Emma Morgan and Adam Wilkens, are a couple who have spent the last half a decade travelling the world together making music under the name The Rambling Roots. Their music is rooted somewhere between the folk scene of the 50s and 60s and the folk revival we saw around five years ago. With beautiful harmonies, enchanting melodies and songs that tell stories from the road, the pair are back in the UK permanently for the first time in a long time and since being back they’ve recorded their brand new EP, Voices.
Having spent so many years on the road in India, Australia and across Europe, The Rambling Roots often busked and wrote songs as they went. It was during their time in Australia that they released their last EP, titled Postcards from India. But since being in the UK, in the seaside town of Brighton where they are now based, their life has calmed down somewhat.
“We only had a one year visa for Australia and we knew that we wanted to launch our EP in Melbourne so we were pretty tight for time overall,” says Emma, lead singer and guitarist in the duo. “Whilst living in Melbourne we actually lived in a recording studio. We slept and dressed surrounded by endless cables and microphones and spent most days busking then coming home and recording. It was an intense time and we felt like we were under a lot of pressure to get everything finished on time with a very limited budget.
“In contrast, our new EP Voices was basically recorded under complete opposite circumstances. These tracks were all recorded live so the recording process was much quicker and also a lot more relaxed. I feel like the tracks flow a lot more and also the overall energy in the studio was a lot more positive so hopefully that will reflect when listening.”
“Postcards from India was recorded over a long process whilst living for a year in Melbourne,” adds Adam, who plays lead guitar and also sings. “It started out as rough demos and ideas for songs and slowly developed over time until we decided to launch the record before leaving Australia as a kind of send off gig to celebrate our time in Australia with all the amazing friends we met out there.
“Living in a studio was amazing but also highly unproductive, we kept adding little bits here and there as opposed to our new EP which was recorded all live and in one or two takes. We recorded this one with our good friend Kyle Blackburn of Soundfangled in our basement flat in Hove.”
Their last EP was a collection of songs from their travels and had a variety of sounds and influences throughout. It told short stories to the listener, with each song being different from the next. Due to this, it had a more spontaneous feel to it. And whilst the storytelling element is still present in their recent effort, Voices is a much more cohesive piece of work. The three tracks fit together perfectly, capturing you from beginning to end.
Check out their new EP Voices here.
Emma continues: “Postcards from India followed a definite theme as it was created to be a collection of stories from our travels. All six songs I feel are very different and really it was produced during a time where we were only just discovering our original style and sound. Our new EP has more of a country/folk influence after our time spent in Australia and the songs flow with a similar style and is a greater representation of our music and us.”
“I feel with this EP,” adds Adam, “we’re starting to get closer to a sound we both like whereas in the past we’ve had less continuity and it’s been more sporadic with the overall style of songs we’ve written.
“The songs for our new release have been played again and again on the streets of Melbourne so we could’ve played them in our sleep. In fact, I think whilst recording this one I might have been asleep.” Adam admits to there being some ‘bum notes’ on the EP, which he feels adds some ‘flavour’.
Adam and Emma arrived in Melbourne and began busking in order to raise some funds. What was initially meant to be a means to earning some cash whilst in the city, ended up opening plenty of doors. Emma continues: “After a while we discovered the busking scene in Melbourne was like the best community I’ve ever been a part of. We met a lot of our friends through busking, and the support from the locals and from the other musicians there is unbelievable. We felt so lucky to be a part of this for the time we were there. This gave us a lot of opportunity in Melbourne and we managed to survive by selling our CD’s and doing gigs, which was amazing!”
“The street-performing scene in Melbourne is like a playground for musicians and artists,” says Adam. “It’s a great platform for trying new stuff, seeing what works and actually making a living at the same time. You just got to make sure you give space for the other buskers and bring a tarpaulin in case it rains as Melbourne is notorious for being four seasons in one day.”
So after being on the road for such a long time, how do the pair feel about finally settling down in Brighton? “It feels great to be based in Brighton as I have a lot of good memories from when I first started working in music with my brother. And to be living back by the sea is just amazing,” says Adam. “I don’t really miss being on the road as I feel I’m still on the road but this bit’s just a bit longer than some of the other bits. Rambling is what we do and I’m sure there will still be many more road trips to be had. I feel now I’ve got more time to look back at some of the ideas we wrote whilst on the road, I’ve got about 40 songs in a broken old book I had with me the whole time. I’m hoping to get a few gems out of it, if I can find it…”
“Most days,” adds Emma, “we come up with a new plan of how we’re going to get a van and travel around Europe with our music again or go back to tour around Australia. And more often ideas pop up regularly about plans of escaping the English Winter! But being back in the UK has been so good. I appreciate this place more than ever. We’re near to family again and Brighton is just amazing, even in the rain! As much as I love being on the road it’s nice to settle for a bit and to have a base, although I’m still unsure how long it will last!
“I feel we have more time to develop our music now and really perfect our new songs rather than rushing to get a new track out. We played every day in Melbourne and were always trying to get new material out constantly so we didn’t bore our audiences with the same material. Now, we’re playing live much less regularly which gives us more time to create new songs.”
Speaking of their songs, how do The Rambling Roots approach song writing? “Most of our songs have been written individually,” says Emma. “The songs I write always seem to follow a trend of being very basic and simple then Adam is the more ‘out of the box’ creator who will give most of our songs their edge. They will always start with a chord structure on guitar, which is always the long part then the lyrics and melody usually just flow after this. My songs have never been planned or structured, actually most things in my life have been carefully organised apart from my music!”
Adam continues: “Most song’s start with Emma coming up with nice melody, chord sequence and sometimes lyrics to a verse or chorus. I usually focus on the arrangements, harmonies, and iron out any bits that I think don’t work. I try and spice up the chord voicing’s and get some solos and riffs in there to add some more flavour.”
And what about the lyrics? “Usually Adam tells me off for my ‘elaborate’ story telling in every day life, so I guess it comes across in my song writing as well quite naturally,” says Emma.
So with their new EP recorded and being released very soon, what else does 2016 hold for the pair? “Our plan is to really develop our music and style,” says Emma. “We always want a bigger and better live set and to incorporate more instruments so we’re going to take a little step back from doing gigs to give us the time to produce this. In an ideal world we will hopefully be putting together a band, all become the bestest of friends, get a van and travel from festival to festival playing music!”
Adam’s answer is more short and sweet, he says: “Band, record, practice, tour, sleep.”
And is there an album on the horizon? “For sure!” says Emma. “We’re really looking forward to starting the recording on this one with the production team from Soundfangled Studio. This will be our first album so we really want to make it a good one so expect bigger and better!”
Words by Adam Rowden