New music: Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo

Emily Barker's fourth album, Dear River, is out now.

Emily Barker's fourth album, Dear River, is out now. - Credit: Archant

Stephen Moore finds a beautiful bark and a little bite from the self-starting folk-rocker

Emily Barker's fourth album, Dear River, is out now.

Emily Barker's fourth album, Dear River, is out now. - Credit: Archant

It’s been a long haul for Australian folk singer-songwriter Emily Barker. With a dogged determination, backed by critcial plaudits and awards back home, Emily self-financed her first three albums, partly through a three-year stint behind the counter at Clerkenwell Music [now Brill] in Exmouth Market and sleeping in houseboats on the Regent’s Canal.

She then landed a deal with Linn Records and launched her new record, Dear River, with a show at Rough Trade East last week.

“It was really good fun,” said Emily. “It was nice to do a set entirely of songs from the new album.

“It’s really nerve-wracking before you put out an album. We had an idea [how good it was] beforehand, but it’s good to see it [in the press].”

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Purely by chance, Linn’s director caught Emily at a show in Glasgow. “We were doing this little back-of-the-bar show on a Monday night and he happened to be there.”

He called them up and a few days later Emily was flown to Linn’s warehouse factory outside the city in Eaglesham.

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“They are an amazing company with state-of-the-art technology and it’s all open-plan,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody else’s job, and there’s no manager looking over their shoulders making sure they are doing a good job because everybody knows what they are doing and takes pride in it. All of that they apply to their record label as well. I was totally charmed, totally bowled over.”

She said of the albumm: “It is a high-end recording. If you were to A-B my previous records with it you will hear the whole sound spectrum and sound quality; it has got that hi-fi sound.

“I’m really pleased with the song Letters, I feel that’s one of my better songs that I have written. They are all so personal to me, tracing my journey of home and along the way telling the stories of people I have met through life.”

The brief show at Rough Trade included the cantering Tuesday, given a pleasing weight and momentum with live drums augmenting her guitar and her band The Red Clay Halo’s violin, cello, accordion and more.

The broad strokes of the chorus and delicate verses in Letters are even more apparent live, validating her downplayed self-belief.

Her story is proof that talent and determination breeds success. “[When I started out on my own] I thought, I can’t be bothered to wait for people to come and release this. I applied for funding, ran a pledge campaign, did a lot of lounge gigs.

“A lot of small indie labels were interested but I didn’t necessarily feel that they could do things any better than I already could on my own. So it was good that Linn could offer us something that we couldn’t have done ourselves.

“But the DIY thing is totally do-able. You don’t have to wait.”

+ Emily plays Shepherd’s Bush Empire on October 16. For tickets see

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