Songwriter Emily Portman on folk tales and motherhood

Wed Jul 1, 2015 7:13am EDT
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By Claire Milhench

LONDON (Reuters) - British songwriter Emily Portman draws on folklore, fairy tales and mythology to craft haunting, ethereal songs that weave the otherworldly with the everyday.

Typical subjects for her first two albums included metamorphosis, mythical creatures and wicked stepmothers, but on her new album "Coracle", out in June, she also draws on personal experience in songs tackling pregnancy and motherhood, grief and loss.

"I'd given birth and my step-mum passed away at a similar time, and these two big things seemed to seep into the songs," she says, speaking to Reuters by phone from Liverpool.

"It actually helped to be able to write about them, and I found myself looking for stories that seemed to express some of the things I was thinking about."

Motherhood is a rich seam in folk song and fairy tales, and Portman addresses aspects such as waiting for the birth of her own daughter on "Brink of June". But she has not entirely abandoned her love for the darker folklore of the British Isles.

Album opener "Darkening Bell", inspired by a trip to a neolithic burial chamber in Wales, is a sinister tale recalling myths of a slumbering king under a hill.

The album, shaped by leading folk producer Andy Bell, features Portman's regular collaborators Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton. But she's also joined by guest musicians such as Bellowhead's Sam Sweeney on nyckelharpa and Hardanger fiddle.

Q. You spent your formative years in Glastonbury. How much influence has that had on your songwriting?   Continued...

Emily Portman poses for a photograph at Cecil Sharp House in London, Britain June 27, 2015. REUTERS/Claire Milhench