From singing in a band down the Prince Albert to treading the glittering lights of the UK’s film industry, Stroud based singer Emily Barker is riding high right now. Her latest venture? Writing and performing the sound track to the new and very touching film Hector (out UK-wide now).
From famed producer Stephen Malit and debut writer-director Jake Gavin, Hector is the uplifting story of a homeless man (played by BAFTA award winning actor Pete Mullan) embarking on his annual journey from Scotland to a London shelter. But, aware this might be his last trip, Hector opts to reconnect with his past and reunite with those he left behind. Cue a cross-country odyssey that brings chance encounters, companions old and new who need his support as much as he needs theirs.
With a special screening of Hector including Emily performing songs from the film due to take place in Stroud on Tuesday 22nd December, we caught up with the RTS award-winning singer-songwriter to ask how she came to get involved in Hector and just what it all means to her…
Firstly, congratulations on a hauntingly beautiful song for the film. How did the involvement with writing the soundtrack for Hector come about?
Thank you.I was doing a session on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show and we were talking about my song, Nostalgia, being used in Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Wallander’ and another song of mine, Pause, being used in ‘The Shadow Line’. He asked me if writing for film and television would be something I’d like to do more of, and I answered, yes. A couple of days after that, I got an email out of the blue from director, Jake Gavin, saying he’d written a script and would love me to read it and consider doing the music for the film. I loved the story and immediately wrote a song called, Anywhere Away, which became the theme tune for the film.
Your music is a blend of roots influences from country to English folk via 60s pop – how did you your musical roots influence you in writing the film soundtrack? Had you viewed the film before composing the songs?
Having never done a film score before, I wasn’t really sure how to approach writing one and the idea was initially quite overwhelming, so I decided to start with something I know more about, which is songwriting. Before I’d seen anything at all, I wrote three songs: Anywhere Away, Wheels and White Lines and Roll Me In Your Arms. I tried to vary these songs in tempo, atmosphere, arrangement, etc. so that I could then pull motifs from them and experiment with different instrumentation, keys and feel.
Jake was already familiar with my style of music and really wanted those aspects you mentioned (English folk and country) to come through. Given it is set in Britain, it was fitting to have a folk feel but we also wanted to get some country sounds in there due to the road movie nature of the film and also the fact that country music is so big in Scotland!
You’ve won an RTS award for the haunting theme to Nordic-origin drama, Wallander, plus other award winning soundtrack collaborations – how different was it writing songs for film compared to television?
Well to be honest, I’ve not actually written any songs for television. Nostalgia and Pause were written prior to them being used in Wallander and The Shadow Line. So I guess the difference with this was that I wrote the song specifically for the film and it wouldn’t exist unless I’d read the script. I really enjoyed having a brief and trying to understand Hector’s character and say, or imply some of his inner thoughts and emotions through the music.
How different is it writing a song(s) for a film/TV as opposed to a general song?
When I write songs, I can write about anything I feel like, so it was cool to have some parameters actually and then work within those. I enjoyed trying to really get inside Hector’s mind and see life from his perspective.
You have a small role in the movie - what was it like being in the film?
I really enjoyed being on set and seeing what goes on when making a film. It was my first experience of this and it was really interesting. Regarding being filmed, it wasn’t the most difficult of roles given I just had to play myself! But next time, I’m hoping to step things up and maybe say a line or two ;)
Have you had any experience, direct or indirect, with homelessness? How does that affect your song writing and what lasting impression has it left?
When I moved from Bridgetown to Perth (Western Australia), I did volunteer work at an overnight shelter for homeless children. I did the night shift from time to time. I also used to serve dinners in the park in Perth. When I moved to London, I volunteered for a short while at Core Arts in Homerton, helping out with the music programme. During the making of the music for the film, I was reminded again of the issue of homelessness and it activated me to get more involved. I think Hector, inspires compassion.
Best/funniest thing that happened on set?
Having my make-up done at the same time as Peter Mullan! We had a great chat about music and all sorts. He’s such a lovely man!
Are there other film/TV soundtrack projects are in the pipeline?
There’s one I’m working on getting but nothing confirmed at this point. I hope that the film will bring me some more work in this field.
Finally, Hector is about a journey, about people and hope and who we meet – on your travels over the years and around the world, what were your loneliest moments and how were you lifted up out of them?
I could really relate to the travel aspect of this film. I spend so much of my time on various forms of transport, on “the path in-between”. It can get lonely sometimes for sure. I think having a connection with people is what can lift you from loneliness.
The screening of Hector with a live performance from Emily Barker takes place at the Lansdown Hall in Stroud on Tues 22nd December at 7pm. Tickets cost just £8 and are available in advance from Trading Post with all the proceeds being donated to a local homeless charity. Visit the facebook event page www.facebook.com/events/1672693373002911 for further info.