Belfast Telegraph

Oxford Street tunes into Cara's song

By Neil McKay

FOLK singer Cara Dillon finally believed her debut album had been released when she heard it playing in Britain's biggest record shop.

FOLK singer Cara Dillon finally believed her debut album had been released when she heard it playing in Britain's biggest record shop.

Years of struggle and disappointment melted away the day she walked into the Virgin Megastore in London's Oxford Street - and heard a track playing on Virgin's in-store radio station.

Cara, from Dungiven in Co Derry, said: "The day the album was released me and Sam (Lakeman, her partner) were in London and we went into the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street to check and see that they had copies. "And as we were walking through the store the in-store DJ was playing one of the tracks. I didn't even recognise it at first, I was just walking round, when Sam said 'do you hear what is going on?' Then it was 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that's incredible'. I will never forget that feeling.

"Then we went up to the folk section and it was on the listening posts. There were loads of people milling round and I just found it really embarrassing. I went and hid in the world music section in case I was recognised."

Recognition is something Cara is getting used to as her faltering career finally takes flight.

Her debut album - made up predominantly of traditional folk songs - has been five years in the making, but has comfortably fulfilled all expectations.

Her story began in 1995 when she was plucked from obscurity to join the young British folk 'supergroup' Equation.

They made an album before musical differences tore the band apart and she and fellow member Lakeman left to 'do our own thing'.

So far, so good, but they soon became caught up in the machinations of the record industry, entangled in a contract with Warner Bros which led to frustration and heartache.

Label mates The Corrs had taken folk into the pop mainstream, and Warners, not surprisingly, wanted more of the same.

Cara explains: "We actually recorded enough material for three albums in our time with Warners, but nothing ever felt right.

"The record company were always wanting something commercial and last summer the head of the company told us to go away and write a hit single.

"We went off and sat in a flat together and for weeks the pressure was just terrible. It just wasn't happening, we weren't doing it naturally, we were forced to do something.

"In the end we simply decided we had to get away from Warners and go and do what we wanted to do."

That was a move to Devon where Lakeman's parents had built a studio.

"Geoff Travis, our manager, put up a small budget and told us to go off and record whatever we wanted.

"It was such a refreshing experience. We got friends to come and play, we'd give them a meal, a few glasses of wine and their petrol money, and got family involved as well.

"Now I think it's a real good thing that all those albums we made never got released, it was fate taking a hand. Some of the songs we were trying to write were very poppy, but if we hadn't had all those experiences Sam would never have been able to produce and record the album.

"We tried to make the album more accessible and more appealing and bring the folk songs into a modern context. We're young and we listen to loads of stuff, from Joni Mitchell to U2, and all that influences what we do.

"If anything, our experience should be a lesson to others. About how we made it and how easy it was, and how easy it could be for other young people to just go into their bedroom and make an album because the equipment's out there.

"You don't need to go to big studios and you don't need a major label behind you, you should just get on with it, and that's what music should be really all about."

n Cara Dillon supports Brian Kennedy at the Millennium Forum, Derry, on October 5-7. The album Cara Dillon (Rough Trade) is out now.

Belfast Telegraph

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