Jon Whitley and James LaBouchardiere, better known as 'Ninebarrow', are a multi-award-winning folk duo, who have been impressing audiences across the country with their innovative and captivating take on the folk tradition since 2012. Described by BBC Radio 2's Mark Radcliffe as sounding like ‘two halves of one voice’, by Seth Lakeman as ‘a fantastic duo’ and by Mercury Music Award nominee, Kate Rusby, as ‘absolutely amazing’, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere combine breath taking vocal harmonies and melodies, delivering songs that are inspired and rooted in the landscape and history of the British Isles. The duo were nominated in the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in the ‘Horizon’ category for Best Emerging Artist; their latest album, ‘The Waters and the Wild’ (released in April 2018) was awarded 5-stars in both The Morning Star and the English Folk Dance & Song Society’s EDS Magazine, and has received airplay on BBC Radios 2, 3, 6 Music, Wales and Scotland. Folk luminary, Mike Harding, has hailed it as ‘absolutely monumental’.
NAME: Jon Whitley
FAV. BOOK: Anything fantasy
FAV. FOOD: Indian / Ceviche
FAV. TIPPLE: An ale that's pale!
FAV. VIEW: Swyre Head, looking West
IDEAL SUNDAY: Lie-in, followed by eggs royale, followed by long walk, followed by late pub lunch, followed by some sci-fi/fantasy on TV and few more beers.
Jay was brought up living on East Blagdon Farm near Cranborne and I was brought up in Canford Heath near Poole - so both of our early childhoods were set against the backdrop of the Dorset landscape in one way or another. For Jay, the ancient woodlands and chalk escarpments of Cranborne Chase were all around him until the age of ten. For me, whilst the heath and woodland that backed on to my childhood home certainly became a key part of my growing up, it was probably more the numerous weekend family walks on which I was taken that inspired my life-long love of the county.
Jay and I first met at Poole Grammar School in 1998 at the age of 12 and became great friends from the word go. We both had a lot in common - not least, a keen interest in music, with Jay playing saxophone and me playing trumpet and piano. And it was at PGS that we really first explored music together. We formed a covers band with some other school friends and played locally for three or four years before the inevitable reality of A-Levels hit. In the background to this was the constant musical influence of my Dad, Bob: he was a keen folk musician and folk club organiser and his regular 'sing-around' gatherings at our family home meant that Jay and I were frequently exposed to a fantastic variety of folk musicians and songwriters from a very early age.
After secondary school, I went on to read English Literature at Cardiff University and Jay studied medicine at St George's in London. During my time in Cardiff, I took a lot of inspiration from the music scene there - I became the pianist in a blues band, explored singer-songwriting and also ran an open mic night in the city. On occasion, I even managed to turn in my coursework on time!
Maintaining a long-distance relationship for so many years meant that we'd talked a lot about what was going to happen after we'd finished uni - and we were both adamant that we wanted to return to Dorset. We never really considered any other option and countless visits home, where we'd inevitably look forward to walking in the Dorset countryside, fueled that even further.
On completing our respective degrees, music fell by the wayside for some time. I became a full-time primary school teacher in 2008 and Jay qualified as a doctor that same year. And things trundled on like that for some time! At this point, we'd also fallen in love with The Lake District and were bagging Wainwrights, with the goal of summiting all 214 across the next decade. We're still working on it, well over a decade later, by the way. We're on about 114, so still some way to go!!
It wasn’t until 2012 that Jay and I began singing together again, after being inspired by visiting some particularly excellent festivals that summer. And Ninebarrow took off in a pretty serious way from that moment onward. Across the next four years, things just grew and grew - and in 2016, we took the decision to step back from full-time teaching and doctoring to pursue musical careers.
In 2018, the idea of Ninebarrow Musical Walking Holidays was born. We'd long had the notion that we'd like to write a book of 'musical walks' but the idea of 'musical walking holidays' came out of a particularly lovely BBQ in a little cottage in Corfe. Jay's Mum and her partner Kev had hired it for the week and invited us over, and we just got talking about the idea. And we've been working to make it a reality ever since!
NAME: James LaBouchardiere
FAV. BOOK: Snow Falling on Cedars
FAV. FOOD: Indian
FAV. TIPPLE: Beer
FAV. VIEW: Corfe Castle from East Hill
IDEAL SUNDAY: Coffee and a bun followed by a walk, followed by lunch with family and friends, followed by gardening, followed by an hour in the pub, followed by Game of Thrones
In the spring of 2019, we finally had our book ready for publication after nearly a year working on it. We've been pretty blown away by the interest to be honest! We were comfortable that the project was a 'labour of love' and we were resigned to the fact that we might not actually sell that many copies. By the time the book was published, we'd already had orders for over half of our initial print-run, and were already having to think about having a second run sent to press. We've also been delighted by the coverage it's got in the local and national press, both musically and from the walking community.
The book really gives a little flavour of what we want to capture in our walking holidays. If you're interested in finding out more about it, or about our music, please visit www.ninebarrow.co.uk
And now stocked in:
We were absolutely thrilled that the National Trust have decided to stock 'Ninebarrow's Dorset' in a selection of it's properties in the county. Keep your eyes peeled while you're exploring places like Kingston Lacey and Studland Beach!
As heard on Clare Balding's 'Ramblings'
'That's my idea of heaven!'