A poet among singers, a singer among poets, Gwyneth Glyn defies definition. Polymath by day, Jack-of-all-trades by night, the girl is simply at her happiest doing more than one thing.
Shoe-lacing, skipping, swimming and two-wheel cycling, however, proved to be insurmountable feats for the young Gwyneth. Not so song writing, which according to her parents and Sunday school teachers, she took to like a rubber duck to bath water, mastering the art of parody at the tender age of twenty-four months. Today, a confident lacer of shoes and tentative cycler of wheels, she is widely-acknowledged as a dextrous poet, writer and singer of songs.
Inspired by her mother’s ancestral stories and her father’s record collection (Bob Dylan, Fairport Convention, Meic Stevens, Rimsky Korsakov) one misty Eifionydd afternoon in her teens she dusted off Dad’s classical guitar and taught herself to play The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ by ear and memory, which to this day remains one of her favourite songs.
Between rehearsals at the performing school Ysgol Glanaethwy, Gwyneth would swap compilation tapes with other music-obsessed youths, namely Lleuwen Steffan and Siôn Glyn who introduced her to the delights of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Gillian Welch, and Gram Parsons, Neil Young and The Band respectively.
Having won the Crown at the Urdd Eisteddfod at the age of 18, Gwyneth left her blossoming script-writing career behind, tore herself away from the rural idyll of her beloved North Wales, packed her mother-tongue and paternal guitar and headed for Oxford, where she read Philosophy and Theology at Jesus College. Needing a distraction from the trifling matter of her degree, she was snapped up by The Oxford Revue and performed extensively with the Oxford University Drama Society. Through these theatrical pursuits, she was befriended by a band of wayward country-folk undergraduates called Coca Rosa, who introduced her to the likes of Joni Mitchell and The Grateful Dead. Gwyneth was invited to join the group’s side-project Dirty Cousins, and has never looked back (although being Welsh and of a creative disposition, the past is a constant source of inspiration.)
Returning to her homeland, Gwyneth rediscovered her own folk heritage and was inspired to put her study of aesthetics and finger-picking to use. On a tour with several other Welsh poets, Gwyneth and Fflur Dafydd in addition to reading their poems, were invited to contribute a ‘musical interlude’ to the evening.
Her writing work includes poems, theatre and radio plays, musicals, children’s books and TV scripts (see Publications). In 2006 she won the award for Best Female Artist at the Radio Cymru Rock and Pop awards, and became Wales’ National Poet Laureate for Children 2006-2007.
Her third album of original songs ‘Cainc’ was released in 2011. Gwyneth was also invited to perform her poetry and music at the Smithsonian Festival in Washington DC in 2009 and 2013. Since then, she has gone on to collaborate with some of Wales’s leading musicians and poets, including singer-songwriters Heather Jones, Alun Tan Lan and Gareth Bonello, composer Guto Puw, bands such as Genod Droog, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog and Y Derwyddon and instrumentalists Cass Meurig, Megan Childs and Catrin Finch to name but few.
Three albums later her work is being appreciated by audiences further and further afield as she tours, performs and creates dynamic collaborations. Gwyneth’s musical ventures have taken her as far afield as Patagonia – Argentina, Ghana, Italy, Russia and India. Recently she’s begun exploring the music and literary cultures of lands far beyond Wales, igniting friendships and creativity along the way, deepening her music and the experience which informs her poetry.
Her current collaboration with musician Tauseef Akhtar of Mumbai, India, weaves Urdu poetry and ghazal singing with old Welsh verse, and traditional Indian instruments with Gwyneth’s guitar and voice. Having spent five years living in the capital city of Cardiff, Gwyneth has recently returned once again to her roots in Eifionydd, north Wales.
But the road continues to beckon. She recently spent a week at The House of Song, Austin, Texas, collaborating and performing with local and international artists. She also showcased at the 2015 American Folk Alliance in Kansas City.
This October will see her supporting Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita on his UK tour.