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Emily Barker Soaks Up Inspiration Around The US Before Aus Tour

29 September 2017 | 1:23 pm | Emily Barker

So, how does touring the US and Aus differ?

I'm a South West Aussie girl from Bridgetown who now lives, when not on tour, in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. I released my new record, Sweet Kind of Blue, in May this year and it's my first worldwide release, so it's meant touring extensively in numerous countries including the USA, for the first time, and also back in my home country, Australia.

I left the UK with my guitars, suitcase and bass-playing boyfriend, Lukas Drinkwater, on September 11, and flew across the Atlantic to Nashville, Tennessee to play at Americana Music Festival and Conference both under my own name, as well as with my harmony-based trio, Applewood Road. We hit the ground running with no time for jetlag, and an Applewood Road show straight up at The Radio Cafe - a wonderfully, low-lit, dive bar/venue in East Nashville. There was no sign visible on the shabby brick building, just a Lynchianesque, oversized street light standing tall above it and a fuel station adjacent. How very East Nashville! There was a great atmosphere inside, and given we hadn't done a show for almost a year, our show went really well!

The following day, I rehearsed with the musicians who would make up my pick-up band for the festival. They were: Lukas Drinkwater (bass and vocals), Rob Heath (drums and vocals), and Alex Wright (keys). Nashville musicians are incredible. We set up and got started and it immediately felt like we'd been playing together for years. Phew! At ease and ready for the two showcases the following day.

That night I attended the Americana Festival Awards ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium. In the sacred, mother-church of country music, I saw performances by Rhiannon Giddens, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Van Morrison, Graham Nash, The Milk Carton Kids, and numerous other top Americana acts which left me feeling inspired for my shows the following day.

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The band and I did a midday performance at Alley Taps, Downtown. It was an afternoon curated by Proper Music & The AMA-UK (Americana Music Association, UK). We had a packed venue and had SUCH a good time playing together for the first time! We performed five songs from my new album and it whet our appetite for the evening show, where we got to play a full set at a new venue in West Nashville called The Country. We had a blast and then stuck around afterwards to see an incredible artist from New Orleans, Leyla McCalla, who played original and traditional Haitian and Cajun folk songs. It was beautiful!

Lukas and I had to leave Nashville the following morning in order to get down to Memphis. We left early and drove the three-and-a-half hours along Interstate-40 West to the place where I made Sweet Kind Of Blue. Memphis has a very special place in my heart due to the experience of making my album there at Sam Phillips Recording Service with some of Memphis' finest musicians. The Sweet Kind Of Blue studio band has played with the likes of Al Green, Booker T & The MGs, Neil Young, Cat Power, Ann Peebles, Isaac Hayes, and countless other ridiculous artists, so I was excited to get back there and perform with some of them for a Ditty TV session and also do a show at Lafayette's Music Room.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stop for long in Memphis, I then jumped on a plane to Los Angeles where I did my first show in the city at Hotel Cafe. I'd booked an Air BnB for the night that was a 10-minute walk from the venue and I found myself walking down Hollywood Boulevard to my gig reading all the star plaques embedded into the pavement.

One night in LA and then onto Sydney, Australia to begin my solo tour. I'm typing this now from Sydney, having already done my Melbourne show at The Worker's Club on Tuesday night, and then Canberra at Smith's Alternative just last night. Tonight I'm playing Django Bar in Marrackville. I have to say that already this is my favourite tour on home turf. May it continue in this fashion!

Some of the things I love about touring in Australia are... is that you get to drink the best coffee every day despite whether you're in an airport or a suburb way out of town, the standard is so high. Also, that you're never too far from a beach. So although it's only just starting to warm up here, the water is still way warmer than in Britain, so I've been for a few swims already! Also, I get to see loads of old mates and my family. Great to be home for a while.