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In 2003, Emily Maguire got off a plane in Australia with a bag on her back, a bunch of songs in her head, and 3 weeks to work out what to do with the rest of her life. When the time came to leave, she cancelled her ticket back to London. Aussie producer Christian Dunham had persuaded her not give up her guitar for a proper job but to stay and make a record. What was supposed to be a short holiday on the Sunshine Coast turned into a whole new way of life – living on a farm, writing and recording songs, growing veggies, making goats cheese, collecting rainwater and dodging snakes and spiders in a beautiful shack made from recycled wood, tin and potato sacks.
Classically trained on piano, cello, recorder and flute, Emily was taught to read music when she was only 3 years old. By the time she was 12, she seemed destined to be a professional cellist, playing in competitions, attending chamber music courses, and taking a masterclass with the world-famous cellist Paul Tortelier. Growing up with no TV and only classical music in the house, Emily was quite happy reading books and playing Bach… until she discovered Bob Marley.
Given a guitar for her 21st birthday, Emily taught herself to play from his ‘Legend’ songbook and when a friend suggested she write her own song, she had a revelation. Always passionate about poetry, songwriting perfectly combined her love of words and music. By the time she left London for Australia, she’d written hundreds of songs in her bedroom, but despite all the classical music she’d performed as a child, she was terrified of singing her own songs in public. Over the next few years, Emily had to overcome her stage phobia, as well as her snake phobia.
In 2004, she recorded her first album ‘Stranger Place’ over 14 days and nights in an old farmhouse in the middle of a forest in Queensland. Critically acclaimed by the Australian media, the album’s opening track ‘The Real World’ got Emily an invite to The Borderline Singer-Songwriter Festival in London, where she opened for David Bowie’s bassist Gail Ann Dorsey. Two years later, fresh from another tour of the UK, Emily and Christian returned to Australia to record her second album ‘Keep Walking’. By this time, Emily had gone from cellist to cheese-maker, and they financed ‘Keep Walking’ by making and selling organic goats cheese produced on the farm.
In 2007 she returned to the UK to play the Cambridge Folk Festival and do a 3-month tour of pubs and clubs before heading back to life on the farm. But fate had other plans in store. A fan who had seen her at Bournemouth Folk Club sent her CD to the producer of Aled Jones’ Radio 2 show ‘Good Morning Sunday’. One of the songs from ‘Keep Walking’ was played on the show and, as luck would have it, The Waterboys’ manager was listening. A week before she was due to fly back to Australia, Emily got a phone call from him asking if she would be prepared to cancel her ticket and fly instead to Ireland to start a 16-date tour with American legend Don McLean.
From playing to 20 people in a church hall in Bishop’s Stortford, Emily found herself on stage at the biggest concert halls in the country, including St David’s Hall in Cardiff, the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool, and Bridgwater Hall in Manchester, culminating in a sold-out show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. She credits hypnosis and brandy for helping her overcome her stage-fright.
Over the next 18 months, Emily opened for Paul Brady at the Royal Festival Hall, toured the UK and Ireland with Eric Bibb, played the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury, opened for The Blue Nile at Somerset House, Galway Arts Festival and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, headlined at Bush Hall, and toured with Glenn Tilbrook. The single ‘Keep Walking’ was playlisted on Radio 2 in the UK and on ABC Radio across Australia. In December 2008, straight from a tour with Roddy Frame, she went into Kore Studios in London with producer Philip Tennant to record her third album ‘Believer’. The album features Geoff Dugmore on drums, Christian Dunham on bass, Luke Potashnick on guitar, and Jae Yoo on violin.
Emily puts her classical training and cello-playing to good use, writing and recording all the string arrangements for all her albums. On her MySpace page she cites Bach, Bob Marley and Buddha as her influences. A practising Buddhist for over 10 years, both ‘Stranger Place’ and ‘Keep Walking’ are dedicated to her teacher Lama Jampa Thaye.