The wider circumstances of the past 18 months have done a funny thing to time, inside and outside of music.
The traditional time scales have slowed down, as it became nigh-on impossible to conduct the business end of a band or artist’s music in the usual manner - while other aspects, like side-projects and album launches that have proceeded regardless, have moved quickly amid changing perceptions of Irish music among core fans and casual consumers alike.
“My feelings on (the album) are really interesting, because I wrote most of it between 2017 and 2018, when the world was a very different place. So for me, listening to the songs, and playing the songs now, feels like bringing an old archive back to life, which is very strange.
“When you write a song, you're a different person to who you are when you wind up on stage performing it a lot of the time, but it's quite a stark difference. It's quite nice going on stage and playing the songs that harken back to a simpler time in a lot of ways.”
Covid has been a difficult time to say the least for any musician - much less releasing a second album in physical and digital formats, and trying to maintain the momentum Langford had built in previous years through steady gigging and hard work.
Langford is honest about the toll that keeping everything afloat has exacted on her, and how she’s kept going.
“It was a really f**king difficult time to release an album. As well as anything else, I was also releasing it at the exact same time as Pillow Queens released their first album, and there seemed to be this onslaught of phenomenal albums from Irish artists. So it was a tough time in that way.
“Then also deciding to release it during the pandemic, when you can't be on the road straight away, that was difficult. I pushed it off and pushed it off. I was meant to release it in Spring, last year, and that didn't feel right. It didn't feel like the right time to be trying to get any kind of hype going about new music. And so when it came to September, and things were at a peak of the pandemic, it seemed like a nice time to give people a bit of a lift - and was a nice, positive thing to channel my energy into.
“Also, I have an amazing support network generally, with people who will just keep pushing me. If there's something I want to do, they'll be like, we will find a way to make it work. So that's been like Chemical X, in the Powerpuff Girls, to my career. And I think everyone needs those people behind them.”
She’s also spoken a bit on social media about her work on other projects throughout the crisis as a vocal “gun for hire” - including singing a recorded Latin Mass, taking requests on her Patreon, and being one of the cast of the Irish Women in Harmony project that helped start moving the (ongoing) conversation forward on gender parity in the Irish music business.
“They've actually been really interesting. I was playing a wedding the other day. And I don't know too many other artists (in my place) in the industry, who are still sort of playing weddings and that kind of thing. But maybe they are, they're not talking about it, I just think it's an important thing to continue to do that kind of work, because this industry is so precarious.
“When you're a songwriter, and you're not being supported by a label, or a publisher or anything like that, you know, money will just one day dry up based on your songwriting and stuff. So you kind of have to find other ways to survive and other ways to network and other ways to stay creatively busy. For me, those kinds of projects have been invaluable for that.
“The Irish Women in Harmony project brought a lot of benefits that I didn't expect it to. I knew it was going to be a great chance to chat to other artists, a great chance to do something that maybe wouldn't necessarily be my usual remit. It's quite a pop-focused kind of a project, and that has often scared me, but it's brilliant, and it's been a great way to bring people's names to the fore. And it's been an amazing platform.”
Langford will be playing an outdoor gig with her five-piece band at Mallow Castle next Saturday, August 21st, as part of Mallow Arts Collective’s build up to the town’s Arts Festival the following month, funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
It’s a meaningful gig for Langford, whose family connections to the town go all the way back to childhood, and as such, are steeped deeply in fond memories.
“My dad comes from Mallow. I would have spent most of my childhood in and out of a house in Mallow, visiting my grandparents, and my aunt always lived with and near my grandparents. Throughout the years, it was always the home of family gatherings, and so it has this real, warm place in my heart.
“I know, for people from Mallow, they probably don't have the associations with that I have. Mallow, for me, smells like pipe tobacco, coffee, and Granny's perfume. It's a box of miniature animals, and Lego, and toy cars that granddad used to collect from the 1950s. People's favorite chairs and sing-songs and Coronation Street playing full-blast in the front room, and Granny's apple tree. That kind of thing. We'd head into town, every now and then, but it was this house, and I suppose, for me, as a result, the place has such a big place in my heart.
“I'm so conscious that for people who come from a place, for someone to come in and project that image onto where they come from is weird. I guess I'm just excited from a sentimental perspective to finally be playing in Mallow. My granny and grandad died years ago, and I haven't had the same reasons to go and see people, and spend time there, so it means a lot to get a chance to go back.”
Langford will also be playing Autumn Air in Mitchelstown in September, and Cork’s Winthrop Avenue in November, as well as more Irish and German dates.
After being off the road for nearly eighteen months, the adjustment to returning to activity is a whole set of processes in and of itself.
“It's been very daunting. And it's a lot of work, because it's not just about the gigs, it's about the rehearsals, and it's about getting everyone's availability.
“Everyone who I'm working with right now has had to find other ways to survive as well. They haven't been able to rely on gigs happening, so everyone has had to get other jobs. People have families, they've had to organize childminders, all this kind of stuff, kids are being homeschooled, that kind of thing, as well.
“It's been really, really daunting, really challenging. It's obviously really exciting, too. I'm very lucky to have gigs because I know an awful lot of artists that don't, and I know an awful lot of tech crew that haven't been able to go back to gigging at all, so I feel really lucky. But I'm also so nervous.
“There's no rehearsal like a gig, so it's like trying to shake off the cobwebs a little bit. But I think audiences have been forgiving, and understanding, and everyone's just kind of happy to be there. So we all need to take a nice deep breath, and just go for it, I think.”
‘Sowing Acorns’ is available now across streaming services, and from https://emmalangfordmusic.bandcamp.com/.
Emma Langford plays Cork on the following dates:
- August 21st @ 3pm: Mallow Castle, Mallow
- September 11th & 12th @ 7pm: Jackie O’Brien’s, Mitchelstown - part of Autumn Air season
- November 18th @ 7.30pm: Winthrop Avenue, Cork