Equally adept on many instruments, Ian is primarily known as a guitar player, having played with bands such as Kan, Baltic Crossing, Andy May Trio and 422. He also plays C#/D accordion, double bass, piano, harmonium and Northumbrian Pipes, regularly using these to augment recordings. His work is known internationally, having toured extensively in Scandinavia as well as worldwide in Japan, USA, Canada, India and all over Europe. He occasionally works as a session musician, notably for Universal Records, playing guitar on albums by Catherine Jenkins, Rollando Villazon, Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. His prepared banjo and guitar playing feature on the soundtrack for 2015 hollywood movie ‘The Magnificent Seven’.
- Ian is an associate artist 2018-19 of Sage Gateshead Music Centre, which will see him supported by this fantastic organisation in his artistic endeavours during this period.
Following a successful pilot performance at Sage Gateshead, Ian is developing a solo show, using emerging technologies such as live looping and automated lighting, to showcase both his arrangements of traditional English folk repertoire, and self-penned pieces, in an immersive visual and auditory experience.
Unlike traditional looping – where every new ‘loop’ superimposes layer onto layer, pedal free looping allows for a much more sophisticated and organic result. Part of the experience for the audience is to see individual elements being performed live and captured, to hear them return later on, often in surprising ways. This allows him to show his response to traditional music, bringing together all of his instrumental, composing and arranging skills in a varied, multilayered performance.
The addition of preprogrammed lights offers a further window into the looping process – use of colour further enhancing the arrangements – all controlled by the computer and used to subtly highlight poignant moments in the music.
In 2004, Ian founded the Anglo-Scandinavian band Baltic Crossing, as part of a music business module at university. The band has a unique mix of fun, virtuosity and tradition, creating a swinging, feel-good atmosphere wherever they play.
In 2011 the band were chosen to be part of the ECHO (European Concert Halls Organisation) Rising Stars programme, which would see them play acoustic concerts in 11 of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, the first folk music band ever to be included. Having recorded 3 albums, with a 4th on the way, the band continues to develop and thrive, and look forward to marking their 15 year anniversary with a new album and touring.
Since releasing their debut ‘About Time’ in 2015, Andy May (Northumbrian Smallpipes, Piano), Sophy Ball (Violin) and Ian Stephenson (Guitar, Melodeon) have been touring the UK and developing repertoire for their second album, due for release in late 2018. The three members have been close friends for many years, and forged a musical kinship whilst playing regularly in the booming Newcastle upon Tyne folk jam session scene. They have performed a showcase at English Folk Expo, played at numerous festivals around the UK and have a strong following in their native North East.
422 is Ian’s longest running band. From within the youth folk band ‘The Pack’ this 5 piece traditional folk ensemble came together to enter the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, which they went on to win in 1999.
They have recorded 4 albums with Fellside Records but nowadays are focussed entirely on playing for dancing. They are a popular regular fixture at Whitby Folk Week, where they have played dozens of ceilidhs. They also play for private events like weddings and birthday ceilidhs – see Magnetic North East website for details.