Society of Sound 78: Cara Dillon

Cara Dillon possesses a rare talent, her voice is the purest you're likely to hear almost anywhere and contains an unmistakeable quality that engages the listener deeply, evoking the very essence of the traditional songs she sings. Hailing from Dungiven in Northern Ireland, Cara was brought up in a close musical family immersed in the rich cultural heritage of her native Co. Derry.

Having won the All Ireland Traditional Singing Trophy aged only 14 she has earned astonishing critical acclaim and been showered with countless awards and accolades. In keeping with her traditional heritage Cara has herself become a well from which a plethora of contemporary artists draw upon. The likes of Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, Above and Beyond, Sam Smith, Mike Oldfield and Timothy B Schmit (The Eagles) are all fans and Cara’s voice has graced the soundtracks of Hollywood and Disney movies, Trance hits and numerous TV shows. Her long time musical collaborator (and husband), Sam Lakeman, have worked together since the mid nineties when they were signed to a major label at only 19 years old.

Sam has arranged, composed, engineered and produced all of Cara’s albums and recorded work to date and it’s their deep, shared knowledge of folk music and their ability to reach inside the soul of a song that imbues the material with not only profound sweetness but also great poignancy and depth. Equally at home singing ancient traditional ballads or contemporary songs, Cara and Sam prove that with unfaltering attention to quality and with bags of empathy they can tackle almost anything with success.


A Thousand Hearts follows the acclaimed Hill Of Thieves, released in 2009 and named the BBC Radio 2 Album Of The Year in 2010. Released in May 2014 on Cara and Sam’s own Charcoal Records label in conjunction with Sony Music, the songs are an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary loosely themed around affairs of the heart. The musicianship is outstanding, the recordings are pristine, natural, musical, emotional, vibrant and to top it all Cara’s vocals are near perfection.


Capturing the voice

As with previous recordings Sam Lakeman has striven to capture the most passionate and natural recordings possible using some of the finest recording equipment around. In his own words he describes the sonic vision for the album. Sam explains:

“Going into the recording of A Thousand Hearts I was keen to find the best possible balance between capturing the energy and spontaneity of a live performance and creating the kind of immersive soundscape that can only exist on a recording. I used fantastic studios with exceptional acoustics and equipment that was second to none and I knew from the beginning that I would be recording the album in a high resolution format. Possibly the most significant approach we took was that every performer was limited to a few takes, sometimes only one or two which meant there was always a freshness to the performances. We also recorded many of the instrumentalists at the same time so we could benefit from the spontaneity that occurs when they play together live.

Cara Dillon recording vocals for A Thousand Hearts. Photo credit: Sam Lakeman

A great deal of time was spent trying different combinations and positions of microphones to achieve the best possible blend without having to constantly reach for the EQ or something else. It has to be said, we were thrilled with the results, there was energy and dynamics like a live performance but also great detail and a punch that can only be got from great studio recordings. The album was mixed by Mike ‘Spike’ Drake who has a truly A list pedigree, and it was mastered by the wonderful Dick Beetham at 360 Mastering. We had both 16bit/44.1 and 24bit/96 masters done with each being approached from a differing objective. To me there’s no comparison, the Hi-Res masters were given far more room to breath, have much greater detail and the dynamic is far greater.”


Sam Lakeman, Ed Boyd, Niall Murphy, Luke Daniels, James Fagan, Jarlath Henderson, Aoife O’Donovan, Eamon Murray, Timothy B Schmit, John Smith, Joe Francis, Martin Smith, Ben Nicholls, Andy Tween.

Cara Dillon’s A Thousand Hearts (BW78) is released on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound in November 2014.

Artist website

By Online Editor

Published on Thu, 20 November 14

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