Emily Barker
31st January 2025 - 6:00 pm
The Deaf Institute

“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all…”Emily Dickinson

The opening line of Emily Dickinson’s short poem ‘‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers’ inspired the central image of Emily Barker’s new single ‘Feathered Thing’, written while she navigated cumulative grief.

When Barker was first introduced to producer Luke Potashnick (Gabrielle Aplin, Jack Savoretti, Katie Melua) in May 2022, she brought with her a full album’s worth of songs. But after visiting Potashnick’s storied studio, The Wool Hall and hearing his ambitious production ideas, she was inspired to write one more song.

“I also needed to process some heavy news” she comments. Barker and her husband Lukas Drinkwater had been trying to start a family. Following a couple of failed IVF cycles (and other “starts that we’d lost”), they investigated adoption and had decided to relocate to Australia to be closer to Barker’s family.

“It felt like we couldn’t work out what we wanted, but we finally reached a point where we both felt at peace with not having kids,” Barker recalls. “It had been an incredibly intense time, coinciding with a house move and the pandemic.”

And then Barker found she was pregnant. “We’d done all these things to try to make it happen, and then it happened naturally (and against all biological odds). Having previously navigated losses throughout our pregnancy journey, we now had to get our heads around what having this new person in our lives might look like – emotionally and practically.”

Soon after work began on the album, Barker had a miscarriage.

“Songwriting has always been a way of processing throughout my life.” Barker reveals how the new song came quickly as she sat at her piano at home. She shared an early version with Potashnick and remembers him politely asking, “Do you mind telling me what this is about?”

“I think I’d left it too abstract, initially,” she reflects. “It was difficult to open up about the miscarriage, but Luke was very supportive and encouraged me to dig a little deeper without necessarily being specific. I revisited the lyrics, and the result is much stronger.”

“I went to the burnt-out woods/ A tourist with some damaged goods/ Remembered how the trees withstood fires before…”

“The opening line is a metaphor for knowing that I’ll get through this,” Barker clarifies. “It’s about recovery and hope, allowing yourself both the space to grieve and permission to move on”. But Barker’s optimism is never misplaced – she knows the imprint of imagined futures and lost children are carried in hearts and minds forever:

“It’s so hard to let go, wanted to know

wanted to know you …”

“I think that it’s important to share and normalise these stories, which are all too common, yet not openly spoken about. People hide their pain and don’t want to burden friends and family. I think behind all this anguish, there’s a deep, often untold story.”

Now that Barker is settled back in Western Australia, she’s embracing being an auntie. “I’ve got three younger siblings over here who I’m close to, and they all have kids,” she enthuses. “I look after my brother’s kids, aged two and five, one morning a week.”

Recorded – along with the entirety of the new album – at The Wool Hall, ‘Feathered Thing’ begins gently, with oscillating piano and distant drums, until the arrangement gradually transforms into an instrumental dervish of vibrant strings, bass drones and cymbal crashes. Throughout, Barker’s vocals float tantalisingly like a slipstreaming feather.

Watch the video, filmed at The Wool Hall here. The Wool Hall is a studio in Beckington, Somerset, set up by Tears for Fears in the 1980s and used by artists including The Smiths, Pretenders, Joni Mitchell and many more.

Emily Barker is an award-winning singer-songwriter, best known as the writer and performer of the theme to the hugely successful BBC crime drama ‘Wallander’ starring Kenneth Branagh.

Her last album, 2020’s ‘A Dark Murmuration of Words’, was produced by Greg Freeman and recorded at StudiOwz, a converted chapel in the Welsh countryside. Lyrically probing, by turns both dark and optimistic, Barker searches for meaning through the deafening clamour of fake news and algorithmically filtered conversation, delivering a timely exploration of the grand themes of our age. It garnered widespread acclaim, with Uncut calling it “…a kind of Australian equivalent of PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake”.

Barker has released music and toured as a solo artist as well as with various bands and collaborations, most notably her long association with Frank Turner, and has written for TV and film, including composing the soundtrack for Jake Gavin’s lauded debut feature ‘Hector’ starring Peter Mullan and Keith Allen.

‘Fragile as Humans’ is scheduled for release on May 3rd 2024 through Everyone Sang/Kartel Music Group. The album will also feature earlier singles: the vast, cinematic ‘Wild to be Sharing This Moment’ and the meditative, crestfallen ‘Loneliness’.


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