By David Hennessy
Cara Dillon’s has been a star on the rise since her debut eponymous album was released in 2001 and earlier. Her last collection, 2009’s Hill of Thieves was her most successful to date making her forthcoming fifth album A Thousand Hearts extremely eagerly awaited. After beginning with the folk group Equation (replacing singer Kate Rusby), Cara performed with Sam Lakeman as Polar Star. Now her husband, Sam has played on, co-wrote and produced all of Cara’s albums.
The Irish World caught up with the Dungiven singer ahead of her UK tour and Cara was only too happy to tell us about the album’s progress. “We’re nearly finished,” the singer begins. “The plan was to release it for our tour now coming up but we’ve actually postponed it until January, we didn’t want to rush it, but we’re excited because we’re going to perform all the new songs on the tour.
“You make an album and through the whole album, every time you go out to do a gig, you’re just dying to play some of the new tunes but you have to keep them for your next tour because otherwise it comes before it’s time. I love the whole recording experience but there’s nothing like gauging an audience’s reaction to a song.
“The album is called A Thousand Hearts so all the songs on the album are about different stages of the affairs of the heart. There’s death and love and unrequited love and homesickness so we decided A Thousand Hearts was an appropriate title for it. I can’t wait to hear what people think of it.”
Described as: “Quite possibly the world’s most beautiful female voice” by Q magazine, Cara has landed many accolades during her career such as the 2004 Meteor Award for Best Folk Act, the Hot Press Award for Best Roots Act in 2002 and 2 BBC2 Folk Awards including one for Best Album (Hill of Thieves). She has also been honoured to sing at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, been part of Disney Dreams! celebrating the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris and recording a Children in Need single at Abbey Road.
Hill of Thieves marked a return to purer traditional arrangements for Cara with only one original composition and the singer says her fans can expect much of the same: “It’s similar to the Hill of Thieves album in a lot of respects. A lot of the songs are very old traditional songs and again Sam and I have come together and he’s helped to work out the arrangements with myself and got a whole new flavour to the songs.”
Following the premature birth of her twin boys Colm and Noah Lakeman at 26 weeks and several anxious months, Cara and Sam took a career break to adapt to their new roles as parents before returning with Hill of Thieves. Cara had no hesitation when approached by Tiny Life, a charity that cares for sick and vulnerable newborn babies: “(The charity is) very close to my heart and it was just last year they asked me to be the patron and so I felt really honoured to be asked any time I’ve been asked to speak about them because there’s nothing like a bit of firsthand experience. It changed my life seeing what the nurses and doctors who care for premature babies do and how they save lives. I’m thrilled to be able to help in any way and be able to talk about it.”
Cara and Sam do all their recording in their own home in Froome which allows them to spend time with their children as well as just being able to record in a comfortable and pressure free environment: “Definitely I’m more comfortable recording at home because you don’t have that pressure of going to a studio and with three children, it gives me the luxury of being able to be at home and be with them and then at night when they’re sleeping, I sort of go up to the studio and sing a few songs. It works really well, it’s very organic.”
Cara Dillon tours the UK from October 13, beginning at Birmingham Town Hall. For more information, go to: http://www.caradillon.co.uk/.