Scottish singer-songwriter Emma Pollock is not finished yet. Coming off of an almost six year break, she comes back stronger than ever with her new album, In Search of Harperfield. A more mature sound with that same strong and smooth voice that we all love and makes me want to just close my eyes and dance right along. I could seriously just listen to her voice for days. It is one of those graceful voices full of beauty, the perfect pitch constant. But during her break, her pen was still writing. This latest album is deeply personal for her, the name Harperfield itself, a childhood home and the place where her parents built their first house, a childhood dream now. Some fun pop songs show their face as well, “Parks and Recreation” and “Vacant Stare” are lighter tracks. The composition of the whole album is beautiful. “Intermission” takes me back to my ballet days, and I love the masterfully arranged strings dancing along with Pollock’s voice. “I’m not asking for permission, I am calling this an intermission.” Each song its own unique sound, that together blends in and out like an old quilt pieced together beautifully. I was so glad to get to speak with Emma and ask her some questions about the new album and what is coming up for her in 2016. Check out what she has to say and listen to her just released single, “Parks and Recreation”…
-Describe the sound of In Search of Harperfield.
It’s a real mix in actual fact, but the one thread that runs through it is a lush production, often using strings, some arrangements having been done by a fantastic composer called Malcolm Lindsay, (Dark Skies / Old Ghosts) some by the Cairn String Quartet (Intermission / Don’t Make Me Wait) and the rest by Paul Savage (producer/husband) and I. There is a lot of space in the album too at points in songs like Clemency and then also a few more playful, more pop songs like Parks and Recreation which I really enjoyed writing. The album feels quite warm to me, inviting, not so guitar heavy as The Law of Large Numbers. It has a more timeless sound I think.
-What has changed in your five and a half year break?
That’s a difficult question to answer – but I guess I did feel that I didn’t want to put an album out until I was convinced that it was good enough. When you’ve been writing and releasing for 40 years, I think it becomes important that you try not to repeat yourself, that the releases are justified. I think I was looking for a sound that would perhaps surprise, sound fresh, but still sound like me.
-Do you feel with a longer break it puts more pressure on this album?
Maybe the opposite in fact! I’ve still been quite active up in Scotland over the previous years – I’ve taken part in a lot of collaborative shows and projects, written new material with various people, but of course the world at large forgets unless you’re touring or releasing new material so by and large I reckon people weren’t necessarily expecting anything from me at all. Being a solo artist is a funny one, there’s less chance of you breaking up and more chance of extended breaks without explanation! The music has to fit around my life which is pretty busy at the best of times with family, Chem19 Studios, Chemikal Underground and writing.
-What do you like most about the new album?
The eclectic mix of song and treatment, but the surprising consistency that runs through it as well. It was written over a period of 4 or so years so there’s a lot of ground to cover there. There were extended breaks, where we might not have been in the studio for a year but when we did get in and listen back we liked what we heard so knew that we were happy with how things were progressing. We didn’t take too long in the studio in fact – it just took us a long time to actually get time in it.
-The album brings a lot of emotion from your past out into the open, a sense of yearning for freedom and other various voices… What was your process like for writing the songs for In Search of Harperfield?
The songs were written over an extended period – I have demos on my phone dating back to 2011. We would wait until we got into the studio to try some of them out. A lot of the songs were written on piano (Intermission, Old Ghosts, Alabaster) and then went through a process of being arranged with strings or in the studio. Paul Savage who produced, did a remarkable job with the whole thing, pushing the songs to be presented in as interesting a way as possible. We almost dropped Alabaster from the album before deciding on its current form. I love that song and the way it has such a unique, ethereal sound.
-What will 2016 be like for you?
I’d like to get back to touring as much as is practical. I think I’ll be in Spain and Germany for some dates as well as the UK later in the year. The album’s just about to come out now so I’m looking forward to playing it live and getting familiar with it in a different way. It’s a lovely thing to take the songs out of the studio and onto the stage – they come alive again and the album lives on.