tweety stuff @ronanfromcork
a shorter version of this article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-03-16
text under photo of article
In recent years the Cork music scene has witnessed a surge of piano playing, Americana-tinged singer/songwriters; at the forefront of that movement, along with Jack O’Rourke and Anna Mitchell, has been Marlene Enright. Having released two lauded albums with The Hard Ground [Previous Interview With The Hard Ground], she used their hiatus to work on her solo debut album ‘Placements and Second Cuts’ which comes out this month.
Marlene has a clear definition of when work on the album started, “the first song I wrote on this album was ‘Shiny’, I remember exactly when I finished it as I had to get it finished for a support gig that I was doing at a Jack O’Rourke gig! The bulk of the rest of the album was written between March and July of 2016 – so it was all written over 10 months or so.”
Recording of the album didn’t begin in earnest until all the material was written, “I recorded ‘When The Water Is Hot’ and ‘Underbelly’ with Christian Best in January 20166 and then the rest of the album was recorded at my home by Brendan Fennessy between July and August 2016. The whole album was mostly arranged by myself, and the band [Davie Ryan on Drums, Hugh Dillon on Guitar and Eoin ‘Walshy’ Walsh on bass], mainly prior to recording.”
While working in non-studio environments is not uncommon, working with multiple engineers can cause practical problems, “it was quite a different process in ways but one that I really enjoyed. It was great working with Christian and Feno, they’re both great engineers and bought their ideas to the table, which was great. In terms of production, I had clear enough ideas about what I wanted it to sound like; I’m never great at explaining myself so I end up using emotions, colours and ridiculous scenarios to get my ideas across rather than musical terms a lot of the time. Everyone’s thoughts and ideas meant a lot, and during recording and mixing, Feno and Christian both played an active role in the production side of things.
Many artists who produce their own records admit that once they starts going through the nitty-gritty of putting the pieces together of an album they end up with a different opinion of the material after the process is finished, a theory that Marlene can attest to, “when I was writing and recording it I didn’t think there was a central theme but hindsight has made me realise that there was. Doubt, indecision, lack of clarity rear their ugly heads a lot throughout the album – I think a lot of what I was writing about stemmed from these three feelings.
I suppose we all experience isolation at times, but this album is quite a personal one and so the isolation and self-acceptance that I refer to are my own experiences of those two states of being. Isolation is often, unwittingly, self-inflicted because we prioritise other things over meeting family and friends. You can be surrounded by people but often feel rather lonely, a strange fact when you think about it, I’m sure what could only be a product of western civilisation. Self-acceptance is something that comes with age I think, you accept more things about yourself as you grow into yourself, you learn to take the bad with the good.”
While The Hard Ground had a style resulting from the meeting points of her and co-writer Pat Carey’s writing styles, Marlene doesn’t think her own solo writing has a singular style either, “The Hard Ground’s material consisted in equal parts of songs written by Pat and I – it was a mixture of a lot of influences and genres, most songs featuring two very different vocals but they came together to form our sound. For my own stuff, it’s quite dark but it has a poppier sensibility I guess that The Hard Ground would have had.”
Even her own personal music listening features several genres, “the very first album that I bought was The Fugees ‘The Score’ and I’ve always loved D’Angelo, Erykah Badu. I was a big fan of the 90’s R’n’B and Rap era, I still listen back to a lot of that music. I love folk, my good friend Jack O’Rourke is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to folk and country and he’s educated me further over the past few years, artists like The McGarrigles and Emmy Lou Harris are some favourites. I love the ability of the late great Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits to put pen to paper and write the most beautiful words you could ever read and deliver them with such grace and heart – that’s the real deal. Melodies are what strike a chord with most people first; the words are often what stay with people. When you break all kinds of music down, whether it’s folk, country, R’n’B, rap, rock, pop, when you’re left with the raw material, a good song is a good song is a good song – groove, melody, lyrics – the main ingredients. On this album I’ve been influenced in equal measures by The BeeGees, Willie Nelson, Kendrick Lamar and Celine Dion…ish.”
Marlene’s hands-on approach to the practicalities of making her record has also extended to the booking of her opening acts, “I know that support gigs have hugely helped me over the past few months, they’re a chance to work on your set and the performance of it without having too much to loose whilst doing that since you’re not the reason that people are at the gig! I really hope to do a lot more over the coming months. I have some seriously cool people supporting me so I’m very lucky in fairness, it doesn’t seem fair to say I’m giving them a chance but rather they are augmenting my gig! – Caoilian Sherlock (White Horse & Whelans), Ailbhe Reddy (Coughlans), Emma Langford (Dolans), Brian Casey (Bantry).”
Like most independent musicians Marlene also has a ‘day job’, which is managing the gig side of The White Horse in Ballincollig, she says that job has informed her professionalism in playing, “I love my job, you meet so many people through the gigs at The White Horse. You gather a greater sense of what is valued by audiences, other bookers, other promoters and agents. I wouldn’t say its influence what I write about or how I write in any way, but what it does do though is allow you to gain a greater understanding and respect for other peoples’ roles in the music industry and to know what needs to happen to keep everyone ticking over and breaking even.”
Marlene Enright & Band play