I grew up in Walthamstow, London listening to my Dad play finger-picking folk covers on the guitar and banjo and to my Mum’s very small record collection which we would play on repeat and dance around to in the lounge. I especially remember The Seven Drunken Nights by the Dubliners which me and my sister found an absolute gas to sing along to. I didn’t learn to play instruments as a child, I wasn’t allowed to play my Dad’s and he never taught me per se, but hearing him sing and play and look so happy put the music in my bones.
In 2002 I went to drama school and went on to sing in plenty of theatre shows during my acting career. One of the highlights was a cute children’s show for which Kerry Andrew wrote the music. She has been a dear friend and collaborator ever since.
In 2013 I went on a world tour of 1927’s production of The Animals and Children Took To The Streets. It was an amazing show, a fabulous experience as we toured twenty-one countries in eleven months. But I was bored creatively. I felt like a puppet performing someone else’s work and my soul was calling for more. So I decided to write a song in every country with no expectation of the outcome. At the end of that tour I decided to leave acting and focus on music. I took a three month songwriting sabbatical, picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play and went to release my first EP “Catch Me” in 2015 which contains five songs written on the world tour. This is the title track written in midsummer in St Petersburg.
I then went on to learn piano and built a band around the music and released my first album ‘Glenaphuca”, which spoke of my call to Ireland to embrace the Irish part of my heritage. This is the first song on that album.
Right now, on the first day of November 2023, I sit on the cusp of the launch of my sophomore album “HOME”, which is out in two weeks. It has been a deep dive into healing the legacy of pain and shame that I inherited from my female ancestors here in Cork. The album sheds light on a dark past of institutional incarceration, delicately transformed into a collection of beautiful songs. It is my intention that “HOME” holds the power to heal the wounds of the past and inspire future generations to live without fear.
The songs are a mixture of ethereal folk ballads, rousing anthemic tunes, traditional folk song from Ireland and the UK, a touch of blues and a stirring a-Capella choral finale called Ancestors. I was so lucky to have my pals Kerry Andrew, Ben See, Sarah Dacey, Essa Flett, Justin Ground, Brén Ó Rúaidh, Ellis Kerkhoven and MaJiKer sing this song with me.
I’m about to go on tour in Ireland with the album starting at Whelan’s in Dublin, which I am super excited about, then onto Cill Rialiag in Kerry, before returning home to Cork for two fabulous dates at Sirius Arts Centre and The Oar.
In the new year I will head back to my studio to start birthing the third album. I love winter. I find the stillness and darkness supportive of creative work. In my songwriting phases I like to section my day into little bursts of activity, something like; thirty minutes of songwriting, thirty minutes of classical guitar, fifteen minutes of piano scales, dance for three songs, fifteen minutes of clearing out old audio, then another thirty minutes of songwriting, play five songs, go for a walk, thirty minutes of songwriting and repeat.
If I have a song coming through, I could easily spend the whole day working on it and do nothing else, but a regular practice keeps me steady and in flow. And when a song is coming through I just have to honour that or else I may miss it. It is like catching a wave. So I could literally be swimming in the sea and a song lands in me, so I’d have to jump out and get it down on my voice memos.
Next year I hope to get a bit more independent and capable at recording my own material at home. I’m looking forward to that a lot. And I’ve just bought a lush Stratocaster which I’m gonna throw my fingers into next year.
Feature Image: James Heatlie
Download HOME on bandcamp: https://lewisbarfoot.bandcamp.com/album/home