Hailing from North Staffordshire, Robbie Sherratt is an innovative freelance fiddler, known for his ability to genre-hop at the blink of an eye. Whilst being of the open minded sort, his roots in traditional Folk music remain the basis of his pursuit for new music.
“Not only a naturally brilliant musician; Robbie is a great performer whose light shines like a beacon amongst the many talented players of today.”
“I can grow old now knowing that the fiddle is in good hands.”
Robbie began learning violin through the Staffordshire Schools Music system in 2002, age 6. Three years later at Fiddle Hell, an international fiddle convention held at The George, Buxton, he discovered the world of fiddle players and pubs. Inspired by the traditionalists and as well as those less orthodox, most notably Chiptune composer and violinist Mad Fiddler – Mark Knight, he took up Irish fiddle lessons from John Pursail to provide a grounding for later ventures.
Weekly music sessions at The George followed where Robbie was helped and encouraged by seasoned folk musicians, including the late Phantom Phiddler Sean Heeley, Tom Kitching (Pilgrims’ Way) and jazz violinist Graham Clark (Gong). It was here also, he was lucky to meet multi-talented Jolly Jock, comic soloist and frontman of Glastonbury veterans, Biggles Wartime Band – a comedy jug band Robbie would later join and perform with until Jock’s passing in December 2016. Through the sessions Robbie developed a growing preference for English folk music, switching to lessons from English player Tom Kitching, before becoming mainly self-taught for several years from 2010.
Robbie also became a regular at Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club, in his hometown of Leek, Staffordshire and encouraged by organiser Dave Rhead has played regular support slots, solo and with resident bands. At one of these solo spots, Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg accompanied a young Robbie on bass guitar and Robbie has since been called up to perform alongside many established musicians, including fiddlers Tom McConville and Ric Sanders, who have both endorsed Robbie’s playing. Robbie also met Joe Broughton there and later attended Joe’s Fiddle School on occasional Sundays at Birmingham Conservatoire, where he had lessons from Joe and Paloma Trigas.
Robbie’s confidence and recognition grew as a result of performing regularly, being invited to play school and community events and branching out into open mics, sessions at The Wilkes Head, Leek and further afield. Age 13, he was invited to join popular local band, Bearfoot, who he stayed with for nearly four years and in doing so gained prolific performance experience, playing regular pub gigs, working men’s clubs, parties, weddings and festivals including regular performances at Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival and The Great Dorset Steam Fair. As a duo with Bearfoot’s guitarist Dave Dove, Robbie also supported Spiers and Boden for Biddulph Folk Club.
Jolly Jock, a few weeks before The Eden Festival in 2010, handed then 14-year-old Robbie a Biggles Wartime Band CD saying “You had better learn all these, Steve our fiddle player can’t make the Eden festival and we’re playing main stage, so you will have to do!” This was a great experience and led to four appearances at the Acoustic Festival of Britain, three at Glastonbury Festival, several weddings, functions and smaller festivals with Biggles, plus occasional appearances with Jock at his solo gigs and far too many sessions to recall. One highlight was performing live with Biggles Wartime Band on The Chris Evans BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show, at Glastonbury Festival 2015 and being paid by the BBC.
Genevieve Tudor invited Robbie to perform on her ‘Sunday Folk’ BBC regional radio show, which he did in March 2011 with singer-songwriter Anthony Pascall and percussionist Clive Stagg, who he had met at open mics. They performed a few months after at Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival and this line-up later expanded into Blues/ Folk band The Sub Zero Busking Club. Robbie has now performed several times on Genevieve’s show.
Initially encouraged by Tom Kitching and Tom McConville, Robbie attended Folkworks Summer School from age 14 to 17 where he took further inspiration and tuition from Esko Jarvela, Peter Tickell and Tim Kliphuis. Heavily influenced by Esko’s playing, Robbie switched from four to five-string fiddle and developed an interest in Nordic folk music. Peter and Tim encouraged improvisation and introduced him to a crossover between folk and Jazz. Robbie also got to play in sessions with great musicians including Tom McConville and for the first time met other like-minded young musicians.
In 2012 at Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Robbie met the members of Blue Horyzon, a young bluegrass influenced folk rock band based in Cornwall, who were a booked act. After jamming with them, playing for the crowds he performed a couple of numbers with them on The Sabrina Stage, later recorded with them and joined the band age 17, playing gigs whenever he could. Six amazing months followed, which included pub gigs, performing live on David White’s BBC Radio Cornwall show, live television for BBC Spotlight from The Royal Cornwall Show, Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival, Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival 2013 and Beverley Folk Festival. The distances involved, however, led to complications and it all proved too much to balance with schoolwork and other music commitments, resulting in Robbie leaving the band.
Since a young age, Robbie has often performed with Bluegrass Band, The Slippery Hill Boys, developing a passion for bluegrass and learning a more professional approach to his music. He played on their Gathering Speed album and performed at pubs, barn dances, corporate events, weddings, parties and festivals, including Penkhull Jazz and Blues 2012, Manchester International Festival 2015 and Tamworth Bluegrass Festival in 2016. Robbie also played on The Jake Leg Jug Band’s Cotton Mouth album and has occasionally gigged with them, including Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival 2014. In 2015, he performed in Ypres, Belgium and at Burg Herzberg Festival in Germany with a blues band, led by landlord Malcolm Modger from the Wilkes Head and Anthony Pascall. Robbie has also guested occasionally with Cajun and English folk band, The Boat Band and has briefly played on stage with guitar legend Tommy Emanuel at Cambridge Folk Festival.
Primarily an intuitive musician playing by ear, Robbie also has foundations in classical techniques, passing his Grade 8 ABRSM Violin exam, age 15, taught by Helen Bloomfield. He has recently graduated from the Folk and Traditional Music degree at Newcastle University , tutored in years 1 & 2 by Shetland fiddle player Catriona MacDonald and after successfully auditioning spent a year at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, tutored by Kaustinen fiddler Esko Jarvela. Robbie also honed in on his arranging and compositional techniques under the guidance of pianist and composition guru, Timo Alakotila, using this time to develop his first album, Provenance. He performed solo, in ensembles, ceilidh bands, the Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band and regularly played at sessions throughout the city. Performances with the Folk Big Band included the Helsinki-Tallinn Folklandia Cruise, the biggest winter folk and dance festival in the world.
Whilst at Newcastle University, Robbie has performed in student ensembles at folk clubs, the Sage Gateshead, Whitby Folk Week and Celtic Connections. He has also played at the Sage with local Bluegrass band Chester and the Fog supporting Ron Block and Sierra Hull, performed in a Gypsy Jazz duo called The Hot Club of Fenham and Ceitidh Mac with longtime Folkworks friend Will Hammond. He keeps in touch with Tom McConville, occasionally performing a few numbers together, whose continued advice and support is invaluable. Now in his final year, Robbie is enjoying fiddle lessons from Peter Tickell, is credited for a small part on Jez Lowe’s The Dillen Doll CD, and performing his own music with pianist Hannah Lord.
Robbie continues to develop his skills, building on tuition and performance experience, further developing genres. In particular, he enjoys English and Nordic Folk, Bluegrass and Jazz music. His ability to improvise with ease and quickly pick up tunes has led to him being in constant demand both as a recording session player and as a substitute with other bands. He is an enthusiastic performer, is passionate about traditional music and is keen to share this with others, both by teaching and performing to audiences large and small.