Our guest this week on The Lock-In Podcast is singer-songwriter Emma Langford. Her new song and music video, Birdsong, is an inspirational anthem of female power, “a salute to the women of the #MiseFosta and Fairplé movements”.
Click on the player below to play the podcast audio (download: 19:12; 11MB; MP3), or scroll down to watch the video.
Birdsong was originally inspired by a remark by the renowned traditional singer Nóirín Ní Riain who was Emma’s tutor in college. A few years later, she explains, it became a song.
“The song is about recognising who you are, down to the marrow of your bones, recognising that person and acknowledging them and celebrating them. Literally I wrote it as I was staring in the mirror at myself one day and feeling like rubbish … it’s kind of about body image, it’s kind of about self-confidence, but mostly it’s about self-worth and it’s about recognising that who you are is more important than how you look.”
Recording the song for her album Sowing Acorns, it took on a new energy when she and her producers decided to recruit a chorus of women musicians to join her on the recording. One of them, Jessica Courtney Leen, came up with the idea for the music video, which she then went on to direct.
“The penny dropped and I realised what what I wanted to do, the more I thought about it, was actually vocalise my solidarity for these women in the Fairplé and #MiseFosta movements through the video, through the song, and through releasing the song at this time”
Video is very important for Emma’s work: she visualises images when she composes. But that doesn’t mean that her original ideas aren’t open to change when she collaborates with others.
“I find it very hard to imaging ever releasing a song without a music video. It just seems like an abstract idea to me … I always have a very clear mental image in my head of what the song is about and what the character of the song is. I’m – I suppose – originally a visual artist. That’s where I started out: in visual art and theatre and storytelling and then music came later. So that’s my process, really. But no, I didn’t have this exact image in my head. I mean, my image had always been women sitting around a table. What’s wound up happening is, for me, when I watched the music video for the first time and Líla walks into the abbey, the abbey, for me, feels like women standing around her and bringing her in and leading her to where she needs to be. For me it looks and sounds like the voices are emanating from the walls of the abbey, and then she looks to the tree and the voice is coming from the tree. And because of the echo of the song and the ambience of the song and the natural resonance of a place like that, it makes perfect sense that the music is coming almost out of the earth to her … and now I can’t possibly imagine somone hearing the song and not seeing the video.”
Emma uses Bandcamp to sell CDs and merchandise, and Patreon “to build a community around what I do”. She is optimistic about the capability of artists and musicians to thrive, even in difficult times. As pandemic restrictions ease, she’s getting back on stage, with socially distanced gigs coming up in Castlebar and in Cork.