Q&A with Wayward Jane


Four friends – Sam Gillespie, Rachel Petyt, Dan Abrahams and Michael Starkey – drawn together by a passion for the music of Old-time America, Wayward Jane formed in Edinburgh some nine years ago. Over that time their sound has evolved to incorporate a trans-Atlantic slant with elements of British and Irish musical traditions. It makes for a heady musical melting pot that is heading for Lighthouse on Thursday 11 July.

Here, Sam Gillespie answers a few of our questions...

For those who’ve not yet had the pleasure of hearing Wayward Jane, what do you
have in store for them when you come to Lighthouse?

People will be hearing a close-knit group of four musicians who together produce a unique and exciting sound inspired by American Old-time, rich with the tones of fiddle, banjo, guitar, wooden flute, double bass and vocal harmonies. Our sound and live shows feature plenty of original songs and tunes alongside traditional material, a flair for creative arrangement and a playful musical chemistry animating the whole.

There’s a rare mix of influences going on in your music, how did you arrive at your
sound… or did it find you?

Though Old-time is certainly an important wellspring for us, we realised early on that we were not going to be an Old-time group in the traditional sense but rather a band that freely blends the different currents of inspiration that we’re all bringing as individuals. For example one band member has a background in jazz, another is steeped in Old-time banjo playing, some of us have a love of Celtic music and the music of the folk revival and so on. Within this diversity there are many areas of crossover and convergence (notably including a shared love of Gillian Welch). Our signature sound emerges quite naturally from this confluence.

Where does the music take you; is there anywhere you wouldn’t go with it?

We find that the music brings us into harmony as people and into the joy of shared creative exploration. There is a real magic in hearing something you have come up with being beautifully enriched by the musical additions of your friends. We are quite open to evolution in our sound and ideas but we find that a rootsy, acoustic approach is our guiding star and we haven’t felt the need to radically change that hitherto. In terms of where we wouldn’t go I think all we’d say definitively is that we wouldn’t want to take the music in a direction where it felt its soul and integrity were compromised, those things are fundamental to how we relate to the music.

What’s in the name; who’s Jane?

That’s a matter of great contention and esoteric conjecture. Some scholars and even band members point to prosaic explanations such as Jane being the middle name of a fiddle player we used to play with who left to live somewhere else and thus went Wayward. Others see Jane more as a mythological figure, perhaps embodying a kind of swashbuckling existential stance that we can all be inspired by. At this stage the sheer density of interpretation, of agglomerated historiography and counter-historiography mean that the ‘truth’ is never likely to be definitively accessible. Maybe that’s OK.

We’ve heard great things about your recent show at the Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers – a Purbeck landmark that’s just over the horizon visible from the roof of Lighthouse – how was it for you?

Happily the nostalgia we felt from playing there years ago was met with an equally wonderful experience this time around. We found the house hospitable, the cider, ale and pasties delicious, the sea nearby bracing and delightful, the staff generous and the crowd lovely.  What an archetypal tavern it is, long live the Square and Compass! 

What’s next for Wayward Jane? 

We’re on tour in July and then again in the highlands of Scotland in August when we shall also be appearing during the Edinburgh fringe. Touring plans for 2025 include a trip to Brittany. Things that can be glimpsed on the horizon include a new recording project and who knows, maybe even a tour across the pond. 

Thanks, Sam.

Tickets for Wayward Jane available now at https://www.lighthousepoole.co.uk/event/wayward-jane/