Talking To...Emily Maguire & Christian Dunham

Before their show at The Cluny 2 in Newcastle, Fatea was lucky to have the opportunity to sit down once more with Emily Maguire and Christian Dunham, to talk about life, letting go of control and, of course, her stunning new CD, Bird Inside a Cage.
EM- Emily Maguire
CD - Christian Dunham
HM - Helen Mitchell

HM: Well, hello! It is so lovely to see you again...it's been too long!

EM: Hi! Great to see you! It's wonderful to be back here!

HM: You were at The Gala in Durham last night for the second time; there were definitely more there this time. It must be great to see it building time on time?

EM: Yes, it is. We had a great night last night. We are expecting a good number tonight too.

HM: This is your third time here at The Cluny 2 isn't it? You must like it here.

EM: Yes, it's one of our favourites.

CD: It's one of the first calls we make now when we're getting ready to book a tour!

HM: The North East is getting a reputation for that!

EM: It's a lovely area to perform.

HM: Well, I have to tell you, I love the new CD, Bird Inside a Cage, Emily.

EM: Thankyou so much, I'm really proud of it.

HM: Would you like to tell me about it?

EM: Well, let's see...it has been a long time coming...three years! It was produced by Nigel Butler, who both I and Christian had wantd to work with for years. He has previously worked with KD Lang, Tom Jones, Robbie Williams...

HM: Wow, that's some list of credits.

EM: Yes. Absolutely. So this year he was available and we were really excited to work with him. I wasn't well last year, I had depression, so I didn't go into the studio with him. We recorded and sent Nigel the vocal parts and he made the CD in Russ on Wye. Hearing the tracks as he produced them really helped me actually; he has transformed those songs into really beautiful pieces of music.

HM: He has indeed. Was it hard for you to let him do that?

EM: It is the first time I have ever let go of the production of a CD. We sent him thirty songs and he chose ten. I just had to let go of the whole process and actually it turned out to be a wonderful lesson in both letting go and in trusting someone else with my songs and with the final product.

HM: He really has done an amazing job. Would you have changed anything? Any of the song selections, or the order he put them in?

EM: No, I wouldn't have changed anything in the end. I love what he did.

HM: The order works well, that must be a hard thing to decide?

EM: Yes it normally gets changed lots of times right up until production then you just have to live with it!

HM: The one song I expected to find but didn't was Golden and Gorgeous...?

EM: Yes, I miss playing that one live actually....it will appear on another CD I promise!

HM: This album has a different sound...

EM: Yes, this CD is a departure for me. The first three were very acoustic; this one is much ore multi layered, more commercial, more mainstream. I wasn't sure how people would react but I've had lots of great feedback and many people have told me it has been on constant play. One woman told me it was all she played on a 5 day trip to Cornwall and back!

HM: Wow! That's impressive. I thought I was doing well that Beautiful went on repeat about fifteen times before I got to hear the rest of the CD!

EM: (laughing) I remember you tweeting me that! The other great thing is that this CD was entirely covered through a fan funding campaign. It made me realise that I have such loyal fans, many of them strangers, who sent donations of all sizes, without them ever having heard on song from the project, simply because they believe in what I do. It's amazing.

HM: That is really cool...and a great way to get the CD made. The fans I bet love feeling they played a part in it.

EM: Definitely.

HM: Have you thought about making limited edition downloads or tour only Eps? I know they've worked well for lots of artists....

EM: I have to admit, for both the sake of my fans and my own attachment, I am happy to make Cds; I haven't quite gotten to grips with the whole download thing yet! One of the perks for the CD contributors was a special acoustic CD...I would love to make a whole acoustic album.

HM: So, as the opening song on the new CD, tell me about Beautiful. It's one of my favourites. Where did it come fro?

EM: Thankyou. It was written for a good friend of mine who was having a hard time. I wished she could herself through my eyes, you know? She was totally overwhelmed when she heard it.

HM: Yet it is a song I think lots of us girls can take something from...?

EM: Yes, it has been played lots on radio by Claire Balding and lots of people have said it is a song for women. Many of us have low self esteem and a fragile self image. If you listen to the lyrics, You are kind and wise....beautiful....mindful and mild....beautiful. It says that beauty is about different things, the whole person. I'd like to think someone can hear it and think 'I'm those things, so I must be beautiful too.'

HM: I certainly think it will resonate with lots of who self doubt! The title track, Bird Inside a Cage, has a touching story too, doesn't it?

EM: Yes, it does. I read an article written by Melanie Reed, a Times journalist who was paralysed in a horse riding accident. It really touched my heart; I was so moved by her story that I wrote the song for her. The first half is written as her voice and the second her husband's. She has heard it and sent me a piece she wrote about the song, calling it her 'Candle in the Wind' moment,' which was amazing.

HM: Valentine seems to have a very bluesy sound?

EM: Yeah, you know, that song was one of those that came out so fast I don't know where it came from. Some take so long to write and some just pour out quickly.

HM: My friend who you met was wondering if you would ever do an album using entirely classical instruments?

EM: Well, I was brought up playingall classical; my albums have all had strings which has influenced the way I've arranged them, but an all classical...Christian...what do you think of that idea? I really like it..

CD: Yeah, that could be interesting...

HM: Ok, so, what are you listening to at the moment?

EM: Well, I'm listening to what he's listening to right now...Christian...?

CD: A CD by an Icelandic band called Sigour Ross who are very different. I'm also really into mood music...I'm listening to an amazing composer called Sakamoto.He wrote the closing music for the film Babel if you saw it?

HM: Yes, I know it.

CD: He creates the most stunning soundscapes; I'm more into soundscapes than verse and chorus. He made an amazing video too; very dystopian. Really, look it up.

EM: He's watched it about 32000 times! I'm also listening to a CD I bought from a Busker in Bath, called Ben Powell. Very acoustic. Look him up.

HM: I will do. I love getting recommendations! So, how is the shack?

EM: We're going back! In December, we're going out to stay for three weeks! We can't wait. We haven't been back for four years! As far as we know everything is fine; someone is living in the house. I'm a bit nervous about the snakes and spiders; I've lost my immunity so I'll be all jumpy.

HM: Christian...I asked Emily to do this about herself last time...can you describe her for me in three words?

CD: Talented, determined, perfectionist.

EM: Thanks...

HM: Emily, can you do the same for Christian?

EM: Let's see...Clear, calm, confident...the name of his new book!

HM: Really, you've written a book?! You're a dark horse!

CD: Yeah, I'm a clinical hypnotherapist...the book is called Clear, Calm and Confident. It'll change your life in 30 days. It's available on my site or from Waterstones and online.

HM: Oh, I'll have to read it, see if you can sort me out! (all laughing) So, any funny stories from the road?

EM: Well, we had 7 months touring with Dennis Locorriere from Dr Hook; he's a scream.

CD: Tell her the Cash story...

EM: Oh, yes...we were in Australia, in a loud bar. I was singing Falling on My Feet, a ballad, and this drunk guy shouted across "Hey, do you know any Johnny Cash?!"

HM: No way, what did you do?

EM: I just kept singing, what else could I do? It was very funny.

HM: I'd have had him come and sing Johnny Cash! So what's next for you?

EM: Well, this tour is 23 gigs in 25 days....then more writing. I've been writing for much of the year. I didn't for a while...I was burned. My manager wanted a hit for radio. That's not who or what I am. My muse was clearly narked off as she disappeared for a while. You know, creativity needs to be nurtured, not squashed.

HM: Well good for you for sticking to your guns and standing up for what you believe in. Many wouldn't have and I think when people do it spoils it for the fans.

EM: Absolutely! Last Autumn One Good Thing from Keep Walking got into a horror film called Storage 24. I can't watch horror films but still...!

HM: Where would you choose to have a song used if you could?

EM: Ooooooh, either a film I could actually watch, I can imagine them in a drama, or a TV series like CSI...that would do wonders for us being heard.

HM: Ok, so, last question, if you had to pick a favourite song from the new album, which would it be? I think I can guess....

EM: Definitely Over the Waterfall. It is the closest to my heart of any song I've recorded and the most direct about living with bipolar. The way Nigel produced it made it so powerful and he mucially captured the highs and lows of my life. Lots of people have 'gotten' it, and others just love how it sounds musically.

HM: Yes, I feel it somehow almost lets us into your head for 3 minutes, like it is almost what everyone with bipolar would want to share with us but can't. That's an amazing gift, to be able to put that out there like that in a way that can help the rest of us to understand, accept, empathise, even just a little...

EM: Thankyou and yes I think it does exactly that.

HM: Christian, which is your favourite?

CD: I love Bird Inside a Cage, because it is just beautiful, but I especially love Over the Waterfall. I love how it so beautifully encompasses her story, really. The lyrics have this powerful instensity but the music is so simply. It's great. We've also had lots of comments about the song from people who don't even know her story. Emily is one of the few people who has and will stand up and talk about mental health in a way that is both acceptable and accessible; to people with and without experience of it. The way she makes it so accessible sets her apart. To be willing and able to talk about it and share her story in a way that people can relate to really is very unique and special.

HM: I agree absolutely. If it even helps someone to be more aware so that if they encounter someone with issues later they can react more sensitively...it can help us all. Emily, thankyou so much, it has been so lovely catching up with you again. Don't leave it so long next time!

EM: Thankyou, it has been lovely to see you too. We won't.

HM: Hopefully we'll be hearing lots of you on radio! Take care. See you in the gig!

EM/CD: See you soon!

Helen Mitchell
Pics Neil King

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