Talking Music: Emily Barker

‘Sweet Kind Of Blue’ songwriter Emily Barker plays Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach on November 4th. Barker has penned and performed theme songs for BAFTA and Ivor Novello winning television dramas Wallander (starring Kenneth Branagh) and The Shadow Line and for the movie The Keeping Room, as well as an entire musical score for the poignant and well-received 2015 road movie, Hector, starring Peter Mullan.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Emily

What lead you to decide you wanted to become a musician?

There were a few triggers for me…I grew up listening to a lot of records as we had no television and my dad and mum are both music lovers, so every evening there would be records spinning on the turntable. It was our entertainment and we’d listen to albums by The Band, Neil Young, Carole King, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell…the list goes on.

Another inspirer was having a blues festival start up in my little country town, Bridgetown, Western Australia when I was a teenager. Suddenly every cafe, pub, street corner was filled with international and nationally renowned musicians performing their blend of roots music. That had a huge impact on me as all us kids wanted a piece of the action so all picked up an instrument or a vocal microphone…One of the biggest influences on me wanting to be a musician was hearing Aretha Franklin sing. I just fell head over heels in love with her voice and I would shut myself in my bedroom after school and try to reach those high notes. 

Who are your music influences?

Neil Young, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Gillian Welch, Valerie June, The Band, Randy Newman, Michael Kiwanuka, PJ Harvey…I listen to a lot of music and as a songwriter I think its not possible to not be influenced by anything you listen to. You’re constantly translating and critiquing what you hear, and that information is bound to come across in your songs. 

Can you tell us about your new release Sweet Kind Of Blue?

It was made in Memphis at at incredible studio called Sam Phillips Recording Service (not to be confused with Sun Studios). It was built in 1960 and specialises in analogue productions. I made the album in a week going live to tape and working with an all-star cast of Memphis musicians who have played with the likes of Al Green, Booker T, Neil Young, Ann Peebles, Cat Power, Frazey Ford…the list goes on. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had as a musician. 

If there’s a track that best defines you as an artist what is it and why?

There’s not one track. If you were to listen back to my songs over the past 10 records that I’ve made, it might even be hard to recognise them as being by the same artist. I think it’s important to evolve and keep yourself interested in your art and for me, that is by changing and challenging myself to write in different ways whether it be in style or in the process.  

What can people expect from your forthcoming show?

I’m bringing my full band which features some awesome UK talent: Lukas Drinkwater on bass, Pete Roe on keys and Rob Pemberton on drums. We’ll be doing 4-part harmonies and mostly playing material from Sweet Kind of Blue but we won’t forget to play some of the older material as well. 

What are you listening to presently?

‘Little Criminals’ by Randy Newman  

Vinyl or digital?

I buy vinyl but listen to Spotify or iTunes when on tour.  

  • For further details visit
%d bloggers like this: