Genre: Folk, Acoustic, Singer-Songwriter
Location: London, England
Discography: Upon A Stranger Shore (2012), This Willowed Light (2014)
Record Label: Wild Sound Recordings
Awards: Fatea Female Vocalist of the Year 2015. Twice nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Horizon award. Nominated for Young Folk Singer of the Year.
Twice nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Horizon award and the current FATEA female vocalist of the year, Maz O'Connor is a very special folk singer-songwriter. She is one of our favourite new folk artists and is a gifted singer of traditional and self-penned songs. Maz accompanies her uniquely pure voice with guitar, shruti box, piano and harmonium. Born and bred in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria Maz is now based in London.
Maz has been singing on the UK folk scene since she was 13 years old. Her first festival appearance was as an entrant in a young performers’ competition, previously won by Kate Rusby. Persuaded to enter by her brother, his band were runners-up while she scooped first prize: ‘I think he was trying to encourage me to be more confident,’ she says, ‘but it kind of backfired on both of us when I won. He actually wanted to perform in front of 1000 people…’ She’s been gigging ever since.
But it was while at Cambridge reading English that she fell in love with the folk songwriters of the 1960s; Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Neil Young. These influences, along with her literary leanings, make for a varied and intriguing body of work. She effortlessly blends traditional material such as the Child Ballad ‘The Grey Selkie’ with thoughtful, original songs like ‘Derby Day’ (which commemorates the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison) and ‘The Mississippi Woman’ (a feminist rewrite of the Adam-and-Eve story), which she was commissioned to write by Broadstairs Folk Festival.
Described by Froots magazine as 'an enchanting debut album', her 'Upon a Stranger Shore' was released in the summer of 2012, just after Maz left university. 2013 brought a creative fellowship with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), funded by the BBC Performing Arts Fund, and a summer spent as the singer for the RSC's production of 'As You Like It' with music written by Laura Marling.
So after a year of gigging and gathering new material, Maz 's extraordindary second album 'This Willowed Light' was released in July 2014 after a very successful Pledge crowd-funding campaign. The album was produced by highly acclaimed producer and award-winning folk artist Jim Moray. Together they crafted this beautiful record which unites Maz’s contemporary sound with her love of traditional folk song. When ‘Derby Day’ was recently ‘Song of the Day’ on Folk Radio UK, Moray said of the album: ‘I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever worked on’.
Maz has been recently commission by EFDSS and Folk By The Oak in conjunction with the year-long 2015 Anniversaries: Parliament in the Making programme of activities and celebrations to join the Sweet Liberities project. The project also features Martyn Joseph, Nancy Kerr, Sam Carter with Patsy Reid and Nick Cooke. As the UK marks 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta and 750 years since the De Montfort Parliament, these four folk artists will take a musical journey exploring the pursuit of democracy, and the laws and events that have made and continue to make a difference to our liberties. The four artists bring a wealth of talent and experience to the project and will have access to material from Parliamentary archives and historians, together with folk material from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. They will compose new songs from their research inspired by 18 significant moments in the evolution of democracy, ranging from the Magna Carta to the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and women’s suffrage to the continued fight for equality. The songs will be performed on a six-date tour featuring the most in-demand traditional fiddle player in the UK, Patsy Reid, and serial collaborator Nick Cooke, followed by a festival exclusive at Folk by the Oak in July 2016.
Maz is also currently working on her third album.
‘A vocal performance that stops you dead in your tracks’ (Fatea magazine)