Under the alias of Mirror Signal, Suffolk-born Steven Barker has crafted something completely unique and totally enthralling. Just one listen to Barker’s smooth, soulful vocal tones and you’ll be smitten. At the back end of 2013, we tipped Mirror Signal for big things this year and he hasn’t disappointed. Playing at numerous festivals this summer including Latitude, Reading and Leeds and Isle of Wight just cemented how boundless his music really is.
I sat down with the man himself to talk about the songs and the albums that have inspired him, where it all started and much more.
Bitter Sweet Symphonies: Who was the first person to inspire you to pick up an instrument and play?
Steven Barker: “I was really into Green Day when I was younger, “Time of Your Life” was the first song I learned on guitar.”
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
“I learned clarinet first, and played in the orchestra at school.”
When did you realise that music was your passion and you had to pursue it?
“Some of my friends were in a band at school, they played in an assembly once and that was when I thought it was something I wanted to do. Luckily we had some guitars in the house so I could start learning as soon as I decided. I went off clarinet but loved guitar.”
Where did you play your first gig?
“I was in year 8, I played one song with some friends that I’d written called “Standing in a Crowd”. It wasn’t very good…”
What has been the definitive record that has made the most impact on your life?
“I can’t pick one but there are 3 that have affected me in different ways.
James Blake’s self titled album. I used to be really against electronics etc in music and only liked instruments. My friend played me that album and I instantly fell in love with experimental music, even though I didn’t quite understand it straight away.
“Plans” by Death Cab For Cutie was my favourite album for about a year when I was 17/18. I had a lot of stuff going on, as well as the classic existential crisis, that album always relaxed me and allowed me to think.
“In Rainbows” by Radiohead. I was never into Radiohead until I had to organise a tribute concert at school. I listened to their whole discography after that and that album just blew me away. Such poignant songwriting and production, and such an innovative band.”
What’s your earliest musical memory?
“Learning “Mary had a little lamb” on the piano, I still remember how much of an achievement that felt like!”
Who is your favourite songwriter?
“For a long time it was Ben Gibbard (Death Cab singer), and Jonathan Higgs from Everything Everything is insanely good too, but the sea of good songwriters is just too vast to pick one!”
A song lyric that means a lot to me is…
“I’m just saying, just saying, that we don’t have to go, we don’t have to go without”
from Sampha’s song “Without”. There are loads I could’ve picked but I love this song so much!”
A song that describes my current mood/frame of mind at this time is…
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m starting to learn about global history, and how I fit into it, my place in the world, the class system and how the economy works etc and how that makes me feel.
“Everything is Everything” by Gabriel Garzon Montano sums it up fairly well.”