. I tend to write lyrics after the instrumental parts are written and recorded. I like to listen to the song and imagine what would be happening if it were a soundtrack to a film before I start writing lyrics and singing. 

You have released one album and a single so far. Are you working on something new at the moment?

Yes! My sophomore release, titled “Deathlore,” is to be released on February 25th through Road Rat Records. February 25th is the birthday of bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley who has been a major inspiration to me musically. The album was recorded in an isolated log cabin built in the mid-1800s. This atmosphere definitely contributed to the overall mood of the album. 

I’ve always been a fan of Dungeon Synth but have had a difficult time relating to or creating it as I come from a very different cultural background here in the United States. One of my goals with the upcoming album was to compose a few atmospheric synth tracks inspired by the wintery Applachian scenery around me. The melodies of these synth tracks are loosely based on traditional American folk songs which hopefully lends some credence to my take on the style. 

Do you perform your music live? If so, do these performances have a big role in your music? 

My father is a very talented musician and I’ve played live music with him ever since I was a kid; He really introduced me to the art of live performance. I’ve played in a handful of country, folk, and bluegrass bands over the years – mostly bar gigs and small festivals. With the release of my first album, I turned my attention to booking more solo shows to showcase my original music and to play darker, more authentic acoustic music. Unfortunately, this endeavor coincided with a global pandemic which was rather disappointing. After the release of the new album, finding venues and opportunities to play my own music will be my number one priority. 

If you could see in the future, where would you like to see yourself in 5 years from now?

I certainly hope to be making new music and performing to a wider audience but I also hope to be working on a PhD in American Literature. There never seems to be enough time for everything, does it?

Do you like to collaborate with other musicians?

I absolutely love collaboration! The upcoming album features a collaboration with “Wanderer” of the bands Stone Ram and Forests of Orthanc. I really admire both projects and am incredibly excited to have his vocals featured on the second track. There are few artists that exercise such mastery in both synth-based music and extreme metal. He also did the logo for the release which I’m really proud of! The album also features a collaboration with Father Dawn of the Trash Bats and the owner of Road Rat Records. Father Dawn has an incredibly strong and dynamic voice – hearing him sing the bridge on the fourth track really completed the album.

What is next for Harry Pedigo?

To sell a bunch of copies of DEATHLORE! The album comes out on February 25th and can be purchased exclusively from Road Rat Records at  www.roadratrecords.bigcartel.com!

Any wisdoms you’d like to share with the world?

Break strings and break hearts – play it loud and heavy!

You’ll find Harry Pedigo’s music at:

https://harrypedigomusic.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/harrypedigomusic/

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