Emily Barker and 10 Questions with TotalNtertainment. The acclaimed UK based singer-songwriter Emily Barker returns with her blissful and poignant new single ‘Return Me’. The track is Emily’s first release of new solo music since her exquisite 2017 album, ‘Sweet Kind of Blue’. We got the chance to chat with Emily about lockdown, her solo music and more.
1. Hi Emily, thanks for your time, how are you surviving lockdown ?
Hello! Thanks for having me! I’ve been surviving pretty well I think, all things considered. The initial shock of musicians and fans having their gig diaries wiped clean has been replaced by what feels like the luxury of being able to spend time at home – it’s the longest I’ve spent in one place for years! I‘m fortunate to live in a very beautiful part of the country and have been enjoying the strange sense of peace on walks in the hills. As always, music has been fine company – both playing and listening, and I’ve delved into writing poetry which is a new creative outlet for me.
2. You’ve just put out your first new solo music since 2017, could you fill us in on what you’ve been doing during that period?
Mostly I was on the road. I toured a few times in the USA opening shows for Mary Chapin Carpenter. It was a voyage of discovery for me – we travelled by sleeper bus which meant we’d travel through the night, then have the daytime free to explore a new city, town, or countryside festival. The town shows were mostly in arts centre and beautiful theatres – it was a wonderful experience, especially as US audiences make the effort to come and see the whole show, not just the headline act. Also, last year I released a duo album with Marry Waterson called ‘A Window to Other Ways’ which came out on the now newly renamed One Little Independent Records.
3. I read the song is inspired by the climate crisis. What was it about the events that had you questioning your journey ?
Partly, yes. Last year, the media spotlight fell on the climate crisis with speeches at the UN by David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion never out of the news, and footage of devastating forest fires in both Australia and California. It’s not a new topic for me, but this time felt different – I felt scared in way I hadn’t before and found myself reaching out for home. I’ve lived away from my family and birth country for all of my adult life and the climate crisis has me considering my future and where I want to be in a new way.
4. Will these questions form the inspiration for new material going forward ?
Absolutely. Such questions have never been far from my mind when writing, but I found that all the issues I’ve been writing about, the stories that have inspired me, all seem to be connected. I didn’t see it at the time, but it became clearer as I looked back over the songs I’ve been writing these last couple of years.
5. Looking forward, what changes would you like to see across the planet as a result of not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also the current race troubles across the planet ?
Systemic change that ends the oppression and exploitation of all marginalised groups in society, all species, and our natural world. I think current events are an opportunity coming at a time when real, practical solutions are available. I encourage everyone to read ‘Doughnut Economics’ by Kate Raworth, for example – her model is being implemented by Amsterdam as a response to the pandemic and it’ll be interesting to see if other cities and countries take up the idea.
6. From a personal perspective, how have you changed your lifestyle to be more considerate to the planet ?
It’s been a continual change over many years. I grew up planting trees with my family along the Blackwood River (originally Gigellup Buerle in the tongue of the local Noongar tribe) to help prevent erosion, and in barren paddocks that had been cleared for livestock during colonisation. Those lessons stuck with me and I’ve continued to support tree-planting schemes, especially in Australia where there are huge problems with salinity due to swathes of land being cleared by the early settlers. Like all of us, I’m always learning and trying to find new ways to live and work sustainably and responsibly. There are some great resources for touring musicians, like Julie’s Bicycle, and I’ve been working to implement their recommendations to reduce my own carbon footprint when touring. Sometimes it’s just simple things like having a request for no plastic packaging on my tour rider – all my band and crew take our own drinks bottles – but there are also the bigger issues like trying to plan tours so they involve less flying – I did my last UK tour mostly using public transport.
7. You talk about home and family as well. What is your favourite childhood memory of growing up ?
That’s a difficult question – I was blessed with so many! I used to love riding on horseback through the bush alongside the river, breathing in the smell of eucalyptus, singing songs and listening to the laughter of kookaburras.
8. In terms of home then… what elements do you think make a good “home” ?
Wouldn’t it be a great world if everyone were in a position to be able to make home a place of love, connection, community, safety, shelter, health, nutritious food, clean water. Sounds so simple doesn’t it?
9. Just for fun: If you could spend a day with any TV family who would you choose and why ?
The three generations of Villanueva women from Jane the Virgin. Not sure that four would fit on that swinging bench seat on the front porch though…
I fell in love with them all and want to be the family friend who gets to cry on a shoulder and eat grilled cheese sandwiches (vegan option please) with them when life gets too much.
10. Thanks for your time Emily and good luck. Just to finish what are your hopes and ambitions as a musician and a person over the next twelve months ?
I would like to hope that a real gig might happen towards the end of that twelve months – I miss them! But just to share what I’ve created and have some meaningful connection with people around the topics.
For more information on what Emily is up to, head to her website here www.emilybarker.com