It’s been 3 long years since we last saw Emma Stevens, funnily enough, the last time we saw her was in the exact same venue but with a different guitarist. We chatted to Emma ahead of the show about when she supported Simply Red earlier this year, how excited she was to be sharing the stage with Wet Wet Wet at three of their UK headline shows in July and her plans for Summer festivals, you can read the full interview HERE
Totnes was her last stop on her tour of the UK, we chatted about places that hold a special place in her heart and I wasn’t surprised to hear that Manchester and Glasgow were at the top of the list, she said that there’s something about Northern audiences that just have the ability to let go and really get involved.
We left Emma to get on with preparing for the evening ahead and went to catch Clara Bond who had just taken to the stage.
Fresh from Country to Country (C2C), Clara Bond and her guitarist Ollie Harris (of Dead Ground fame) took to the stage to weave their magic over the lucky punters who had come along for the show.
Her self-penned tracks such as “Tambourine” and “Love Can't Stay” lifted from her Out of Towners EP ensured the audience sat in silence, waiting on Clara’s every word. Her silky smooth, honey dipped country-esque vocal style really set the scene for the remainder of her set.
Her cover of 'My Church' by Maren Morris, in my opinion, sounded better than the original. I’m not sure if it’s her voice or the faultless guitar playing that did it for me but either way, it sounded amazing and I am sure will feature in her festival set throughout the Summer.
Ollie Harris did a sterling job of performing acoustic guitar and backing vocal duties, you’ve got to hand it to the guy, he’s certainly one mean guitar player and the contrast between Country themed Americana versus his more alt-rock edged music he performs in Dead Ground just goes to prove that he’s an accomplished all rounder, he’s also a proficient funk player too, if you ever get the chance to see him in one of his other many acts, make every effort to do so, you can thank me later!
Clara Bond was heading straight off after the show to appear on stage at the Buckle & Boots Festival in Manchester the next day with her full 5 piece band which consists of drums, guitar, bass, keys and Clara on vocals. If tonight’s performance is anything to go by, she’ll have the audience eating out of her hand in not time at all.
“Flashbacks” knocked things down a peg or two but despite the more melancholy sound, the song still received an amazing reception come the end.
After “Brave” and “Out of Towners”, the audience were well and truly warmed up and raring to go for the main event….
You can keep up to date with Clara Bond via her website www.clarabond.com
Emma Stevens and Sam took to the stage and led the room on a rollercoaster tour of her back catalogue including offerings from her new album that is to be released in July but was made available as a treat for any people who pledged funds during her campaign or came to see her on the tour.
She dazzled the audience with her shining wit whilst Sam tuned a guitar for her, telling them a joke about a family of balloons, I won’t steal her thunder but hasten to say, she raised a laugh or two (or was it groans).
A country version of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 proved that Emma is a versatile musician who can literally take any track and add her very own slant on the style, very much making it her own.
“Shoot the Breeze” continued the upbeat nature of her set, featuring a bass solo by Sam whilst he managed to keep perfect time with a tambourine operated by his foot, such a talented and clever guy!
Another tuning period left Emma on stage with a gap to fill, sadly she was clean out of jokes having brought out the big guns earlier, she invited anyone else onto the stage to tell a joke but sadly, no takers.
She introduced a song which was Inspired by two points in her life, one was sadly losing her mother to cancer a few years back and another time when she was inspired by a character in a 1940’s movie who helped people during the war. Both of these influenced the creation of a track called “Brave” which was delivered faultlessly, just Emma and her acoustic guitar, with Sam coming in with light bass backing after the first verse, a beautiful moment to behold from her already spellbinding set.
The ukulele led ditty “Once” made the Radio 2 playlist a while back, Paul O’Grady, Claire Balding have already spun the tune on their shows and she has it as good authority that Graham Norton also has it on a future playlist, not a bad thing to have on your CV seeing as Radio 2 often plays out to in excess of 8 million listeners every day!
Emma worked with a fantastic producer called Liz Rose who is based in Nashville, she’s worked with some of the greatest stars of the Country music world and co-wrote the first two albums for Taylor Swift, which in theory kick started her career (and look where she is now!) The song was “Stop the World” and sounded immense, Sam taking to the cajon to provide the rhythm for Emma to strum over on her guitar.
Ahead of the release of her new album To My Roots, she worked with The Woodland Trust, visiting many schools and public places planting over 500 trees in the process, this was a big inspiration for the album leading to some of the tracks having a ‘nature’ theme about them.
“Sunflower” was the first song she wrote after losing her mother and she dedicated it to anyone in the room who had lost a loved one. The song was very reflective, memories of her mother came through in the lyrics and this just added to the sheer beauty of the track. Emma’s guitar playing really shone through whilst Sam played a gentle bass line, ensuring that the sound was bolstered but not overpowered by his instrument. Another tender and heartfelt track that had the audience enthralled throughout.
“Written in the Stars” is a track lifted from her new album, it told the story how people met, fell in love but there were many obstacles in the way that needed to be overcome before they could live in harmony, another beautifully emotional and personal track which thoroughly deserved the silence that the room afforded Emma whilst she and Sam delivered the goods.
Come the end of her set, it was obvious that she wasn’t going to be allowed to finish so back on stage she went to play a further couple of numbers to placate the room.
“A Place Called You”, was a track that was championed by Sir Terry Wogan when he hosted the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show and he heard it when Emma went to do as session for the BBC Introducing crowd some time back. He liked it so much, he invited Emma on to his show to play the track (to his then 5 million listeners), to say Emma was nervous was the understatement of the century but she managed to get through it unscathed and managed to win the admiration of a very important figure of the UK radio fraternity prior to his untimely passing. The track went down a storm in Totnes and featured some amazing whistling courtesy of Sam on the bass (he really is a jack of all trades and master of most of them!)
She ended her set with a track called “Riptide”, an upbeat number with a funky guitar riff and killer chorus that made sure that she went out with a bang.
When we chatted before the show, Emma said that she does also play alongside a full band, I found it hard to imagine how anything could be added to the feeling and passion that her and Sam delivered during tonight’s set, I guess there is a time and a place for everything and tonight, it was time for the two of them to come and conquer Totnes once again. It would be a crying shame to have to wait another 3 years to see her again….
Her new long player “To My Roots” is available via her website from July 21st (or earlier if you were a pledger or lucky enough to catch her live on her June tour).