Interview with Gemma Sugre / Niall McCabe / Stevie G – Soul In The City / Live at Saint Lukes

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-05-25

Niall McCabe [playing Saturday 3 June at 7pm in Gallaghers, MacCurtain Street and 10.30pm in Sin E, Coburg Street and Sunday 4 June as part of Karen Underwood’s Soul Review in Live At Saint Lukes] feels Soul is more than just a particular sound, “when I think about ‘Soul’ in music I don’t necessarily see it as a genre as much as a quality that the music is in possession of. For me, the ‘Soul is in the music’ as opposed to ‘music being in the Soul category’ if you know what I mean. I think that’s how Irish people connect with Soul music, as Irish people and Irish music is imbued with so much of it. There’s a lot of soul in an Irish slow air on the fiddle, just as there’s a lot of soul in Luke Kelly’s singing. There’s more to it than just being a pretty tune or a clever lyric…it’s from the
heart.”

Gemma Sugre [also singing at Karen Underwood’s Soul Review Live At Saint Lukes] agrees with Niall about Ireland’s soulful connection, “Yes! my favourite Irish film is ‘The Commitments’, a film about a group of young Irish musicians who fall in love with Soul music! We’re a musical nation and I think Soul music helps us express that depth effectively. When Soul music is at it’s best, it’s creative, visceral, unapologetic, spontaneous and honest. These are all traits I strive to possess and demonstrate in my own life and it’s those qualities that make soul music so much fun to perform and appreciate!”

The importance of how music is delivered is a point Niall elaborated on, “soul music is all about performance. It’s a real moment of wild energy or subtle tension where the musician possesses the feeling and does their best to honestly express it. You can take a piece by Bach and feed the notes into a computer and still get a sense of the genius and beauty of the music, but if you try something similar with a classic soul hit it just sounds silly…it only makes sense when performed – preferably live – and that’s a big part of it’s appeal to me.”
There are 10 different premises in the MacCurtain Street, Bridge Street and Coburg Street area hosting over 20 gigs over the course of the weekend. Having so many of the Cork’s Victorian Quarter’s business community stands out to Stevie G [Friday 2 June at 9pm in Cask, MacCurtain Street and 1pm in Gourmet Burger on Bridge Street on Sunday 4 June], “street festivals are great and we need more. It’s a good idea to be focusing on a specific area with lots of great venues and a great history.”

Gemma is also excited for such a localised festival to be developing, “it’s so brilliant to see the businesses get together and make something like ‘Soul In The City’ happen. Soul, like gospel music, is about bringing communities together and it’s music that speaks to us all.”

There can be some comparisons made between the economic landscape of independent musicians and small businesses, as Niall explained, “the deconstruction of the classic model of the music industry has forced musicians to find new ways to build audiences for themselves. People have been working from the ground up and creating networks of small communities from which to build on – I imagine it has been the same for small businesses since the end of the last recession. That’s the kind of grass roots networking that comes with ‘Soul In The City’ and people pooling their resources can only be a good thing for the city in the long term and serve as stepping stone towards bigger and more sustainable futures.”

Speaking of trying new ideas, Niall and his band were busy in The Victorian Quarter last November, “we recorded our new album just around the corner from where all the festival gigs are happening – in the Village Hall on Patrick’s Quay. It’s a vintage clothing and furniture store and it certainly has plenty of soul! We wanted to do it in front of a live audience and it took place over two evenings in November, it was more like an attended recording session than a normal concert and those attending got to experience what a real recording session is like, they heard various versions of the same song, and get to be there when the final album version was done.  I’ll be trying my best to slip in a few songs off the album into my sets but one thing I can guarantee…it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

Soul In The City runs from Friday 2 to Sunday 4 June, go to www.soulinthecitycork.ie for the full timetable of the festival.

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