Phil Barker

Phil's Gear Page > Songwriter, musician Iona / 1997-present
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Photos by Monica Duffels, Lutz Diehl, Joe del Tufo, Mike Anders, Janien Kommer & Henk Oosting (
B orn in Perivale, London in 1970, I first wanted to learn to play drums. However, after watching Mark King (Level 42), I soon dropped the idea of drums and decided to learn bass. I was really into Genesis and It Bites in my teens, but no one in my area was playing that kind of 'muso' stuff, so I had to settle for playing in Goth bands (in one band the singer wore make-up and women's underwear on stage!).

In 1988, I began playing in Jazz Funk bands. I thought "now's my chance" and, with Status Bass in hand and Trace-Elliot amp, I began slapping and popping uncontrollably for about 2 years (one band I played with at that time was called 'Pigs in the Parlour').

In 1991, I joined the Saltmine Band (Christian) which later became Funky Beehive. After 18 months of bad jokes, no money and packing up at midnight in the rain in Reading, my Christian charity had depleted.

In 1993, I began working with Sal Solo of Classix Nouveau, spending a lot of time touring America and Europe. At that time I learnt some valuable lessons on how to be a good Catholic, how to shave your head, and how not to eat food with dead animals in it. Sal always insisted that the band was paid cash (local currency) after every gig which is a rare and excellent thing. I also recorded 2 albums with Sal Solo.

In 1994, I met producer Andy Piercy and began working on various projects with him and session guitarist Dave Clifton. It was also at this time that I met my long time sparring partner and pal Terl Bryant and we began working as a rythmn section both live and on recordings together.

In August 95 I'd been depping for session ace Phil Spalding (Robbie Williams, Seal, Mick Jagger, Mike Oldfield) in the band 'Chief Seattle'. Terl asked me if I could fill in for an gig at the Borderline, London, standing in for Tim Harries (who had replaced Nick Beggs). I was not at all familiar with Iona's music. Terl's advice was not to play anything FUNKY because Dave would hate me. I had to learn about 20 songs for the gig as the set list hadn't been finalised (no change there!). Listening over and over to the songs I realised just how intricate and well thought out they were. The gig must have gone pretty well because Simon (the manager of the band at the time) told me "well done, anyone would have thought you'd been in the band for years". A few months later, and I was on tour with the band for what was the most influential time. The album 'Journey Into The Morn' was released, and was very busy with the longest UK and US tours ever. We all got on famously, especially after we nearly got killed on the road twice in 2 days!

In 1997 I took over the job permanently from Tim and we (Iona) recorded the live double album 'Heavens Bright Sun'.

I count Dave, Troy, Terl, Jo and Frank as some of my most valued friends.

As well as working with Iona, I have also had the privilege of working with the following:

Faith Hill, Robin Mark, Matt Redman, Don Moen, Paul Wilbur, Andy Piercy, Eoghan Heaslip, Dave Clifton, Geraldine Latty, Chris Eaton, Barry & Batya Segal, Kim Hill, The Woodthieves, Caroline Bonnet, Paul Mills, Chris Norton, Tim Hughes, Noel Richards, Ricky Valance, Paul Field, The New Scottish Orchestra, oh and Paul Naylor.

I have played on at least 60 albums so here is short selected Discography (sorry to anyone I haven't mentioned, please don't take it personally).

I live in Surrey with my wife Claire and our children, Francesca and Madeleine. I do not have my own studio, but I am currently working on my solo project, brewing beer in the understairs cupboard!
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Discography (10)

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20th March 2018

White Horse, Another Realm, Irish Day, Beyond These Shores, Edge of the World.....

(MAP early bird pre-order, click here

A few Iona titles visually referenced in this, the only video from Uncountable Stars, and several glimpses of the The Map Project artwork.

Itโ€™s been under wraps for 18 months with nothing to link it to until now, with the imminent release of The Map Project.

Deadline for The Map Project pre ordering at discounted postage is one week away, March 24th and the bonus cd will be a limited edition run.

If youโ€™d like to pre-order, click here

Thanks and blessings

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18th March 2018

Hi Everyone,
My Celestial Fire band, which of course includes Frank Van Essen of Iona, now has a Facebook page. It would be great if you could 'like' and 'follow' us. Thanks!! Dave Bainbridge

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28th February 2018

Spot the connection ! ( might need to zoom in on the second image!). No sign of the โ€œbeast from the eastโ€ here today! Just a chilly breeze and visibility for miles. ๐Ÿ˜

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23rd February 2018

Recording drums and bass on some new songs with Terl Bryant and Phil Barker. Also a visual preview for you of the MAP Project artwork for Part 1.
Pre ordering will be ready soon!
Always so good to work with these great friends. Weโ€™ve been reminiscing on our long history making music, Iona tours , so many memories.........

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29th January 2018

MAP Project update. Also coming up in 2018....Japan!
I've been invited to Tokyo in April to perform the Xenogears soundtrack songs (recorded 20 years ago!) at 4 concerts. I've also been asked by their composer, to record some new vocal material while I'm in Tokyo.
You just never know what a year may bring !
PS - hereโ€™s a link to the song I mentioned in the video -

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2nd January 2018

The song " When Kindness Comes" was originally recorded as a demo in 2014 when I (Jo) was recording a track for Uncountable Stars - it was an unedited performance of the song, played on a concert grand piano.

At the end of 2016, while recording MAP Project songs, I decided to finish a version of the song with upright bass and flugelhorn tracked to the original demo. Here is this new recording as a soundtrack to the experiences of many of the refugees I've encountered in 2017.

At the start of the year I read the words of Isaiah 21.14-15 ...." haul water to the thirsty, greet fugitives with bread. Show hospitality to those fleeing the horrors of war in the desert."

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26th December 2017

And very impromptu.
Happy Christmas๐Ÿ™

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25th December 2017

But not the usual Christmas music. More of a CELTIC CHRISTMAS!
I thought you'd enjoy a little clip from our Christmas Eve by the fireside at home in Ireland. Our neighbours , the Mooney family played hours of traditional Irish music for us and some of our neighbours. This was one of my favourite moments and I'll share some more over the holidays.
Jo wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

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21st December 2017

A SMALL CHRISTMAS GIFT... For all those who have contributed to my Indiegogo campaign or has shown an interest in my music. Be blessed & have a wonderful Christmas time! Frank

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13th December 2017

It's Zero degrees at Zerohour studio. Recording vocals on Good Samaritan.
This is the song I wrote just after my first trip out to the refugee camps. Asking myself some big questions. Think we're done with the recording aspect of Part 1 ๐Ÿ‘.

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7th December 2017

THE MAP PROJECT .... and more.
I know..... it's been ages, and the MAP Project Part 1 still isn't finished. But the best folk are always busy,so it takes time to get things done. I'd hoped for a pre Christmas release , but I don't think I'll quite make it! Just some vocals to do and then the last two of six songs will be ready for mixing. Last night I got to track the last of the cello parts with the wonderful Gwyneth Reid. Soon...... it will be ready ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ™. ( and no.... I've not taken up electric! Just a prop to hide the mess my dinner made on my jersey๐Ÿ˜ฑ). Keep an eye out for a bit of live singing pre Christmas ๐ŸŽถ

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4th November 2017

But still, "a place you could write or paint pictures, and dream that the troubles will end....."
It's been a lovely week here in Portugal with family, on half term hols. It's a long way from the plight of so many in refugee camps , but that's very much in my mind and still demands a response from me.
I travel home today to prepare for our church women's conference where I'll have the opportunity to lead worship and to share some of the MAP project songs and some new songs inspired by my recent experiences. It's been a long journey creating the MAP , but I hope to have Part 1 ready to release before Christmas. ๐Ÿ™.

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12th November 2017

This is Moria camp for refugees on Lesbos island. These families fled from their home city of Deir es Zor in Syria just weeks ago when heavy bombing destroyed their neighbourhood, killing relatives and friends. They survived a treacherous sea crossing from Turkey to Lesbos in inflatable boats , and were then brought to this camp 10 days ago. There are now close to 6000 refugees here, in a facility that was originally a prison for 1200. Hundreds more arrive every week. There is nowhere for them to go from here. Such great need and so little help...... we cannot say "We didn't know!".

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15th October 2017

From one extreme to another ......
This time tomorrow I'll be on my way with Karen to the Greek island of Lesvos, still one of the main ports of entry for refugees into Europe. Conditions in the Moria camp close to the main port are described as similar to concentration camps. We'd greatly appreciate your prayers during the next 5 days as we attempt to assess things and figure out a way to bring teams of people out to do something to help. I'll keep you posted.

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26th September 2017

All these things I saw in one day. Yes, there is so much global chaos, human suffering and catastrophic events taking place on our planet and it feels overwhelming. I'm so thankful for this day and for a place where I could dream, write, refresh, and then, refocus. We need to find a way to release the hope and wisdom of God in our world , but we can't do it in our own strength. In a few weeks , my view will have changed dramatically. There will be a sea of refugees and an atmosphere of despair and if all we carried were a couple of suitcases of medical supplies, it would be overwhelming......but , thankfully we carry much more; the compassionate, loving presence of our God of grace. May we be filled with faith for the impossible. ๐Ÿ™

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6th September 2017

Joining me ( Jo) in the old Crumlin Road jail , Belfast, on Friday 8 th for A21's ( anti -trafficking org) event are dream band Tre Sheppard/guitar, Graeme Flowers /horns, Gwyneth Reid/cello and Stu Reid/drums , perc. Also playing will be trad band Na Leanai ๐Ÿ˜๐ŸŽถ. If your around, we'd love to see ya there.

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31st August 2017

Frank's campaign is going incredibly well! At 84% now with 10 days to go... Still time to get alongside and become a part of this amazing musical journey.

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21st August 2017

"Oh, have you seen the clouds?
Have you observed the skies?? "
These places and landscapes remind me of so many of our Iona songs.

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18th August 2017

Spending a bit of time in the wilds of the north coast of Ireland writing some worship songs. The vibe is Celtic. Must be that St Colmkille connection.

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9th August 2017

We are excited to announce that Iona's drummer/violinist Frank van Essen is currently working on an instrumental solo album, in collaboration with Dave Bainbridge, Troy Donockley and many other great musicians. Please check out his Indiegogo page and get involved!
Please feel free to share this post!

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13th July 2017

It's that time of year again for some family time in the place that has inspired so many Iona songs .....Edge of the World, Irish Day, Wave after Wave, Kell's theme, Friendships Door, Vision Of Naran, Beyond These Shores,..... probably a few more. It still inspires ๐ŸŽถ๐Ÿ™.....

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29th June 2017

Hi folks. Collected my Emerald guitar today and of course had to sing a wee song. The guitars first trip abroad will hopefully be to refugee camps in either Turkey or Lebanon in October. Lots of time to practise ๐Ÿ‘

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6th July 2017

A quick visit but no PEAKS to climb this time. And according to National Geographic, Donegal is the place to see ,worldwide ,in 2017!
Thankyou again to all of you who supported the 3 PEAKS IN 3 DAYS fundraiser for SyriAid ๐Ÿ˜„. A team of folk ( individually self funded) are heading out to camps this weekend for two weeks of aid work assisting various projects.

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6th July 2017

Here are some pics from my final mountain hike. 23 hikers in total went up one or more of the mountains with 6 of us completing the 3 hikes. Thankyou so much to everyone who's donated towards SyriAid's effort to support refugees in crisis. Donations can still be made here

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3rd June 2017

Here's today's story in pictures. Thankfully all 13 of today's team made it to the top and down safely despite the rain and treacherous conditions in places. Thankyou so much for your support.

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3rd June 2017

SyriAid team set off last night to climb our first peak. It's a long hike up from sea level but everyone made it up and down with no falls or injuries. This morning we'll set off for Donegal to climb Mt Errigal.
Thankyou so much to all of you who are following and supporting this fundraising challenge.

( for donations)

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2nd June 2017

TODAY WE START 3 PEAKS IN 3 DAYS fundraiser......
It has rained for 24 hours prior to us starting our first hike, but even if it's a bit muddy and we get a bit wet, we still won't be able to imagine what millions of refugees have been forced to experience.
Let's not forget them.

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28th June 2017

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. PATRICK โ˜˜๏ธearlier today!
In 48 hours we hope to be at the top of our first mountain in the SyriAid 3 PEAKS IN 3 DAYS challenge. Thankyou so much to all who've already supported our efforts to help Syrian refugees in crisis.

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21st May 2017

I realise for most of you seeing this, you're a long way from here on our North Coast.
I just thought you'd like to see the pics ๐Ÿ˜„
This is the Giants Causeway and I've been coming here frequently in the last two weeks after a long absence, to get in some training for the SyriAid 3 PEAKS IN 3 DAYS challenge. If you are close and would like to join us for a hike on any of the days 2-4 th June, then go to
If you'd like to support with a donation you can do that here

Thankyou ๐Ÿ˜

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17th May 2017

Last night a few of us put in some step training for the SyriAid 3 PEAKS IN 3 DAYS challenge. What a beautiful evening. ๐Ÿ™ we get such weather 2-4 th June !
If you'd like to support our effort you can here

Thanking you.

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