From the moment she first stepped out into the light in 2016, it was obvious from the very start that Emma Langford wasn’t just another sensitive songsmith.
There was a restless curiosity and a cheeky inventiveness that took this Limerick lass far beyond cliche and into the genuinely exciting.
And, let’s be honest, we can’t really say that about many Irish artists. Even though much of our small music media does repeatedly say it about many Irish artists…?
With her debut album, 2017’s Quiet Giant, consisting of, says The Irish Times, ‘music that weaves a spell‘, the following year, Langford picked up Best Emerging Artist at RTÉ’s inaugural Folk Awards 2018. That same year, a whirlwind 100-date promotional tour across Europe sowed the seeds for a whole new album, Sowing Acorns.
Which is why Emma is bringing her trio – Arkansas’ Alec Brown on cello, Virginia’s Ray Yrure on percussion – to The Whale on Friday, August 20th, bounced from September 2020.
Before the big day, we asked Emma to reveal those songs that can make her break down and cry. But, before that, a little about how she got suckered into this ridiculous line of work…
I lost my voice to vocal nodules when I was about 12. My mother wasted little time in getting me to an ENT to see what we needed to do to remedy the situation – now to clear up any confusion, we’ve never been wealthy, and this wasn’t a cheap process; besides which, I had no grand illusions of being a singer, but mammy Langford saw how utterly miserable croaking my way through choir practice was making me, she knew I was in for a rough few years and possibly surgery if it got worse, so we did what needed to be done. I went songless for a couple of years while I had vocal therapy and coaching and learned to respect my instrument and use it properly. I think it’s important to share that starting point, as I have it to thank for being here now.
I was finishing up my undergrad degree when I cracked out my guitar and a big fat folder full of song sheets in front of the late Lulu’s Cafe in Limerick City in 2013 – it was my first and only regular gig. My dad was usually my only crowd. A nice man who, it turned out, was one of the most proficient and prolific pianists in Limerick at the time strolled by and suggested I check out the open mic at the Wicked Chicken on Thursday night. So I did. And that’s where I got booked for my first ACTUAL gigs, the types that paid money and involved using a microphone and having an audience.
In 2017 I got a Facebook message from Beoga’s Niamh Dunne: “Are you finished in college this summer? Or would you be up for taking a few weeks off work? We’ve worked with a German agent for the last 12 years and…” I got booked to play my first international tour – I signed the contract in March, and needed a full album recorded and printed by September in time to head off in October. Sure feck it, long story short, amid many sleepless nights while also finishing a thesis for my Masters degree at UL, I managed it. I took off in October, and despite staring at my own face in the mirror in shock most mornings over the last three years… I haven’t stopped to look back. And here I am, in the autumn of 2020, with an RTÉ Folk Award under my belt and a brand new second album just released and about to play none other than THE WHALE THEATRE in GREYSTONES! It’s happened, it’s finally happened, everything I’ve worked for. I kid, I kid, but I am genuinely excited to visit Wicklow for a gig for the first time ever.
Emma Langford’s Tracks Of My Years…
Amanda Palmer Voicemail For Jill A beautifully raw letter to a friend on the brink of doing something incredibly painful and traumatic – all I ever want is to be able to offer the solace, support and kindness to a friend that this song demonstrates: “Isn’t it amazing how you can never tell who is in an identical hell“
Wallis Bird Home The hardest thing to do sometimes is to openly and honestly tell the world what you want, in case it doesn’t happen, or in case you change your mind. I love how in this song, Wallis just states outright what she wants from life, and tells the woman she loves how big a part she plays in that pictures.
Declan O’Rourke Whatever Else Happens A gorgeous, hopeful song full of love and romantic aspirations. I first listened to Declan’s album Big Bad Beautiful World when I was about 17 and it spoke to my romantic teenage soul in a big way. I still love it just as much.
One Day International I’m Not Over You “Do you remember the moment we met? I can remember we spoke about shortness of breath…” Just plain old devastating; An address to an old flame, remembering all the banal everyday things that made the relationship what it was, sung by an exquisite voice. The band isn’t around anymore, but the music lives on of course.
Janis Ian Tea And Sympathy The production on this song plays a strong role in where exactly in my heart it hits me. It feels like Janis is whispering the words straight into your ear – the words themselves a heartbreaking confession of being tired of the daily routine, of giving up, of the comfort of friends not being enough to ease the pain of loss.
Kathleen Turner Some Stories Kathleen’s voice and lyrics combine to paint a perfect, poignant picture – one of someone with great hopes and ideals for themselves that are never quite realised. Some Stories tells a story of someone out there among the crowd looking for “the one”, knowing they’re missing that connection in their life.
Nathan O’Regan I’ll Go Down With You An extended hand, telling you that you have a friend who’s willing to fight alongside you or sit quietly alongside you or talk it out whenever you’re ready. Sometimes you just need to know they’re there. This song says that clearly, succinctly and without equivocation, and considering Nathan is a friend of mine it hits even harder.
You can grab your seat for The Emma Langford Trio at The Whale on Friday, August 20th here, and find out more about the Limerick lady herself right over here.
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