Folk star plays harmonica for health

Will Pound plays the harmonica at Westgate Library alongside fiddle player Henry Webster Picture: OX51557 David Fleming

Will Pound plays the harmonica at Westgate Library alongside fiddle player Henry Webster Picture: OX51557 David Fleming Buy this photo

First published in The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

HE HAS been described as a “master of the mouth” and is recognised as one of the world’s best harmonica players.

But the story of how 26-year-old Will Pound’s musical talent began is as remarkable as the sounds he creates.

He lives on a narrowboat called Midama with his wife Nicky in Cropredy. His wife plays the viola and church organ and the couple often perform together as the duo, Haddo.

The harmonica player has a career to be proud of. Most recently he was nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award.

He was one of four shortlisted for the Musician of the Year Award at last week’s Folk Awards. While he didn’t win, Mr Pound, who recently recorded the harmonica part for The Hillsborough single which featured Sir Paul McCartney, modestly said it was great just to be nominated.

He said: “The winner – Aidan O’Rourke – is a really nice guy. Picking a winner is really hard because it’s so close.”

But perhaps more impressive is how he started playing the harmonica.

He explained: “When I was a baby I had open heart surgery.

“The first operation was when I was just six days old – it was an emergency operation as I was born without a pulmonary valve.

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“I had a second op when I was four. After that I found it quite a struggle to breathe. If I was walking I would run out of breath quite quickly.

“When I was 10 my dad gave me a harmonica to improve my breathing. At first it was pretty tough, but after two or three years it was helping me a lot.

“You use a lot of breath playing, especially when I play fast. When I first started I couldn’t do that at all.”

His health problems are not completely cured, however. Mr Pound, who plays a variety of harmonicas, said: “I’m fine when I play gigs because you play for a few minutes, then you stop, chat to the crowd, and then play again. But when I’m practising I can only play for 10 minutes at a time without a break.

“I’m supposed to have another operation in two or three years, which will supposedly help with my breathing as well.”

As well as releasing his first solo album, Mr Pound has formed his own Will Pound Band with a violinist, guitarist and bass player and they are performing at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, on April 12. Mr Pound is from Rugby, and did not grow up in Oxfordshire.

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