(Correct date of Record Store Day, paragraph 17 in February 18
By Claire Milhench
LONDON Feb 18 Emily Barker's yearning, elegiac
music will be familiar to viewers of BBC TV's "Wallander" and
"The Shadow Line" as her songs "Nostalgia" and "Pause" were used
for the theme tunes.
Now the 33-year-old Australian singer-songwriter is
branching out into film scores, composing music for a Peter
Mullan-starring British road movie about a homeless man called
Hector, due for release later this year.
The film, which will follow Hector as he travels from
Glasgow to London to reconnect with his family, is a good fit
for Barker as it explores themes of rootlessness and separation.
Based in Britain since 2002, Barker has derived her lyrics from
personal experience of self-imposed exile and distance from
Speaking to Reuters at Kings Place in London ahead of her
performance in the roots-oriented Americana Showcase last week,
Barker described how she is writing the score while the film is
still shooting, working from the script.
"The director Jake Gavin highlighted points where he wanted
music and gave me some key words as to the mood," she said.
"I've written three full-length songs and now it's a case of
taking motifs from those, changing them and using different
Alongside elements as diverse as pedal steel, a horn
section, piano and electronica, Barker will be working with her
band The Red Clay Halo. This comprises Gill Sandell on
accordion, flute and piano, Jo Silverston on cello, bass and
banjo, and Anna Jenkins on violin and viola.
Barker has also collaborated with composer Martin Phipps on
music for an American civil war thriller, expected out later
this year. Directed by Daniel Barber, the film features Hailee
Steinfeld from "True Grit" and Sam Worthington.
It was Phipps who brought Barker's music to a wider audience
by using a re-recorded version of "Nostalgia" for the Kenneth
Q: You've just returned from the Sydney Festival where you
ran your Folk in a Box project. How did that go?
A: It's one performer, one audience member and one song in
the world's smallest music venue. I booked 60 local
singer-songwriters but we had massive queues. It was so popular
we had to break our own rules and allow more than one audience
member in the box.
Q: On your latest album "Dear River" you combine your own
experience of leaving home with broader themes of emigration and
dispossession, focusing on the Australian landscape and its
people. What inspired this kind of song-cycle?
A: I've been preoccupied with the feeling of where home is
for quite a long time ... thinking about where I come from and
growing up on stolen land. I was also inspired by PJ Harvey's
album "Let England Shake", which had a very strong theme of war
running through it.
It starts out in Bridgetown, Western Australia where I was
born. I explore childhood, indigenous Australian relations,
colonialism, then it moves out into the world. I now live in
Stroud (in England), so it explores finding a home away from
home, but it also looks at people who haven't had that choice
and examines exile and emigration. I got really studious about
writing these songs and looked at history written from an
Q: Musically this album has more of a country feel than your
previous ones, and the closing song "The Blackwood" is similar
to an American spiritual. What prompted that?
A: It wasn't really influenced by anything that I was
listening to, it was more about the land. Australia has
similarities in its landscape to America with the wide-open
spaces and roads that go for miles where you drive forever. I've
always been a fan of country music so it seemed naturally to
head in that direction with this subject matter.
Q: What else have you got coming up this year?
A: For Record Store Day (on April 19) we're recording a
4-song 10-inch EP direct to vinyl. We're doing it live which
means we have to space the time in between the songs because it
keeps on rolling. It's four covers - Aretha Franklin's "Do Right
Woman", Tom Waits's "The Day After Tomorrow", Patty Smith's
"Easter" and Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest".
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)