ben paley in chiaroscuro

Born in London, Ben Paley was surrounded by traditional music from the outset: his father (Tom Paley, one of the great figures of the American folk revival), mother (singer Claudia Gould) and step-father (Ron Gould, writer on jazz, country and folk music) were all enormous influences.

© 2014 Sue Johnson

At 6 years old, Ben began playing the fiddle, taking formal violin lessons as well as learning traditional tunes and taking his place in the musical life of his family. When he was 9, they moved to Morganton, North Carolina, where Ben began to learn about harmony, improvisation, and playing nicely with others; and where he had the enormous privilege of studying with renowned Nashville session musician Jim Buchanan (who's played with everyone from Jim & Jesse to The Doors).

© 2011 Sam Carroll

Three years later Ben and his family returned to England, and he discovered Swedish fiddle music and Punk Rock. Some years later still he washed up in Brighton: hanging out at Irish sessions; busking; touring the UK, US and Europe; playing recording sessions, festivals and folk-clubs; and playing for more bands than he can possibly remember, including buskers Anton the Aardvark's Hot Knives and Cyril the Squirrel's Sock Suspenders, and the infamous death-metal-bluegrass outfit and festival favourites The Wild Turkey Brothers.

© 1990 Nick Clyne

Ben wrote Swedish Fiddle Music: An Anthology, which has become the standard work on the subject in English: "The best tune book and recording of Scandinavian fiddling" says Carl Rahkonen. He also found time to play and record with such people as Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman on the Fox feature film Ravenous, Ben Nicholls, theatre company dreamthinkspeak, poet Murray Lachlan Young, The Levellers, The Saw Doctors, stars of the UK scene Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party, US legend Jim Kweskin, and psychedelic dance-merchants Mandragora.

Currently he's working in a duo with Tab Hunter; with Tab, Laura Hockenhull and Dan Edwards as the Long Hill Ramblers; with poet, playwright and songwriter Nick Burbridge in McDermott's 2 Hours; with his father Tom and Joe Locker in the New Deal String Band; with old-time banjo-player and singer Sara Grey and her son, singer and guitarist Kieron Means; with Canadian folk-singer Bonnie Dobson; with Mark Chadwick of the Levellers; with Belfast-born singer-songwriter Dan Donnelly; with Martin Young and Pip Ives in the Watergrain Band; and in English dance band The Sussex Pistols, amongst other things.

He lives in Sussex with his beautiful wife and a rapidly diminishing number of children, reads philology and science fiction and plays with computers.