Solo Musician Interview: Emma Durkan

Emma Durkin Photo

Emma Durkan is a very talented folk singer who also plays the Clarsach and the fiddle. She’s also from Ayrshire. I’ve reviewed Emma Durkan’s music and you can check that out here

Where are you from?
Saltcoats, Ayrshire

How long have you been playing your respective instrument(s)?
I have played fiddle for 14 years, clarsach (Celtic harp) for around 11 years and have been singing properly since roughly 2 years ago!

What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
I’m not sure – it’s definitely influenced a lot by folk music but also has hints of alternative/pop music too.

What are your influences?
I have a lot of influences. My dad was a big David Bowie fan so I grew up listening to that and other rock bands. At one point I was really into T-Rex as a teenager. I loved the flamboyant costumes and the light rock/pop melodies. I started playing fiddle at school then I got into folk music through this. I listen to a lot of contemporary Scottish and English folk music and always liked the odd sounding melodies from old folk songs. I also liked the unique voices that I would hear through folk music – it was never auto tuned and all the voices are so different as they sing in their own accents, and often their own dialect. Whilst listening to this I was also still listening to a lot of indie rock music and pop music and this still influences me a lot to this day. My favourite artist at the moment is an American harpist called Joanna Newsom who has a very distinct and unusual voice and is also incredible at accompanying herself on harp.

Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?
Yes I play some covers but due to the instruments I play they always sound very different to the original! I have done David Bowie, The Beatles, Elton John, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga covers on the harp… Some I have learned for weddings and others I have learned just because I really like the song or connect with it in some way.

Do you have a process for writing your songs?
No not really, I find for me that having a ‘process’ or trying to structure something as creative as songwriting makes it seem mechanical… I often need space to write songs… a lot of my songs have come to me whilst I try to sleep at night. Sometimes it’s a lyric that comes to me first, sometimes it’s a melody or riff in my head. Then sometimes when I’m practising I’ll just mess around and something I really like comes out of that! It usually takes me a while to write just one song as I like to get songs perfect (to me!).

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?
I was playing with my band Speldosa at Beverley Folk Fest one year and whilst sitting at my harp on this very small stage, the chair was a bit too far back and I fell off the stage. The audience were all waiting and watching so it gave them a good laugh.

What song do you remember most from your childhood?
That’s difficult as so many songs have meaning to me! However I do remember singing Scarborough Fair as part of music class when I was young… long before I called myself a singer! It was a prominent memory for me because it was the first time I can remember that I really heard an English folk song and just being struck by the oddness yet beauty of the melody.

What has been your biggest challenge as a performer? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so then how?
As a shy person, it’s always been difficult putting myself out there. I am definitely overcoming it. The only way to overcome it was to keep putting myself out of my comfort zone, as you learn how to cope with it better and realise it isn’t as scary as it seems.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter

I’m also on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. I have a YouTube channel where I regularly upload covers, originals and folk tunes. Lastly, I have a website you can check out here

Have you released anything yet/if they have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?
I have released a 6 track EP this year called ‘The Girl with the Cloak‘. I had a launch night at Elliots, Prestwick which was a big success and had a great turnout. I was performing alongside talented friends from the Ayrshire area which included Sandy McFadyean, The Legacy (Stephen McCann and Paul Creighton) and Effemeras – a new all female four piece that I’m part of alongside Chloe Marie, Aimee Penman and Laura Hyslop.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
I have performed in many different places and venues as part of duos and bands including the Cavern Club in Liverpool, King Tuts, The Sage Gateshead and various festivals. I don’t have any particularly favourite venues although I do love playing at festivals as the atmosphere is just incredible and it’s great just to be surrounded by music for a whole weekend. I think every performance you can learn from , even if it doesn’t go as well as you hoped. I am planning lots more gigs around Ayrshire and Glasgow soon.

What do you think about downloading music online?
I think it’s great that people can access music in many different ways today and try to reach different audiences from a more independent perspective. Personally, I still love buying a CD because I like having the artwork and having the physical copy.

What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
I think it can be quite hard for smaller artists to get their voices heard today even though there are more platforms through the internet. The charts and mainstream music industry seem intent on creating music solely for financial profit which affects the music produced. But beyond that there are lots of smaller artists making great, interesting music. A lot of the music I listen to is by small independent artists.

And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?
In all honesty, no-one. I tend to be socially awkward and would find the idea of having dinner with a stranger uncomfortable!


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