A little while ago, I ordered Emily Portman’s The Glamoury after reading a bit about her in a magazine. I have always had an appreciation for good English Folk, but have such a hard time tracking it down. Much to my surprise, I received a package from Emily herself and a handwritten note. This seemed just a lovely thing to do, and I was giddy. I took the chance of sending her a thank you email, and when she replied (omigosh) I took the even further chance to ask her some questions. Which, she so graciously approved despite a full touring schedule.
Her music is true and authentic English Folk; something that’s hard to find even when you’re searching for it. And we in the States are so rarely exposed to such a thing. Portman’s mixture of dark night tales painted in modern perspectives makes a new listener feel welcome in an old gathering hall. You’re lucky to be there, and Portman is glad to treat. When she and company step up to microphone and string, there is green in the sound. An old green immediately seeks its way to your heart. And it brings with it images of sweeping hills and brushes of cool wind.
The Norumberland native moonlights as a guide to the fairies, where she lures them through the heathers by aural energy alone. Uncut Magazine puts it this way:
“Portman’s concertina couples with strings, harp and guitar in seductive arrangements, while her deceptively innocent voice self-harmonizes lyrics soaked in folk tales, myths and disturbing dreams…”
Listen a bit, and if you like it, order the eldritch bundle from overseas. A wonderful talent just might send you a thank you note.
Our interview and her songs are below!
1) What is it/Who was it that draws you to the ballads and the old tales?
I love the language used and the imagery conjured in old ballads – the roses and briars, the red beaten gold… and the compelling, dark and magical narratives that can be at once extraordinary and mundane. I find it fascinating that people have always told tales and sung songs to explain the world around them and to highlight the unexplainable – and I don’t think the time for these tales has ended, they feel very relevant and all the more interesting for having been around for a while…
2) You were part of groups and collaborations for a good while. What were the reasons to why you wanted to take the driver’s seat on your newest?
Partly because the bands I were in split up! I started writing songs but was a bit shy about them and would have bouts of not having a clue what I was doing it all for..typical tortured artist! So eventually, with a bit of gentle nudging I came around to the idea that I’d make and release my own music under my own name. The whole process unfolded without any grand scheme and it was very much a collaboration of friends and fellow musicians who were very generous with their time, so although they’re my songs I don’t think of it as totally ‘solo’…
3) If there were a perfect situation or place that would be ideal for your songwriting, what would that look like for you?
I often dream of being able to escape to some little hideaway by the sea to write songs – however despite these romantic notions the songs I write take just as much inspiration from city streets as from remote places. It’s people and their stories I’m interested in ultimately and although being away from it all can give perspective it can also give a rosy tint to the world – and I might end up with endless songs about the beauty of the primrose banks in spring time!! So my perfect situation might be to have the luxury of time to read,write and sing in a room with lots of old ballad books, field recordings and fairy tales..perhaps with a street full of interesting people sitting in dark cafes with stories to tell near by…with some dark mossy woods and a roaring ocean round the corner….If anyone knows of such a place let me know and I’ll move there!
> Our supreme thanks to her once again. You’re the best Emily!
[Emily Portman’s Myspace]
(The Glamoury was released in the UK on 3/04/10 by Furrow Records)