Described as “engagingly clear across a rich variety of styles” (Songlines), Good Habits are a UK alt-folk duo, telling stories and turning heads across the globe. Composed of singer-cellist Bonnie Schwarz and accordionist Pete Shaw, the duo create folk-ish musical tales, with captivating lyrics married with their unique brand of brisk instrumental virtuosity.
During time spent happily stranded in New Zealand because of the pandemic, Good Habits have performed alongside the country’s top acts including Nadia Reid, Ria Hall and Lost Tribe Aotearoa, and won the Purbeck Folk Rising Award 2020. Debut album Going For Broke received glowing press in Songlines and the New Zealand Herald, and their hectic tour schedule has included performances at New Zealand’s largest festivals, including CubaDupa, TSB Festival of Lights, Luminate and countless other independent venues. Their homecoming in October 2021 saw performances at Manchester Folk Festival, BBC appearances (BBC Introducing and BBC Folk Show) and much more. Thank you for taking this interview! How has the New Year been for you so far as an artist?
It's been good, we've been eagerly anticipating hitting the road for our spring tour, but we were kept busy in the early months with lots of collaborative recording projects, learning new tunes, and of course working hard towards this year's plans and projects. Can you tell us how you've transformed from the beginning to now as an artist?
We've had a crazy journey as a duo, we met while studying at Uni in Manchester, where we played together in various groups and outfits, but the duo came together as we graduated and formed it in order to go on a tour of New Zealand. We got stranded there due to Covid, so we spent 2 years performing across the country, where our music transformed hugely. We were very lucky with the whole experience and had lots of opportunities to collaborate and developed a very eclectic, alt-indie-jazz-folk style we perform today. How did you come up with your latest project?
Amidst our spring tour, we're featuring a double-bill tour in collaboration with NE artists Ceitidh Mac'. We were keen to organize this project because we only returned to the UK in October last year, and are keen to do as much live performing and collaboration as possible to connect with new artists and audiences. We're fans of Ceitidh Mac, who like myself (Bonnie) sings and plays cello with a mixture of folk-jazz influence but with a totally different outcome. We also both feature interesting instrumental combinations with our cellos, her with a vibraphone, and us an accordion - but the sound is much more accessible than you'd think. We thought Ceitidh would be a great artist to join forces with for a double-header gig series and we're really excited - the tour includes the 'Women are Mint' Festival in Newcastle on 20th May. Where are you from originally? I (Bonnie) am originally from Dorset, and Pete is from Shropshire - annoyingly other sides of the country. Where do you live now?
Having only recently returned from New Zealand where we were touring, we've continued to live nomadically, as we'll be spending most of this year, touring at gigs and festivals. But we'll be returning to live in Manchester in September which we love. Do you think where you live impacts how your music is made?
It transforms the music you make - both in what your musical influences are, and your opportunities as an artist are enabled.
For me, having lived in Dorset, then Manchester then New Zealand, then traveling the UK. They've all meant profoundly different things for our music.
Dorset, spend more time with my family, my mum's Jazz-Blues music, my learning of classical music and what's cool at the time. Manchester was bursting at the seams with gigs and music/theatre of all varieties which pushed our music to the limits of exploring Jazz, and our instrumental techniques. Then, in New Zealand, we traveled meeting people and exploring locations -which meant our music became very storytelling-focused, and much much more about nature and the people/places we discovered. How do you want to shape your career?
Being a couple as well as a duo helps keep a clear idea of why we're doing what we do. We want to use our music career for Good Habits for a vehicle to have fun experiences, explore exciting places and meet lots of people. We want to have a live-gig-based career and we know that we want to keep exploring international territories, (as well as returning back to wonderful New Zealand), next up is Germany in our sights, but there's so much to explore in our home country! Do you work on a tight timeline always or do you go with the flow when it comes to your music?
I often wish we could go with the flow more because we're often running to a tight schedule! How did the latest title of your music come to be?
We do have a new single that will be coming out at the end of summer, and it's a song that sort of slowly and gently came into existence during practicing and noodling, that when I played it to Pete the parts came together very quickly. It's called 'Feel Unsafe' about how safety is often an abstract feeling, and we can often make ourselves feel safe by putting out of sight, and out of mind the things we don't want to think about. Is it hard to let go of the music when it is done?
A lot of the time, we've already done lots of performing of tracks before they go onto an album and are released so not at all :) The hardest part is performing them live for the first time. Do you feel an emotional attachment to your music?
Yes definitely, especially when a song then becomes attached to a special memory or story as well. How would you describe your music in one word to someone who hasn't listened to it yet?
Eclectic! Where do they go to listen NOW?
Bandcamp? or Spotify (all streaming services) What has been the best fan reaction to your music?
Once someone loved our music and wanted to thank us so he took us for a ride in his airplane. Is there anything exciting coming up for you?
We're hugely excited about upcoming festivals! Having only really gigged in New Zealand as the duo, being back in the UK is very new! Summer will see gigs at Kendall Calling Festival, Kite Festival as well as key folk festivals Purbeck Valley Folk, Beardy Folk and many more. Give us all your socials and links so fans can link up with you!