Emily Portman in Shoreham

Emily Portman opens her March tour in Shoreham with a date at the Ropetackle on March 23 with her all-new big band.


With The Coracle Band, the Liverpool-based singer, songwriter and concertina player will expand her repertoire and sound to play material from all three of her albums to date, the latest being Coracle.

“This is the second tour I will be doing with the new line-up which is an expansion of the trio I have been playing in for many years. It’s very exciting for me. I recorded Coracle, and the musicians I am playing with now were mostly on this latest album.

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“I toured with the trio and really enjoyed the interpretations we were doing, but I had the feeling we needed a bigger, more expansive line-up if we wanted to recreate that sound.”

Rachel Newton and Lucy Farrell from the trio will be joined by Sam Sweeney (Bellowhead), guitarist M G Boulter (Lucky Strikes) and drummer Pete Flood (Bellowhead).

“I don’t think it will be a radical departure from the sound we have been making, but I think it will really enhance it. It will still be recognisable, though! We will still be doing my songs! But it will be really exciting to be playing with such excellent musicians.”

As for the album: “I have always been inspired by folk tales and balladry, and there are certain songs inspired by stories and ballads.

“Story-telling is a big part of it for me, but also as I was writing, two quite major things happened. My daughter was born while I was writing the songs, and so I was writing about motherhood… and also quite a lot about death because my step-mother passed away while I was writing, so death came into it as well.

“But certainly, motherhood has been a major influence both on my writing and on my approach and perspective. Practically, it means you have to write songs in a different way. You don’t have hours and days of limitless time. In many ways, it focuses you. It makes you think, and the themes of some of my songs have now been taken up with thoughts of motherhood as well.”

Born in London, Emily grew up in Glastonbury in Somerset before moving up to Newcastle to study folk music. Nominated for folk singer of the year at the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Emily is also the holder of the 2013 Folk Award for Best Original Song for Hatchlings.

“It has been four years now that we have been living in Liverpool. I am still a relative newcomer. My husband got a job here. He is a music lecturer. But Liverpool is a great place to be. It’s really brilliant. It really feels like I am living in a great place. I played Liverpool with my last tour with the Coracle Band which was a nice homecoming.”

The latest tour will see Emily bid farewell to one of her longest-standing collaborators.

Emily has worked with singer and harpist Rachel Newton for over a decade, most recently in the Emily Portman Trio and The Coracle Band.

But as Rachel’s own burgeoning solo career gathers momentum, it is time for Rachel to focus on her own work.

Emily said: “It’s been such a privilege to work with Rachel over the years. I’ll treasure the music we’ve made together and all the adventures we’ve had.

“I’ll really notice Rachel’s absence in my songs, but I’m proud to see her focus on her own wonderful music, which richly deserves the praise it’s receiving.”

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