Q&A with Adam Summerhayes, Cider With Kirsty


Award-winning masters of improvisation, The Ciderhouse Rebellion (Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger), with acclaimed singer Kirsty Merryn, showcase their recent album, The Devil’s On the Mast, at Lighthouse on Friday 10 May.

Between stories of wreckers and smugglers, midwives and hedge-witches, snake-catchers and night men, the new project reveals the hidden lives that were the historic heartbeat of the country.

Here, Adam fields some questions we put to him about the collaboration...

Could we start with the  album, The Devil’s on the Mast? What’s it all about and how did it come about?

ADAM: We were keen to work together after Kirsty and I met through a project with Steve Knightley and Michael Wood, so had a long text chat with Murray about what we might do. Kirsty’s idea that we could look at historic forgotten jobs that had been part of the country’s lifeblood became the focus around which the project grew and we met up for an initial session and recorded a song to my words, a melody from Kirsty, and a harmonic space drawn from Murray’s input. We liked it, went away to brew some more material and came back later in the year for a few days to create the album.

How have the songs evolved and bedded in through being played live; have they found new spaces to inhabit since you recorded them?

ADAM: In some ways they have not changed at all, still having the same intent, mood and words – conversely, though, they are different every time we play them. Literally different: The Ciderhouse Rebellion never play exactly the same notes again in anything they do and this is no exception. The music exists within a particular space, but evolves each time in a different way, which directly affects the way Kirsty sings – and vice versa, as Kirsty weaves her line in different ways, leading the music onto new paths.

Cider With Kirsty is a relatively new collaboration, how does it work? Do you each bring ideas to the others or do your songs grow out of what you create in each other’s company?

ADAM: This project was very ideas-led, lots of three way chat about what interested us before we really got together, and then words to the songs written by Kirsty or me – some brought to the recording sessions already written and others emerging around the kitchen table along the way. The melodies themselves are a mix, some written by Kirsty or me, but many created by Kirsty, in the moment, sometimes in response to The Ciderhouse Rebellion’s music and sometimes just springing into the air for Murray and me to follow. 

How does that differ from how your work in The Ciderhouse Rebellion or as a solo artist?

ADAM: Words – that’s the real difference between working with a singer – or poet – and the rest of our work with Ciderhouse. There is a narrative that has to be followed, the music has to respond – we can’t end up diverting into some cheerful vibe for the end of a song where everyone is miserable.

What’s next for Cider With Kirsty?

ADAM: We have a nice line of gigs coming up, so we are going to get out there and enjoy them and then see what happens next!