Emma Langford is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Limerick. With songs that dance playfully in that liminal space between folk, jazz and traditional Irish nuance, Emma Langford is described as “a breath of fresh air” by Ireland’s song-writing legend Phil Coulter. In style and sound, she is often compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake and Joan Baez; her presence and timbre, however, are truly unique and best experienced live. Emma’s debut album Quiet Giant, produced by Grammy-nominated duo The Production Suite, was released at the end of 2017. The Irish Times described Quiet Giant as ‘music that weaves a spell as you listen to it… An enduring piece of work’.
In October 2018 Emma Langford won the RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Award for Best Emerging Artist.
Under what conditions do you get your best work done?
I usually need to give myself plenty of time, space, and quiet, to allow myself to get into a flow-state. That means no judgement, no self-editing or self-censoring, and no worries about anyone listening to what I’m doing – Ray Heffernan, a great songwriter, described what we do as a kind of psychosis. We can sit in a quiet room playing the same two chords over and over again until we find something that works, and to the outside world that can look a bit mad, but it’s all part of how many songwriters operate.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Not asking for help or believing they need help – a good leader will build a team around them, and will recognise not just their strengths but also their weaknesses. Many people in leadership roles believe themselves able to do everything for everyone all the time – you’ll do a far better job if you can delegate and ask for feedback and help.
Have you ever been professionally stuck? How did you become unstuck?
Writer’s block, fatigue, illness – lots of things can get in the way of my professional development. Usually, it’s my body telling me I need to slow down and take a break. Sometimes I counter it by taking up something new, learning a new skill, reading a book I wouldn’t usually read; those kinds of things can help to break through the block and shake off the fatigue of doing the same thing day-in-day-out.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Practice the guitar a bit more, take lessons in the basics, it’ll be worth it.
Enjoy your time with your friends, they won’t be around forever.
Don’t worry about being like anyone else, break the mould.
Don’t dye your hair blonde… Trust me.
It’ll all turn out alright.
If you were designing a leadership program for schools what would you focus on?
Different kinds of intelligence and how they can best be put to use – not everyone is the same kind of leader, and not everyone has the same skill-set. Kids should learn how to make the most of their kind of intelligence to be a good leader.
If you had to name three characteristics of great leaders what would they be?
Patience, determination, kindness.