Signed to a record label in the 1970s, folk poet Schunge is still writing inspirational songs over 40 years later
I remember the day that an unassuming man turned up at my door, sporting a leather jacket and worn flat cap. He introduced himself as Schunge and told me he wanted to record some of his songs…
In the sessions that followed, Schunge shared stories of being signed to a record label, years spent abroad, and a counterculture lifestyle in the heart of London. We also compared notes on life growing up in tough working-class towns in the north of England. All very enjoyable conversation.
A great approach to studio time
When it came down to the music itself, Schunge was inspiring in his consistent focus and he would always show up knowing exactly what he was going to play. Crucially, too, he had practiced all the necessary parts, which was a joyous experience for me and made progress really quick. My part of the deal was to take care of all the technical aspects of the recording process, which allowed him to focus purely on performing.
Also, did you notice the guy in the photo above, playing bongos? That’s Phil Little. He’s an old friend of Schunge who contributed some drums and percussion to the new album. He worked on the parts from his studio in Hastings and sent the recordings over to me using Dropbox. This is a great example of how distance doesn’t have to be prohibitive when it comes to collaborating.
I’d define Schunge’s sound as having hypnotic grooves, embellished with intricately picked acoustic guitar (more often than not in an alternate tuning), juxtaposed with an intriguing mix of world music influences. His quiet singing voice offers no frills and sits well alongside the likes of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan; while his characterful tone drips authenticity as he shares countless tales of a life full of experience.
Unlike so much of the money-driven music industry these days, Schunge’s motivation was, refreshingly, all about creating worthwhile music. Music that tells a story. The passage of time has given him a perspective that is, above all else, focused on leaving an authentic stamp on the world.
The finished album
So, that’s what happened. A year down the line from meeting Schunge he has a completed album, which he’s called Constant Byways.
Following our final session, as he ambled off into the distance, I felt a little sad that it was all over. But I was glad that I’d learned some life lessons from recording with this man – not least that your age should never be a limiting factor when it comes to creating art. Personally, I believe that the experience and perspective of having a few more miles on the clock can make for a much richer end result. Schunge, and Constant Byways, is my proof.