Maz O’Connor on playing at festivals
Maz O'Connor
Folk singer
3rd July 2015
Maz O’Connor on playing at festivals

Maz O’Connor is an exceptionally talented folk singer-songwriter who was supported by Help Musicians UK during a crucial time in her early career.

We caught up with Maz ahead of the summer festival season to hear what she had to say about her upcoming gigs.

Firstly how did you get into playing folk music?

My mum is a music teacher so there was always music in the house growing up and I learned piano and classical violin from a young age, but found the style wasn't really for me. My school (through my mum) got involved with Folkworks schemes which brought melodeons and ceilidh music to our school and so that's how I started playing folk music.

When and where did you play your first festival?

I used to sing with my brother's folk band 'Last Orders' who have now sadly disbanded, but who won the BBC Young Folk Award in 2007 and so got booked for a few festivals off the back of that. I sang with them at Cropredy and Cambridge in 2007, which are two of the biggest folk festivals in the UK, so that was a bit of a baptism of fire...

What festivals are you playing this summer?

This summer is quieter than last summer because I don't have an album out this year. That said I'm still playing a few festivals; Glastonbury last week, and Sidmouth Folk Week, Kendal Calling and FolkEast are in August.

Maz trees

How do you prepare for being on stage at a festival?

It depends whether I'm playing a set solo or with a band, but either way the biggest part of preparing for me is remembering not to enjoy yourself too much until after the gig. I'm quite strict about warming up, and try and set aside at least 15 minutes to do a physical and vocal warm up before a set. At a festival it can be difficult to find privacy to do that, so I've grown accustomed to doing some slightly embarrassing warm up things in front of crew and staff backstage.

What is it like once you are on the stage?

Festival gigs are always really fun because there's such a buzz in the air and people are in such a good mood. It can sometimes be a challenge sound-wise, as you often don't get much of a sound check, especially if it's a big stage and you're spaced out further than you'd like to be from your band. It's also important, I think, to be at the stage well in advance of your changeover time so you don't waste that precious 15 minute line check getting instruments out of cases etc. 

If you had to choose, tent or stage?

My gigs at Glastonbury this year were in a tent in the Green Futures field, in which Billy Bragg played a set on the Thursday. It feels more intimate and more relaxed than playing on an outside stage. I can connect with the audience a lot more easily, as I'm not singing out into a vast field with people coming and going.

Finally what festivals would you recommend for this summer?

WOMAD last year was the best festival experience I've had. It's not about big names necessarily, but about amazing musicians coming together from all over the world. I also loved Folk by the Oak last year, which is a one day festival in Hatfield.