Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Toerag Sessions

Emily Barker - The Toerag Sessions

My new solo album has been recorded live direct to tape at the legendary Toerag Studios in London with producer Liam Watson. I've partnered with Pledge Music to put together some special limited editions of the album, which are available to pre-order from my Pledge Music page.

The idea for The Toerag Sessions came together towards the end of last year….

In between all my touring with my bands, The Red Clay Halo and Vena Portae, I’ve also been playing a lot of solo shows, and there are always people who come up to me at the end asking where they can get hold of solo versions of my songs. So that got me thinking about recording an album where it would just be me, my guitar, my harmonica, and my selection of songs from all the albums I’ve released.

Toerag Studios is renowned for being a totally analogue studio – full of authentic 50s and 60s gear – famously, it was the studio where The White Stripes recorded their incredible break-through album “Elephant”. It’s a studio I’d long wanted to record in.

So in early January, I was lucky enough to spend two days recording at Toerag, with studio owner and inveterate tea-drinker Liam Watson in the engineering and production seat. All the songs were played live, direct to two-track 1/4" tape, with no overdubs and no editing, and to keep the analogue integrity, the vinyl has been mastered direct from the tape. Even with the CD, there has been no processing, and the result is about as close as you can get to a live sound.

You can read more about those special limited editions on my Pledge Music page.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Twenty Fifteen!

Hello there!

Hope you've all had a very lovely Christmas and celebrated the new year in style. 2014 went by so quickly for me, and I took some time out to look through my diary to see just where the time went...

It all began back in January with a visit to my homeland, where Dom Coyote and I hosted Folk in a Box at Sydney Festival. It was an incredible experience, and we were taken aback by how the local musicians got so involved. Later in the year, Folk in a Box ended up on primetime TV in the UK when it was featured on Channel 4's Amazing Spaces special Shed of the Year.

A major high point for me was writing and recording my first feature film sound track for a film called Hec McAdam starring Peter Mullan, written and directed by Jake Gavin. That followed on from collaborating with Martin Phipps on music for
The Keeping Room, an American Civil War drama, the second film by UK director Daniel Barber (Harry Brown). I went to the BFI Film Festival premiere in October and can safely say that it's a fantastic film - I urge you to see it when it hits UK cinemas later this year!

In August, my half-Swedish, quarter-British and quarter-Aussie band, Vena Portae, released our debut self-titled album, and we played a handful of shows in some of my favourite small UK venues and record stores.
Vena Portae

Another highlight was back in April, when The Red Clay Halo and I recorded four songs direct-to-disc to make a limited-edition EP for Record Store Day, Songs Beneath the River, and played seven instore shows over the weekend, including four on Record Store Day itself.

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo with the Gearbox team

The end of the year then saw us wrap up our nine years of playing together in a rather emotional, but very beautiful, final tour in November.

I also went to Nashville (one of my new most favourite places in the world!) three times to do co-writes with some amazing songwriters, and with The Red Clay Halo to play the Americana Music Festival in September.

It was an incredible year and I'd like to thank you for being a part of it.

Moving forwards and into 2015, there are many plans in the pipeline, some of which I can tell you about...

This week I've been recording in the legendary Toerag Studios in London for a solo retrospective album: there'll be songs from all the Red Clay Halo albums, plus one or two from my first UK-band, the-low-country, as well as a couple of brand new ones. We'll be filming the sessions and releasing a DVD to go with the CD and vinyl release. More on that very soon.

I have more collaborations planned, including more trips to Nashville, but my main focus is my next album - I've been writing lots of new songs which I can't wait to share with you at some point in the future...

In March, I'll be doing a UK tour with the wonderful Gill Sandell accompanying me. I'll be playing some new material and visiting some of the places we didn't manage to get to this year. For dates please go to: March UK Tour
Emily Barker & Gill Sandell - on tour March 2015

Keep an eye out as we'll be adding some more dates.

Also, I chopped all my hair off...

Emily Barker - I chopped all my hair off!

If you're curious, here's a list of things I've loved this year...

Robert's Western World in Nashville (Honky Tonk Bar)
Morning Phase by Beck (album)
Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone by Lucinda Williams (album)
Infra by Max Richter (album)
Woolgathering by Patti Smith (book)
The Poetry Deal by Diane di Prima (book)
Muscle Shoals (documentary and I visited the place!)
FAME studios, Alabama (recording studio)
Vivian Maier (photographer)
John Pilger's Utopia (at the Australia and New Zealand Festival of the Arts in London)
Germany: Memoirs of a Nation (podcast)
Sydney Arts Festival
Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch (film)
Brill Espresso Blend (coffee at Brill on Exmouth Market, London)

Colonna & Smalls (cafe in Bath)

Thanks for reading, and see you out there in 2015!
Best wishes,

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Many Are One - compilation album

Hello there, 

A few months ago I was invited by Piers Faccini to contribute an original song to a compilation called 'The Many Are One' that he was putting together. I had a song called 'Harbour' that I'd written a couple of years before and hadn't managed to find a home for yet, so this was the perfect project. 
The story of how the song got recorded is quite convoluted! I recorded the guitar parts, piano and my vocals in my spare room studio in Stroud. Then I sent the files on to Alabaster dePlume in Manchester to record saxophone parts. He then sent them to producer/engineer/bassist, Ruben Engzell and drummer Jesper Jonssonn (recognise those names from Vena Portae?) in Stockholm. Ruben mixed the song and sent it to Piers in France! What an international affair...

Anyway, the album has just been released and it features a host of incredible artists including Ben Harper, Dawn Landes, Piers Faccini himself and many others. 

It's available digitally worldwide and in stores in France or available to mail out worldwide on Beating Drum Shop

- Beating Drum shop:

Here is the beautiful artwork Piers made for my song 'Harbour'. 
Hope you enjoy the album!
Best wishes, 

Emily x

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Photos.Fires.Fables. available again on CD

Hello everyone,

I'm writing this from Germany (where I'm really enjoying myself on tour with Madison Violet) with some news about Photos.Fires.Fables...

It’s been over two years since we sold out of CDs of Photos.Fires.Fables. Since that time I have had regular messages asking how to get hold of it and when it would be available again. So it gives me great pleasure to let you know that time has come. Repackaged, and complete with all fifteen tracks from both previous versions of the album, it’s available now to pre-order and will ship as soon as stock arrives in a few days’ time. We’re hoping that we’ll have stock in time to bring some on tour with us too.

As I’ve already announced, this is going to be my last tour for a while with The Red Clay Halo, and along with that piece of news, the re-release of this album has put me in mind of how it all started...

I played one of my very first solo shows at The Bedford in Balham, London when my band at the time, the-low-country, got stuck in such bad traffic coming down from Cambridge that they missed the show. Somehow I managed to make it through on my own and afterwards, a young, Swedish man came up to me and introduced himself as Ruben Engzell and explained that he had just moved to London from Stockholm, Sweden and was working at a studio in Brixton. Not long in to our conversation, he asked me if I’d like to record a solo album. The timing was perfect. I’d just started to write songs that didn’t fit with our band sound and wanted to do something a bit different. I moved to London, wrote a bunch of songs and we spent lots of late nights, after Ruben had finished doing his paid work as an engineer during the day, in Iguana Studios, working until the early hours of the morning.

It was a process that took a couple of years. Not having any budget to speak of, we managed to blag young musicians down to the studio to play their instruments in return for meals, which I would cook in the studio kitchen. Some of those musicians included, Gill Sandell, Jo Silverston and Anna Jenkins, who stuck with me and later went on to become The Red Clay Halo. That was nine years ago now - look at that photo!

Another person who featured on the album was Steve Adams of The Broken Family Band (now releasing records as Steven J. Adams), who I had met in Cambridge and supported numerous times. He was the first to sing my murder ballad 'Fields of June' with me.

The artwork is provided by my long-term friend and collaborator, Patti Gaal-Holmes. The album was our first collaboration and since then we have made many film/song performances together and shared many a cup of tea talking about our shared stories of ‘home’. We ended up releasing two versions of the album, both on my label, Everyone Sang.

The first edition was a limited version of 1000 copies and had fourteen songs in total. When that edition sold out, we put together a second edition. We added a version of ‘Home’, a song that had originally been recorded with the-low-country, but we also cut three songs to make it more compact. On this new version, we have added those three songs as bonus tracks. I don’t think they’ve been available up to now in any form other than on that original limited version. Those songs are: 'Splinters in my Fingers', 'The Fire' and 'Reason for the Rain’. The CD will also come in a new gatefold card sleeve with a fold-out booklet that shows off Patti’s original painting...

All this takes me back in time: I’d just moved to London; just met The Red Clay Halo; just met Ruben Engzell (who I later collaborated with again on the Vena Portae album); just met Patti, and many others who inspired songs... I was essentially still travelling about at the time. Who would have known that nine years on, I’d still be living in the UK and collaborating with all those people.

Best wishes,
Emily x