Ahead of the Coracle Band Tour in March I've been introducing each member of the Band with an interview...And now it's the turn of Lucy Farrell! This viola maestro possesses a lark-like voice, a superb ear for harmonies, an uncanny knack of remembering lyrics and super human saw-playing thumbs...What more could I want from a band mate?!
Lucy’s recently been very busy with Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band and their album, Big Machine, which recently hit number 25 in the official album charts. Impressive stuff!
Sophie Parkes had a chat with her to find out what else she’s got going on.
We've seen you before! You've been a longstanding member of the Emily Portman Trio. When did you first meet Emily?
Hello! Yes, I’ve been singing with Emily for a long time. We met at Newcastle University, lived together, actually. We must have first met in 2004.
Your saw helps tease out the eeriness of Emily's work. When did you start playing the saw? What makes one saw musical and another just a plain old DIY kind of saw?
Ha! thanks! I started playing the saw a few years ago after watching the film Delicatessen. There’s a love scene where the couple play a cello and a saw on the roof. When the film ended, me and my dad looked at each other and headed to the cellar and started working out how to play one. I play mainly a cleaned up old Spear and Jackson, which works well but is quite tough on the thumb. The 'musical’ ones tend to be slightly easier to handle.
When Emily brings you a new song, how do you go about arrangement? Do you get free rein or has Emily already decided what you should contribute?
When we started working together, on The Glamoury, Emily had worked out all the parts, and taught them to us. I still remember trying to understand Emily’s crazy harmonies! As the years have gone on, we have had more of an influence on the arrangements, and we tend to work them out as a trio.
Is Emily a taskmaster or a gentle, generous band leader?
Um... a mixture, I guess! It’s tough being a 'band leader': your name is on the thing, and it’s ultimately down to Emily to get stuff done, do all the boring hard work behind the scenes. Then we can just arrive and play music with her! Perfect! Emily is really generous to let us lead different songs, and have such an input with the arrangements.
Talk us through a typical day on a tour with Emily and The Coracle Band
It’s focused around eating! So, we'll try to locate the nearest good coffee, then breakfast, then talk about where we should stop for lunch. We’ll head off in the cars, with lots of singing along to CDs, we’ll meet for lunch, soundcheck, find somewhere nice for dinner. Gig, then pub!
You and Emily must gel personally and musically, as you work together in The Furrow Collective, too. That's a lot of time in each other's company! Why do you and Emily suit each other musically?
Emily and I bonded over a love of ballads – and cooking soup, if I remember rightly! I remember us sitting at the kitchen table, singing old songs to each other, talking about the links between songs, the hidden meanings. Emily has always been an inspiring and thoughtful influence on me and the way I think about folk song. I guess it just works really well when you love the same kind of stuff. The way we play music together is often more instinctive than constructed and I think that’s something really special.
Aside from working with Emily, what else is on the horizon for you?
I am currently working on some different solo projects: a trad album and a band album of my own songs. I’m also working with Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band, and I am busy with my little boy, too!