Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Americana Music Festival

Tomorrow (Thursday 18th September) The Red Clay Halo and I will play the first of our showcases at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, at The Listening Room at 8pm. Our set is going to include our cover of Aretha Franklin's 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man'.

Earlier this year, we played a sold out show in the prestigious Hall One at Kings Place as part of the Americana Music Association UK showcase there. Early the next morning we went in to Mark Ronson's Zelig studios and set up to record direct to vinyl via a link through to Gearbox Records' incredible mastering suite next door.

I first heard 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man' performed by Aretha Franklin on her album Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. I was about thirteen years old and discovering Aretha changed my life because she made me want to learn how to sing. I used to shut myself in my room after school, put on this record and sing along until my voice was hoarse. Then, over time, I learned how to sing along without losing my voice and this song became my album favourite. Later on in life, I discovered a love of country music and subsequently The Flying Burrito Brothers' cover of the song, which is on their record The Gilded Palace of Sin. I fell hard for this version too, and Gram quickly became a source of song-writing inspiration for me. So this magnificent song reflects, at least in our minds, both of these influences.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Home at The Bluebird Cafe

Safely arrived in Nashville, with a small window of opportunity to catch up with friends before everything gets busy again next week... more on that later, but right now I'd like to share this video with you…

Back in June, on the last day of my last visit to Nashville, I was invited down to the legendary Bluebird Cafe by Beth Nielsen Chapman who I'd met at last year's Americana Music Association Festival. She was playing an 'In the Round' along with James House, Danny Flowers and Gordon Kennedy (all no. 1 hit song and award-winning song writers of extremely high calibre). A 'Writers Round' is a Nashville tradition in which a few songwriters each perform one of their own original songs, one at a time, going around the circle/down the line. So I settled in with a mojito at a table right by the writers.

About half way through the evening, Beth totally put me on the spot and invited me up to sing a song! I was not expecting that at all. It was a huge honour to be included in this round of amazing writers and also to perform at this iconic place.

Here's me managing to hold it together, just, to perform an old song of mine, 'Home'.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Vena Portae out now!

It's been over four years in the making (even though the actual recording itself lasted just twelve bitterly cold, snowy days in the winter of 2012), but now it's here: Vena Portae.

I'm so, so happy with the way this has all come together. Written, arranged and recorded with dear friends, and now I get to tour with them for two weeks too!

We've had some wonderful reviews, plus recommendations from a few of our favourite independent record stores (some of which we'll be making an appearance at over the coming days). I'm particularly pleased with finally having achieved a very good review in The Guardian, who said the album has "a thoughtful, melodic style that eases between Americana and pop-edged alt-folk" and awarded it 4 stars, and then went on to list the album in its picks of the week...

"So where can I buy it?" I hear you ask... well, there are so many options:

...and of course from some wonderful independent record stores - I can't list them all but here's just a few (if you have a local record store, please go and buy the album there - the folks in independent record stores are some of the hardest working and most under-appreciated people in the music industry and the vast majority really do only do it for the love of music - they also generally know more about music than anyone else in the industry, and some of them serve coffee and pies) - so starting with the ones where we'll be making an appearance:

Rise (in Cheltenham, Worcester and Bristol)
Banquet (Kingston)
Pie & Vinyl (Southsea)
Sound Knowledge (Marlborough)
Union Music Store (Lewes)
Music's Not Dead (Bexhill-on-Sea)
Sound It Out (Stockton-on-Tees)

and then other great indie stores including Truck in Oxford, Piccadilly in Manchester, Jumbo and Crash in Leeds, Rough Trade, Resident in Brighton... oh, the list goes on - in fact, here's a great website for finding where your nearest record stores are.

And finally, if you want to check the album out before committing to a purchase, you can do that on Spotify if you have an account or here on the Vena Portae website.

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as can make it to the shows...
Emily x

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Vena Portae debut album, video and tour

Vena Portae
Dear all,

Alongside everything that's been going on for the past few years, I've also had a side-project brewing away…

It's called Vena Portae and it's a Swedish/Anglo/Aussie collaboration with Swedish producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Ruben Engzell (who, incidentally, produced my first solo album Photos.Fires.Fables.) and English theatre maker/songwriter Dom Coyote. Jesper Jonsson, also from Sweden, will join us for the live shows and also appears on the record.

You may remember me blogging about some songs I wrote with Dom over three years ago, which is where I first mentioned the Vena Portae name. Vena Portae means 'vein portal' in Latin; it’s a short vein that carries blood to the liver. As we were writing the songs, we were finding inspiration in ideas of roads, rivers, creative openings, connections between people, places and life force, which is how we came by the name. It really does have nothing to do with drinking alcohol. Honest.

In the winter of 2012, Ruben, Dom and I visited the tiny Swedish town of Mölnbo just outside Stockholm. We found ourselves snowed in (like most of northern Europe at that time). With little else to occupy ourselves, we decided to build a make shift studio in the study of Ruben's parents' house. We filled it to the rafters with analogue equipment, spring reverbs, electric guitars, banjos, pianos and an array of weird and wonderful instruments. Over the space of the next twelve days, we set about recording some of those songs that Dom and I had started over a year before. And we wrote some new songs too. And the result: a treasure trove of songs, inspired by heartbreak, passion, and intrigue, which together make up the album we are now about to release: Vena Portae.

Vena Portae is our debut album and we're all incredibly proud of it. It comes out on August 18th and you can pre-order it (along with some limited edition special bits and bobs) HERE.

Our good friend Brett Harvey made this rather wonderful little video to accompany our first single 'Summer Kills' - he used the original album version of the track, though the single now available on iTunes is the super cool remix by Peter Morén of Peter, Bjorn and John.

I really hope you enjoy this music as much as we have enjoyed making it - and for those of you close enough, we hope to see you at one of our summer shows (see below).

Very best wishes,

Vena Portae tour
15 Stroud, The Goods Shed
16 Dermot O'Leary - live Radio 2 session
17 Beautiful Days Festival, Devon
18 Cheltenham, Rise (FREE instore show, 2pm), Worcester, Rise (FREE instore show, 5pm)
19 Bristol, Rise (FREE instore show, 6pm)
20 Kingston, Banquet (FREE instore show, 6pm)
21 Southsea, Square Tower
22 Marlborough, Sound Knowledge (FREE instore show, 6.30pm)
23 Lewes, Union Music Store (FREE instore show, 3pm), Bexhill, Music's Not Dead (FREE instore show, 6pm)
24 Purbeck Folk Festival
25 Winchester, Swiss Cottage
26 Birmingham, Kitchen Garden Cafe
27 London, Green Note
29 Durham, Old Cinema Launderette
30 Manchester, Castle Hotel