Folklore have been running their monthly showcase at the White Rabbit for five years, and in October they’re putting on a special 5th birthday celebration there. The gig will feature an array of acts, including the likes of Paperhawk, Family Fiction and a very special surprise guest. Brighton Source spoke to Folklore Sessions instigator and maestro Jacko Hooper about the night’s origins and modus operandi.
JH: “Folklore’s first showcase at the White Rabbit pub was actually in September 2014. It has always been the White Rabbit. During the Great Escape it’s there, the third Tuesday of every month it’s there. This will be the 68th showcase and I’ve never missed a month. I don’t go away a lot.”
The format for the nights are always the same, generally two or three booked acts and then Jacko usually plays a few songs.
“I’ve booked well over 100 different acts. The regulars, people we’ve been working with for ages, include people like Bess Atwell who’s a good friend of mine. She played the first ever set at the first ever Folklore and she’s come back loads since.
“There’s also George Ogilvie, he did one of the early sessions and now he’s signed and has tens of millions of plays on Spotify, tours Europe and the rest. He’s doing really well. He’ll be playing at the birthday show as will Bess (but George Ogilvie is not the secret star attraction).”
How did Folklore Sessions start?
“It was only meant to be one gig originally.”
“It started at the White rabbit because a friend of mine worked there and they were trying to put on a gig they asked if I would give it a go, and we had to give it a name to put on the poster, so Folklore came into my head and that was that. I started working behind the bar a few months later so everyone thinks it started there because I worked there but it was actually the other way round.”
What format does a Folklore Session take?
“The monthly shows are always free. So once a month you can go to the pub, in a chilled out environment, and know the music will be great. That’s the name of the game. So you can see great acts for free before you have to see them in a bigger space.”
“It started out as folk-orientated and that’s still the core of it. I book anything that has that singer-songwriter core to it as it’s really just about really good songs. I wouldn’t book a metal band, but if they stripped it back and played acoustic I might.”
“Other shows will usually involve working with artists who have maybe worked with Folklore before or touring acts and then we’ll get folklore acts in as the support. We’re working on shows next year with London-based promoters, where I bring two folklore acts and they’ll bring two of theirs. It means finding like-minded people, people who are doing similar things to I am.”
How do artists approach you for a gig?
“Submissions come from all over the country, through the website, mostly by word-of-mouth. It’s trusting friends, trusting their opinions. I listen to everything sent to me but I’m currently booked up to March.”
“It proved to me there was a big need for this sort of thing. I’ve still got 200 submissions I haven’t even opened yet. It’s a one-man operation so it can take a while to get through them all.”
What’s it like being in Brighton?
“Brighton is a victim of its own success. It’s so hard to crack it in music as you’re spoilt for choice. That’s great if you’re a music lover, because any night of the week you’re sorted, but if you’re a band or artist it can be hard.”
“Which is one of the reasons why I started the Folklore Sessions, because I was never part of any clique or scene, I was doing acoustic stuff, predominently as a support or at open mics but there wasn’t really somewhere you could go and play, somewhere people could turn up and know it was their kind of crowd.”
Jacko Hooper is also a prolific performer and singer-songwriter.
“Just before I started Folklore I was doing shows with people like James Bay and I supported James Blunt at the Brighton Centre. Folklore was just a really nice getaway from the bullshit, like getting back to basics.”
“I did a show last month with Kiefer Sutherland at the Concorde2, one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever met, an absolute gent. He was amazing. He moved on stage like a 20 year old. People were passing out in the crowd it was so hot but he was just going for it, an hour and a half straight.”
Folklore Sessions are releasing records now too.
“We released our first record last year and did the launch at the Prince Albert. The record has me, Bess Atwell, George Ogilvie and Oktoba on it.”
“I’ve released a couple of records through One Inch Badge and they are helping me release the Folklore records – five seven inches. We released the first one last summer and there will be four more and then there will be an album compiling them. The second is finished and should be out in the Spring.”
“I’d love to get two out next year but it’s a lot of work and a big learning curve, just the logistics of it. Each act contributed one song and the record has had about a million streams now. We pressed 250 copies and it sold out.”
After five years, it doesn’t seem like Jacko Hooper and the Folklore Sessions are slowing down any time soon.
Folklore Sessions 5th Anniversary birthday features Jacko Hooper, Paper Hawk, Family Fiction and other friends. It is at the White Rabbit Pub on Tuesday 15th October. Entry, as ever, is free.