On St Patrick’s Day, folk star Cara Dillon played a gig under the stars in Winchester.
Well, all right, it was at the planetarium, but as she says, it was something special.
‘We got offered this gig in a planetarium and we really liked the idea of singing under the stars,’ she explained. ‘My husband Sam’s totally into Brian Cox and stargazing and he thought it would be a great opportunity if we went and took our children.
‘They told us if we got there early enough we could have our own private journey through the universe, so the whole thing was worth it for that alone – flying around the universe and through the rings of Saturn and all the rest.
‘At the end of the gig they turned off all of the lights except one on the stage and everyone was able to relax in these big tilted armchairs and just watch the sky as we sang. It was definitely unusual.’
While there was a Christmas album at the end of last year, Cara is about to start proper work on her official follow-up to 2014’s A Thousand Hearts which she hopes to release this summer. As always, she’ll be working with husband Sam Lakeman, a renowned musician in his own right.
‘We’ve got more songs than we need right now, we’re working through them and whittling the list down. And then in the next month or so we’ll be in the studio recording them.
‘We’ve written two or three songs, and I’ve dug up a few I’ve absolutely loved and the time hadn’t been right to record them. I’m really enthusiastic about this new album – the only way I can describe it is that it’s going to be very simple, very organic, I’m very excited about the fact that it might be more stripped back.’
Although A Thousand Hearts, was her last ‘proper’ album, there was no small matter of a Christmas album, Upon A Winter’s Night, released late last year, which had been a long-standing ambition for the performer.
‘It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do. Myself and Sam absolutely love Christmas, you know you get some people who are like: “Urgh, I hate Christmas,” we’re there on December 1st wondering if it’s too early to put up the tree.
I’m really enthusiastic about this new album – the only way I can describe it is that it’s going to be very simple, very organicCara Dillon
‘For the past six-seven years we’ve been sat down on Christmas Eve with a wee glass of something, singing songs with the children, and every time I say to Sam: “We should record a Christmas album,” but of course by then it’s too late.
‘So last year I said to Sam: “We have to do this,” and it was hilarious – we ended up recording it in the summer time when there was a bit of heatwave here in Somerset.
‘We had all these musicians coming and going and the air conditioning unit broke down in our studio, so it was a real endurance test for them at times.
‘It seemed so ridiculous singing all of these Christmas songs at the height of summer, but it worked out really well.
‘We put fairylights and tinsel and a mini tree to focus us,’ she giggles, ‘ to keep your eye on the prize.’
The ensuing tour proved so popular that many venues booked invited them back for this year’s festive period.
‘We finished the last show of that tour, and all of the venues, and a few more, booked us straight back in again, so it was kind of hard to get my head around how successful the album and tour was. That’s something to already look forward to.
Aside from that, there’s unexpected fame in China to deal with – her music is part of the university curriculum to teach English and she’s recently signed a distribution deal to officially release her music there for the first time.
‘It’s so weird, but they think that the songs and the way they’ve been written are very poetic and they have a deep connection with the melodies of the songs, particularly a song called Craigie Hill, it’s like my ‘hit’ in China.
‘Up until now it’s only been available on the black market. We’ve just signed a licensing deal with quite a large record label in China, so they’re going to release all our albums out there.
‘Last time we were out there, China’s largest radio station takes a break during the Chinese new year and they have lots of live acts come in and perform, It’s a really big deal to get on this radio programme, and they wanted us.
‘They were playing Ed Sheeran and Beyonce, and then amongst all this pop music they had us and they said we were the most requested song out of everything.
‘I would love to meet this one person who’s responsible. Obviously this person listened to the CD, liked it and started to use it – I’m indebted to whoever that person is.’
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Saturday, April 8