Me and Mr Jones at WemsFest

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Possessor of ‘the voice that made Sir Tom Jones cry’, Sally Barker is the performer on the opening night of this year’s WemsFest.

Known for her own work with The Poozies, Sally became a household name this year when she was a finalist in the TV series The Voice, 
attracting great support from Sir Tom who subsequently asked her to open for him at major UK festival shows this summer.

On the back of it all, she now plays St James’ Church, Emsworth on Saturday, September 27 (doors 7pm, on stage 7.30pm; support from locally-based band Heronshaw).

All in all, it has been quite a year, Sally admits.

“It really started last summer or before that even with my children when I was watching the second series of The Voice. I have two teenage boys, and they urged me to apply. I thought ‘No, I don’t do that sort of stuff.’ But then I thought ‘What the hell! I will give it a go!’

“And I was quite surprised to find myself going through the series of events. There is a pre-audition stage, and I got asked to go along to the blind auditions, and then I was on Sir Tom’s team. And then I was in the live finals and then I was in the final...

“I decided I would just enjoy it for what it was and not think about it. It was just an opportunity to get TV exposure and an opportunity for me to resuscitate my flagging solo career.

“I had been singing for a long time, but when my husband died in 2003, I made a decision to ease back on it all and just really to do a few gigs for money. I decided not to travel abroad very much. I didn’t want other people bringing my kids up. I wanted them to have my faults and my problems!

“I think it is important for kids when they are growing up to have someone they can go back to all the time and shout at and be shouted at by if need be. They need that unconditional love, and I made the decision I would be there for the children.

“But the fact of the matter is it was the children that urged me to do it. Once I was on the programme so to speak, once I was through the blind audition, they wanted my children to be involved. I said ‘No way, sorry!’

“But they wanted to have a story to tell on the programme, about me and the kids and my husband dying. For me, my story was I am a good singer.

“But that’s not good enough for prime-time TV. They wanted all the rest. I came home and told my kids, and they really wanted to be on TV. I thought I should listen to them, and reluctantly I let them become involved, and they just loved it.

“I don’t think it actually damaged them in the end! I suppose I was just being a little bit over-protective. I just felt my job should not involve my children.

“It’s just that we live in an age where information is so free and easy and where everyone is always wanting to know more. But it all worked out.”

As for the competition itself, Sally decided to give herself her very own media black-out.

“It was like being in a race with my blinkers on and just enjoying the process, though it was strange getting friends with people and then losing them off the show!”

More details on www.wemsfest.com.