Interview with MamaSongue / Camilla Grieshel

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A shorter version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-8-16, text under the photo of article

ECHO - TID - MamaSongue Camilla Grieshel.jpg

All the musical roads that Camilla Grieshel has travelled will connect at The Everyman Theatre when the Swedish born, West Cork based singer performs ‘Mamasongue’, which she premiered in Skibereen in April to a tremendous response. Camilla doesn’t consider it simply as a concert, “it isn’t just a setlist, it’s not about a song and applause, another song and more applause, it’s not about that at all. It’s about telling a story, a soundscape that goes through a conversation. Where you realise things about yourself based on my experiences. I share what I’ve learned through a lot of life, but it’s not my life story. It goes from childlike innocence to fear, exploration to adventure to pain; it’s all about finding balance. The show and the music is well rehearsed but it weaves and there is room for improvisation within the structure.”

Any artist who lived in West Cork over the last two decades would have known Fergus O’Farrell – the singer, songwriter, and lynchpin of Interference, who passed away in February 2016 – and Camila had a very close connection to him, “I’ve been in Schull for 15 years now, I moved here with my late husband, Colin Vearncombe [who had an international hit under the name of Black with ‘Wonderful Life in 1987. He died in January 2016 after a car accident en route to Cork Airport]. I met Fergus and the rest of the Interference people when we first got here, and then we started our own band called ‘Dog Tail Soup’ – Me, Colin, Fergus and Maurice Seezer – who plays piano and keyboards in Interference and is also very much part of MamaSongue as musical director. Other members of Interference who were also part of that set up included Paul Tiernan, Bertrand Gallen, and Marja Gaynor. Bertra and Marja both also play in The Swell Season with Glen Hansard, and they played on the album for ‘Once’. So it is one big family, with Colin and Fergal dying so close to each other the rest of us have bonded even closer together.”

Camila sees a clear defining line between her work singing with Interference now and Mamasongue, “they are separate projects, but I do sing some Interference songs in the MamaSongue concerts as well, as they are part of my life here in Ireland. MamaSongue is the name I’ve given to the language of being beyond words, it’s what we are all born with. Anyone will understand this concert, it’s powerful, the songs will connect, the emotion in there is what’s important, and we have that innately from childhood in our mother’s womb. My wish with this show is to connect even more people, I believe musicians really have an important part to play at the moment. The world is full of fear, and I’m bringing something towards that conversation, and that might make some sort of difference.”

There was no one set way for Camila to select songs to perform in ‘MamaSongue, “I’ve been collecting ideas and songs throughout the years, I’ve been singing in all these different places and the trips, styles, travelling and the different projects here, there and everywhere have all had an influence. Then sometimes someone recommends a song and ask me ‘have you heard this’, or I might just hear it on a soundtrack, it’s all about how it hits me if it makes me feel a lot of things! Then some of the material is original material, I’ve some great musicians alongside me who have brought songs to me, such as Niwel Tsumbu on guitar. We play one of his songs and it has become very much a part of the concept of the show. I also have Concord Knabinde on bass – he played with Colin and I when we toured in South Africa and we became great friends. We are joined by Eamon Cagney on percussion and Diego Joaquin Ramirez on drums, I chose the musicians very carefully, they all bring something to the group, everyone is contributing. So there’s a lot of things happening over the phone, over the internet, despite us not seeing each other as we all live in different places!”

There is also quite an age range between some of the songs played, “one of the songs is from my childhood, a Swedish song, which in fact my mother asked me to sing from her funeral, she died quite shortly after Colin died, that is the oldest song in the set. The newest song was written by Concord called ‘Mama’ – and it’s a homage to the mother. I can tell you when I first heard the song, all the men in the band were sitting around the kitchen table singing these beautiful harmonies and I walked in as I’d been away doing something else and they were rehearsing their vocals, “Mama… Oh, Mama”. I’m nearly in tears talking about it. It is gorgeous.”

Mamasongue shall be performed in The Everyman Theatre on Saturday 15 September, tickets available at www.everymancork.com

 

Interview with The Blizzards

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A version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-7-26

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Just 3 weeks short from the tenth anniversary of their best known single ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor’ being released, The Blizzards will be taking to the stage at Indiependence Festival in Mitchelstown. Dec, the band’s drummer, remembers their first appearance at the festival and marvels at how it has developed, “we played Indiependence for the first time in 2008, when it was still in the Square in Mitchelstown. You could already see then that Shane and the team had so much energy into making it something huge. It takes so much effort to get that kind of thing together and to keep it going. It’ll be brilliant to go back, it’s a phenomenal festival now, the set up is spectacular.”

The Blizzard’s first Irish gig after the band returned from their 6 year hiatus was to play at Indiependence in 2016, the sort of experience they’d missed while away from the stage, “we’d started to take those big gigs and festivals for granted, but when you’ve been away from them for a while you realise they are unbelievable days out. When you don’t have them you want them back, so now we’ve learned to enjoy the day, take everything in as it happens.”

While many bands break up acrimoniously and let ill feelings simmer, The Blizzard’s reformation didn’t need to be too dramatic, “there was no big huge reunion, we are all Mullingar mates, the best of mates in or out of the band. We’d all been in touch all the time and meeting out socially. We just had a conversation about where everyone was in their lives and we all wanted to get back into the rehearsal room and play a few songs. If it didn’t go well in the first few weeks we’d have just gone, ‘sure look it, we gave it a go, see ye later’. The focus was all about us just seeing if we enjoyed the music, not selling more records and stuff like that. We don’t need any of those things, we all have busy lives already, between families, careers and stuff like that. I love drumming, and being with the lads, so that’s what got me going.”

The band have whole new, less stressful, outlook on things happening for The Blizzards now, “in a way it felt less important this time, the reason we took the break in the first place was we’d put in a massive amount of effort – and money – into trying to break the UK Market, and it can be pretty deflating when it gets thrown back at you. Nobody did it to us personally, but the whole process was tough. Due to our various families, kids, and careers, now it means that doing this is just all about the music and enjoying the time we have.”

While Dec now runs several businesses, namely a nightclub in Mullingar, and a bar in Galway, when the band first finished he need to create an immediate income using the skills and equipment he already had, “straight away after we started an 80s cover band just to tide us over financially, but it wasn’t too long until me and Justin started a new original band!”

As a result of that experience, Dec sees a difference with how The Blizzards operate, “the writing dynamic was different in that band than what it was in The Blizzards, so we learned a lot which we brought to the table once we got back together. We all had a lot more to say about the new songs, and were more confident about getting our ideas across! It’s been very positive, the way we write has been much more different as well, we only have so much time to get together in person, we catch time when we can and send a lot of ideas over and back to each other on whatsapp, ‘will we try this chorus here’ and ‘do that that verse first’, stuff like that. Then Bressie has his studio up in Dublin so we go up there and record there.”

Dec considers their new songs as more developed than their previous albums, “it’s like an older brother of the first 2 albums, the music and lyric content is a bit more mature I think. There’s still a lot of three-piece harmonies, Feelgood Rock is what we do, we never claimed to be anything different. The songs show where we were in different stages over the last few years, we’re very proud of the new songs.”

While the music hasn’t changed, the music industry certainly has as Dec continued, “it’s a completely different landscape now, how you finance and promote yourselves, the music industry has titled 180 degrees since we started. It’s a different scene and market now, when we started hard copy CDs were the things to sell and social media was just coming out of Bebo and into a new thing called ‘Facebook’!”

The Blizzards play the main stage at Indiependence on Friday 3 August, full line up, stage times, and ticket details can be found at www.indiependencefestival.com

Interview with Clara Rose Thornton / Indiependence

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A version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-7-19

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As well as bands and DJs, Indiependence puts a lot of effort into their arts programming, particularly spoken word with both poetry and comedy always well represented on the bill. MCed by 96FM’s Darren Johnston, ‘The Little Big Room’ is home to this year’s spoken word programme and Saturday’s performers include Jinx Lennon, Karl Parkinson, Mike Cullen Aherne and the West Cork poetry collective, Scene Of The Rhyme, featuring David Mallaghan, Richard Brennan and David Haynes who will all make their first appearances at Indiependence. Sunday’s line-up includes Shakalak featuring John Cummins, a musical poetry collaboration, Spectuliv Fiktion, the winner of IndieCork’s 2017 music award, Cork poet Stan Nottee, and multi-poetry slam champion Clara Rose Thornton.

https://youtu.be/A_Ra0-x6yhI

While not originally from Ireland, Clara knows the Irish spoken word landscape well and has developed a fondness for performing in Cork, “I grew up in Chicago, and I’ve lived in many cities and countries since, such as New York, Oregon, Canada and Croatia, I’ve been in Ireland the last 5 years. I came here originally with a jazz poetry band but when they all decided to go their separate ways I said “lads, I’m gonna stay right here!” I’d always been obsessed with Ireland, I’ve an Irish grandparent on both sides, Galway on my Dad’s side and Antrim on my Mothers.”

Her decision to stay in Ireland created an impetus for her to push the various strands of her career – poetry, journalism and broadcasting – immediately, “I hit the ground running, doing lots of spoken word and lots of writing and getting very involved in the arts scene. I started going down to Cork very early on, I’d heard so much of the spoken word scene and activities there, particularly O’Bheal on Mondays in the Long Valley, organised by the wonderful man Paul Casey, an absolutely cool human being.”

With the experience of living in so many cities Clara picked up on the nuances of Cork very quickly, “I love coming to Cork, because the vibe is so different from Dublin. I came to Europe directly from New York, so I had that sort of aggressive ‘promote yourself’ American Big City attitude of ‘go go go’ ingrained in my brain. Dublin has a bit of that competitiveness but in Cork things are so much friendlier and laidback, it feels more of ‘what you go going on? I’d like to hear it. I’d love to come see you’ attitude. I go down regularly and become ensconced in the Cork Literary scene. I’ve made friends I meet before the shows and hang out with the other people, one of my favourite things actually is going to jazz shows on before I get the bus back to Dublin.”

Taking each place she goes to on it’s own merits feeds directly back into how Clara creates, “all my work, be it journalism, broadcast or poetry, is about a sense of culture, home and self. The history of an area and its identity politics really affects the specificities of its culture. I’m always aware of how people sees places or others through their own prejudices, fears and rivalries, which also affects what people think is possible for themselves. The work I do is connected to feminism, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, it’s all wrapped up in my fascination with culture and how human beings self-express.”

Self-expression and reflection is crucial for Clara, she has found her interest in travelling has a deeper meaning, “I am a mix of cultural influences, I’m a very proud African-American from Chicago, who has lived all over the Western World. I’m coming from a background where international travel wasn’t part of our toolset… we’re only 150 years out of slavery, only about 60 years of being able to vote in this country, we’re a community still rebuilding our sense of self. We’d no idea of people ‘taking a gap year’ or ‘spending time travelling’ in the way that white middle class Americans enjoy as a de facto opportunity, so it was odd for many people when I told them “I’m going to Croatia” or “I’m going to Paris”. I try to combine everything I’ve seen from humanity in all these cultures to inform my view of the world, and also my writing.”

While she has written since childhood, the intention to read her poetry to others and then move into actually performing it took longer to develop, “when I started writing it was always a case of ‘journalism for the world, and poetry purely for myself, for fun’ but then I ended up living in an artist colony, I started running a monthly poetry event there, I would open each show by reading my own poetry. It would be poetry read from the page, and while I had a rhythm to my thoughts I didn’t have a dynamic performance style, that only developed while I travelled around Europe with the band. I had been obsessed with the whole Beat Poetry, Bohemian scene from the 50s and 60s, and that’s how my identity as a spoken word artist formed, trying to do something innovative and cool by combining two things that I love, Jazz and Poetry.”


While spoken word clubs provide touring poets with an engaged audience, performing at a music festival is also something Clara relishes, “both types of audience have merits, both are equally important. I love the specific aspects of wandering around festivals because you get to discover so many different talents you’ve never heard of. If someone comes to see me or another poet at O Bheal, it’s probably because they are already aware of us  – they are a prepared in audience in a way, that’s wonderful and supports the scene and the craft – but the festival is a completely different vibe, people who’d never go to a poetry show in their lives stumble into one and they are amazed and start following it more and maybe even get inspired to write poetry themselves. I know after two decades of festival wandering some of the most amazing music and people that are still in my life today, I heard and met at those kind of events. That’s why I love the sense of possibility that comes at a festival atmosphere like Indiependence.”

The Indiependence Music & Arts Festival runs from Friday 3 to Sunday 5 August, tickets available at www.indiependencefestival.com.

Clara Rose Thornton performs on the Little Big Stage on Sunday 5 August.

 

Interview with Beardyman

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-7-19

Since coming to prominence by winning the 2006 UK Beatbox championships, and then in 2017 becoming the first person to retain it, Beardyman has driven himself to not just keep developing his sound but also how he delivers it; he has built a large international following using a combination of cutting edge technology and the myriad of sounds he can make with his voice.

Having played Cork on several occasions, in advance of his return to Cyprus Avenue, he explained what his brand new sound set up is and why he has replaced many years spent on his old system, “it’s not qualitivity different from my previous rig, but it is better and easier to use for me and it will sound F**king awesome, the tests so far have been wicked. The gig in Cyprus Avenue will be the public debut of it actually! I’ve completed abandoned developing my software (which had been called Beardytron 5000 MkII and was the subject of a TED Talk which has had over 3 millions views)which I’ve been doing for last 6/7 years, and instead over the last few months started with a completely new system based on different software, this time it’s lots and lots of third party programmes.”

He credits taking a break from touring with coming to the decision to change his equipment, “having kids gave me time to down tools and think, and I realised – perhaps out of sheer sleep deprivation! – that what I need is a system that I can update whenever I want to, whereas what I had was developers helping me on my own software, for me to make changes I had to first rigorously test the methodology in my head and make diagrams and interfaces and send it on to them, and there wasn’t much chance to iterate it. The new system is hugely complex because I seem to make whatever I do very complex, I like a huge degree of control. It’s an environment for composition and is tailored towards making dance music live, so it’s sort of made for the thing that I do, I can throw in loops and ideas then play with them, what you can do with Ableton, if you push it to its limits – is awesome. Now I can do things my last set-up couldn’t, I’m able to use different elements like samples, synths, or my voice.”

But as much as technology helps Beardyman’s set, he is very clear about his art’s foundation, “I’m still learning, still developing, still changing and the important thing to remember is that the equipment is not who I am, I am who I am. The equipment is just a tool to use to get my ideas and passion out into the world. So it doesn’t really matter what the equipment is, it just matters what I can do with it.”

In keeping with his urge to keep changing and furthering the presentation of his music, he doesn’t see his performances as just live recreations of his records, “my set changes all the time, with every phase in my life or what my day has been like, sometimes I’m in a silly mood and bring that into my set or something awful has happened in the world and I’ll a show with less frivolity and just focus on the music. It’s a capricious way of making art, where you hope whatever you do will sync with the audience, but I like to tailor what I’m doing with what I’m feeling and the crowd in front of me. Obviously if it’s a comedy festival, I know what I have to do then, but if it’s a music festival and I’m on in between two DJs I’m not gonna go on and start cracking in-jokes. If it’s an audience I feel I can do whatever I want with, that means it can veer wildly throughout the set. Like the master was Prince, and I think it is to be desired, to not be afraid to run the gamut of emotions, or a Hollywood movie and take the audience on a journey.”

While many touring artists profess a love of Irish audiences, Beardyman doesn’t measure crowds on geographical ground, “I think people are people, and it’s a simple as that – the only differences I find that cause  audiences to be different is the immediate situation they are in, what time of day it is, what day of the week it is, how pissed are they. Those are the dynamics that affect an audience, as opposed to where in the world we are.  What music they are into; what kind of people they are; where they lie on the psychological landscape, rather than what country they are from. Once people get on the dancefloor, they quickly forget about lines drawn on a map and instead start thinking about how good a time they are having… there are no passports for the dancefloor!”


Beardyman plays Cyprus Avenue on Friday 27 July, tickets available from www.cyprusavenue.ie.

 

Interviews Cork Midsummer Festival

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A version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-7-31,

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One of the Cork Midsummer festival’s most exciting and engaging strands is work set in ‘non-traditional venues’; while Corcadorca’s long history of large scale open air productions continues with ‘The Numbered’ in Fitzgerald Park, it is worth noting there are several other theatre and dance pieces to consider going to.

Lorraine Maye, the festival’s directer firmly believes these are a crucial element of the festival, “it’s really important that people in Cork expect the Midsummer Festival to be the time of year activities and events are coming up through the cracks in the city. For artists it’s an exciting context, being able to imagine creating work anywhere throughout the city. It’s fun and often exhilarating.”

Luke Murphy who has developed ‘Ex Caelo’, a roving dance piece, carries on Lorraine’s point, “there’s always such a great buzz in the city during the festival and I thought taking my show INTO that environment would be kind of exciting. I wanted to play with the audience’s proximity to the action and make it a living part of the show itself. Some people feel kidnapped  sitting passively in a theatre – trying to find new contexts for performance can be kind of like a jolt of electricity.”

Ronan Fitzgibbon – founder of BrokenCrow Theatre company and the writer/director of ‘Blackwater Babble’ – sees how off-site theatre needs to find a place in an overall programme “I think the Midsummer have been great at finding a balance over the last few years. Like, I’m weak for a play in a warehouse at midnight but they’re not for everyone and not for every play. I think it’s about being open to new ideas without becoming obsessed with novelty!”

His piece certainly has an organic reason to be staged in a pub, “it’s a story that started with a love of the pub singsong. We have a scribbler who spends forty summers traversing the Blackwater river, scribbling in a notebook in the corner of each pub he visits. We join him as he heads down the river with his younger self while they pick through the songs, fights, memories and obsessions that shaped his life – set against the changing face of the Irish pub.”

Another piece that also deals with someone interacting with themself is ‘The Man At The Door (Number 54) which is produced by Junk Ensemble in Sunbeam Bingo Hall. One of the ensemble’s members Jessica explained the concept of the piece, “it is about meeting your other self; your doppelganger; and how we might deal with that. One theory is that if you meet your doppelganger, only one of you can survive. Mirrors, shadows, alter egos and doubles (Megan and I are identical twins) are recurring themes in the piece, alongside the element of struggle and complicity with our different selves. Sometimes we allow a different self to emerge and sometimes we try to push it back inside of us. The piece is performed in a bingo hall – we will invite the audience to play the actual game throughout the show – and so the concept of playing out our lives as a game is played out through bingo. There are lots of tables and no stage in the hall (naturally!) so we’re considering the sightlines of the audience and all the interesting obstacles that the performers will navigate, which is equally challenging and exciting for us. It’s something that we love to do.”
Luke’s production also requires extra planning, “the piece happens in multiple locations in the city so each scene is very much built for the space its in. We have material that falls down a hill or a scene that uses the walls in a narrow alley, so the movement for the whole show is really relies on the architecture and terrain its placed in. What should be exciting is the accidental audience, we’ll be performing around the city, so outside of our eight ticketed people who know what’s going on, there’s also the chance for dozens of other people to stumble across scenes or watch things in passing.”

Lorraine is excited about the possibilites of people stumbling across events from the festival too., “it’s definitely true to say that every year there are people who encounter a Midsummer experience accidentally! I know from my own experiences and accidental encounters in other cities that these can be some of the most transformative experiences. Street theatre is also a brilliant way of giving visibility to the Festival and creating a great festive atmosphere on the streets.”


The idea of ‘building up the audience’ in Cork is a recurring theme at all times in the city’s art scene, Ronan senses that this is a great time to be trying these kind of events, “I think people might be tiring a little of convenience and hungering for experiences that are a bit more substantial. Sure Netflix is great but when people ask you what you did with your weekend you can say “I went to see music in a crypt… or dancing on the street or a singsong on a boat!” Obviously, I’d love people to come see our play but I think the most important thing to say is – go to something!”

Interview with The Magic Numbers

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-7-31, article under the photo of article.

TID - Magic Numbers - Echo

Since they formed in the early 2000s The Magic Numbers are always stuck to their own path; sure enough of themselves to be the first band to ever walk off Top Of The Pops when presenter Richard Bacon body-shamed them in his introduction. They quickly built up a dedicated fanbase with fans including Dermot O’Leary, Travis and Ed Harcourt Ed Harcourt Ed Harcourt; the band played a sold out show in The Forum – a two thousand capacity venue in London – before they had even released their self titled debut album in 2005, which went on to be nominated for a Mercury Music prize.

Their fifth album ‘Outsiders’ was released at the start of May and their harmonious rock sound hasn’t faltered; Angela Gannon – the bands keyboardist and vocalist, and sister of drummer Sean – explained how the album’s title resonates right back to how the band formed nearly 20 years ago, “Romeo (guitars, lead vocals) and Michele Stodart (bass, vocals) met us when they moved to Hanwell (close to Ealing in London) from New York. They were always seen as outsiders as the area was a really tight knit Irish community and anyone new got the ‘who are these guys?’ treatment. Sean & I had our own story in that community, as everyone knew our mum had passed away so young, so we weren’t ‘normal’ either. We sort of came together when the four of us all met, and the whole album sort of stems from that… being outsiders.”

Angela sees that mindset as a recurring theme in the band’s career, “when our first album came out our contemporaries weren’t like us at all, everyone else seemed to be spikey-indie-in-your-face and we were all about the harmonies and melodies. For some reason we’ve carried that throughout the rest of our albums – any time we release anything there’s not been someone doing something similar to us. We’ve done it again with this album, we kind of deliberately forgot everything we knew about the industry while we recorded the album, and said afterwards “we’ve done what we do, it sounds like it sounds, we wrote the songs and made them sound the way we want them.

Angela is adamant that her and Sean’s Irish heritage has had quite an impact on The Magic Numbers, “Romeo always says that it was our dad that taught him how to tune a guitar, and when Romeo came round he’d be playing all the instruments that were in our house – he seeped up a lot of our Irishness in a way. Even the last song on the new album ‘Sing Me A Rebel Song’ is built on a phrase that our Dad used to say to Romeo at sing-songs, Romeo never knew what it meant but if you are Irish you do! He wrote that song with my dad ringing in his ears.”

Judging by social media ‘Sing Me A Rebel Song’ has already become a fan favourite, and that’s something Angela has noticed in the few weeks ‘Outsiders’ has been released, “every song is a single these days, people don’t listen to albums anymore – or not in the same way people used to anyway. We put out ‘Sweet Divide’ as a taster for the album before it came out, and then ‘Ride Against The Wind’ came out but now that the album is released different songs are connecting to different people and things.”

Social media is something that the band have been very hands on about, Angela jokes that it takes up more of the band’s time than making music does, “I’d say 80% of our time is social media at the moment! I don’t mind it though, but we need to be on it constantly right now. That’s the thing now, people want to see it, they want to be engaged into looking more for music. It’s madness really, a lot of people don’t listen to the radio anymore, they just stream stuff – so if they see names coming up again and again on social media they are more likely to check it out on Spotify, Youtube or whatever.”


Angela and the band are particularly looking forward to returning to Cork, “we’ve played Ireland and Cork loads, the first venue we played was the Opera House and that was before I became good friends with some people from Cork -we were housemates in London for years. Since then we’ve played The Half Moon and The Pavilion, I’m looking forward to seeing Cyprus Avenue too.”

The band like to tweak each set they play, “we played Bristol at the start of this tour and we played a Portishead song, then on International Goth Day – May 22 –  we played ‘Forest’ by the Cure, so who knows what we’ll do for the Cork gig! We always throw in a cover to keep us on our toes and mix it up a bit, there’ll be older songs and plenty from this new album too.”

The Magic Numbers play Cyprus Avenue on Friday 8 June, tickets available from Old Oak or http://www.cyprusavenue.ie

 

Interview with Beoga

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A shorter version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-2-15, text under the photo of article.

TID - Echo - Beoga

Formed in Antrim and working together as a band for over 15 years Beoga have been lauded for each of their 5 studio albums, with each one furthering the group’s development while still rooting themselves in Irish Traditional music. Their 2009 album ‘The Incident’ was nominated for a Grammy and they were described as “the most exciting traditional band to emerge from Ireland this century” by the Wall Street Journal. All that success went into overdrive when Ed Sheehan invited them to rework one of their tracks ‘Minute 5’ as the foundation for his song ‘Galway Girl’, which has gone onto have over 550 million plays on Spotify and over 348 million plays on Youtube.

Eamon Murray, the band’s bodhran player and percussionist, took a break from recording their next album to bring us up to speed, “on the back of working with Ed we signed a record deal with B-Unique records. When you are working with a label while everyone involved wants to make something that is true to the audience, it also needs to be something a lot of people will hear. There’s no point making something that people won’t listen to, you can do that on your own time. We are writing with an endgame, and that’s to bring what we do to a wider audience – Irish music is very much left in the corner of the pub sometimes, the challenge for us to try and break through that notion. It’s been very interesting, and this record will feature different musicians and artists on different tracks, with us being the only 5 people on all of them.”


Part of this process has led to Beoga working with producers for the first time, an experience Eamon has found compelling, “usually it’s been the five of us sitting around and firing ideas at each other, but this has been a new way of working. Foy Vance, Johnny McDaid (of Snow Patrol) and others involved would be from the ‘Pop World’ and have a different background to us. They assemble music in a completely different way to what we are used to. They don’t have the trappings of trad where things can fall into a pattern, that ‘start slow end fast’ pattern.”

As well as giving new techniques a chance, they have also started experimenting with new instruments, as Eamon continued “we’ve been exploring the sounds that the five of us can make, I’ve been trying different drum pads and electronics as well as my normal Bódrahn and percussion instruments. Similarly Sean óg has been playing around with guitar pedals – in fact, they all have been trying different pedals! It’s been experimenting with what we can do ourselves, way more than we’ve ever done before. I think when you do things without any external influence you can slip back into what you are most comfortable with, so this process has definitely pushed us out to new pastures.”

While working with Ed Sheeran on recordings – as well as joining him for his Glastonbury headline set – has put Beoga firmly in the limelight, Eamon doesn’t think that is the only reason the band have tried dabbling in the ‘pop world’, “we’ve had the perfect storm, we’ve always been developing and Beoga has never been scared to try new things, if there’s something out there we do like we’ll give it a try. In that regard it’s a pretty good fit for us, we’d be considered on the more Avant Garde end of things, we aren’t afraid to fuse – even though I hate that word! – traditional music with other styles and see where it’ll go!”

Their willingness to collaborate has led to interesting projects, not just aimed at commercial success, Beoga have also performed with full orchestras on several occasions, “our music also lends itself to the orchestral side of things, obviously a completely different type of gig compared to Ed Sheeran, but we fit into that as well. Everyone in the group has a particular standard of musicianship and we weren’t afraid to take that challenge on, like to play with the RTE concert orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra in a space of a couple of months. We’ve kept the charts [music notated onto paper] of the songs so we can revisit it again if the opportunity arises.”


Not being a genre-specific band drives Eamon, “I’d love us to be a kind of band working in several styles, nobody bats an eyelid when Bjork does something like that – not that I’m comparing Beoga to Bjork! – but she can release whatever type of record she wants or put on a particular kind of concert and people will know there’ll be a high standard of quality even if they don’t know in advance exactly what they’re going to see!”

Cork audiences will get the chance to see where Beoga are right now when they play Cyprus Avenue on Thursday 3 May, “I love Cork, it’s genuinely one of the very few places in Ireland that I would happily live, I was down just before Christmas for John Spillane’s annual Christmas Concert, my wife Pauline [Scanlon] was singing with him. We hop down to Cork and hang out a lot, call to The English Market and all that. We’ve had great gigs in the past in The Pavilion and down in De Barras in Clonakilty, this will be our first gig in Cyprus Avenue and we are looking forward to it.”

And perhaps Beoga might reappear in Cork a few times during the weekend as well… You heard it here first.

Beoga and Niall McCabe play Cypress Avenue on Thursday 3 May, tickets available at The Old Oak or www.cyprusavenue.ie

Interview with Cork Art Theatre’s 10×10

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

First published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-4-17

Returning for a 4th year the ‘Views From A…’ series of new theatre writing runs in The Cork Arts Theatre during the first week of May. James Horgan, the organiser of the event explained the structure of the mini-festival, “every year we hold two ‘short play events’, ie ten plays of ten-minute duration. The Autumn programme started in 2010 where writers are free to write for any setting they wish. In 2015 we started a sister project for Spring, the “Views From A…” series, again it’s a short play event but the difference is that writers have to write for a specific setting. The various settings over the years have been: Bench, Hill, Balcony and, this year, Bar Stool.”

When James put out the open call for writers to send in scripts he didn’t anticipate so many participants, “we were absolutely thrilled with the level of interest shown by writers in this year, we had a record amount of 63 submissions from all over Ireland and a number of entries from the US. Each playwright rose to the challenge of creating short plays that take place entirely in a bar setting. Of the 10 plays selected for production, 6 are by local Cork writers, 3 from the rest of Ireland and 1 from the US. At my most recent count we have 10 directors, 34 actors and 4 crew, and when you add the staff at Cork Arts Theatre, there are over 50 people involved with ‘Views From A Bar Stool.

Many of the writers from this year’s series found the mandatory setting quite an inspiration, Alex Herlihy, whose play ‘Antiretro’ is built around two men meeting up to talk about their brief relationship, used it as a sort of safety net for one of the characters, “my piece connects to the theme in that Cillian wants to talk to Dillon in a public place – and there’s no better place than a favourite bar, overseen by a stern barman, Daly, who imparts his own reality checks and home truths to the pair.”

Others use the physical pub itself as part of the plot such as Michelle Maher with ‘Parting Gifts’, where the owner of the bar has died and her son Steven and his Aunt Marie try to heal old wounds and salvage their relationship. Michelle considers the setting as a useful tool for framing Steven’s mindset, “I’ve been writing for the last seven years for both radio and stage, including plays centring around mental health. I look at someone who has suffered a significant loss in his life and the barstool which keeps him grounded in a pub.”


Jessica Murphy put her own twist on the theme by setting her play ‘Free’ in a pub where a couple recounts a previous dramatic incident that occurred, “my piece explores the dynamic of the relationship of a young couple with a dark secret in their past. We see how it impacts their lives in the present day, and how they try to move forward from it. One of the characters owns the bar in which the event occurred. I like to explore relationship dynamics in my writing, which was a starting point for this story.

Laura Reidy, who has recently moved into writing alongside her more established writing career, explained what inspired her play, “I had previously filmed a scene with Claudia Carroll, where two women go head to head after an affair is revealed. We received such positive feedback from it on social media, we decided we wanted to do a sequel. I knew it would be set in a bar, so, when I learned this year’s theme, I saw it as perfect timing and a perfect fit. In my piece ‘Karma’, Sarah has had an affair with Tara’s boyfriend John. Tara has come to confront her and decide in what way karma should play out for Sarah.”

Laura is very much looking forward to her writing debut at ‘Views From A Bar Stool’, “I have performed in the Cork Arts Theatre before, so I am very excited to be part of it this year. I have always gone to see shows in the 10x10s, but this will be my first time getting involved.”

Jessica has been part of the Spring series before and raves about the opportunity and its place in the Cork theatre scene, “my first short piece, ‘Water’, featured in ‘Views From A… Balcony’ in 2016. The 10×10 is a really wonderful platform for local writers to showcase their work and to start on a smaller platform to work towards larger productions. It’s been a great experience on both occasions.”

Alex picks up on the point of working towards larger productions, “mine is actually an extract from a larger play I have written (of the same name) that is currently in the developmental stages. ‘Views From A Bar Stool’ is a way for the piece to get its first exposure and see how an audience will react to it. If all goes well, the plan is to continue working on it with the aim of the play getting a full-scale production in the future.”

Views from a  Bar Stool’ runs from Tuesday 1 to Saturday 5 May, tickets are €13 and €10 concessions. Tickets can be booked at the box office, on 021 450 5624 or www.corkartstheatre.com.

Interview with Dakota Mick / Cork Walking Tour

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A shorter version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-2-15, text under the photo of the article.

Echo - Dakota Mick

Enniskeane resident Michael O’Connor, better known by his stand up comedy name ‘Dakota Mick’, has undertaken a serious task to walk 326 miles around the outskirts of Cork County this month and perform comedy gigs along the way, all to raise money for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin.

While already nicknamed by some as ‘de Cork Camino’, he refers to it as his ‘Roundabout Tour’, “the idea has been in my head for a while and just before Christmas the job I was working finished up. So thought I would try to do something positive before finding another job. I’ve been working for years and thought it would be nice to do something interesting before plunging back into the rat race.”

His choice of cause was a straightforward one, “my eldest daughter is 15 years old, and has been a patient at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin since she was 6. While by their standards she is one of the relatively easier cases, but it still requires a visit roughly once a month. We have always been so grateful for the care she has received. Obviously, Crumlin is an old building and you see that when you are there, but the staff have always in my opinion been top class, in my eyes they perform miracles on a daily basis. It’s a vocation that I am not a good enough person to be able to do. I am so grateful and in awe of the staff there.”


The trail started in Youghal on April 1st, and Mick has relished it so far “of all the days to start, April Fools Day! People have been so supportive, even though I’d mentally prepared to be sleeping in a tent every night, people have been giving me accomodation – Greywood Arts in Killeagh hosted me the first night for instance. It was only on the fourth night that I actually had to use the tent.”

It’s not just accomodation he has received as support, “many people and local businesses have shown support by giving me lunches and dinners as well as sharing what I’m up to on social media – but of course the main thing has been people donating directly to the cause, every contribution is very appreciated”.

While travelling, Mick’s main way to keep people informed is via his facebook page, “people can follow my route and progress on that, but basically, I am trying to walk the edges of Cork County. I have a schedule that I will try to stay to but the main goal is to finish no matter how long it takes. I want to overall average about 12 miles a day. I’ll just keep moving and enjoy Cork at a walking pace, I’ve spent 17 years here and it has been always at the rat race pace. I have cheated a little bit already though, I did get a lift for part of the journey… the ferry from Cobh to Passage!”

 

While the reason Mick moved to Cork is straightforward his nickname was more complicated, “I met my wife when we were both in Hawaii, and she dragged me back to her home of Cork about 17 years ago. I was drinking in the local pub and the regulars asked what my name was, so I told them Michael O’Connor, and they started calling me Mick. I tried telling them I usually go by Mike, but they said “you are in Ireland now so it is Mick”. But of course I couldn’t be just Mick because Mick Murphy was Mick. And I couldn’t be ‘Mick the Yank’ because they already had one of those so I couldn’t be him. So finally they settled on ’Dakota Mick’ when they found out I’m from South Dakota.”


Mick’s experience of being a US Marine before he moved to Ireland has helped prepare him for this task, “I have several changes of clothes, wet weather gear, a tent, sleeping bag, fruit and granola bars, a small radio, hat and gloves and what feels like a kitchen sink somewhere! I think the military training has already started kicking in. Obviously I am not in the shape I used to be in the 90’s when I was a young Marine, but on day 3 when miles 8 through 11 were really hurting and I found I could get back into my head and shut it off and just keep the body moving like I used to be able to do. Kind of nice to find that again, I might be relying on that a lot!”

Mick was planning on using the time spent walking productively, “I think it will give me time to write comedy but to be honest I have spent these first days thinking ‘What the hell was I thinking!’ There have been a few gigs already organised and hopefully more will come together. I will be joined by other local comedians such as Anthony Riordan, Denis Len, Anthony Galvin and Roger O’Sullivan with more to be confirmed. They are all donating their talents, time and cost of getting to the shows, so very kind of them. Assuming I’m still alive, the last gig of the whole tour will be on Thursday 3 May in The Briar Rose in Douglas.”

For details on how to contribute, get involved, follow his video updates or for further gig information go to www.dakotamick.me which links to his facebook page.

Interview with Marlene Enright

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A shorter version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-2-15, article under the photo of article

 

TID - Echo - Marlene Enright 2018-2-15

 

With previous winners including The Divine Comedy, The Gloaming, Rusangano Family and Jape, The Choice Music Prize has developed into a serious award of note in Ireland. Given to the Irish Record Of The Year, as chosen by a panel of leading Irish media figures, the winner receives a substantial cash prize – this year €10,000 will go to the award winner provided by The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA); Prominent shop placements in all the Golden Discs shop around Ireland; and direct exposure to influential overseas music industry executives who are flown into the event courtesy of Culture Ireland

Two Cork based acts have been nominated on the ten album 2017 shortlist, Talos’s ‘Wild Alee’ and Marlene Enright with ‘Placemats and Second Cuts’. She has already noticed an impact, “it has certainly raised awareness about the album. I’m really delighted! It’s a lovely thing to see your name amongst the other artists that were shortlisted, and coming out of a longlist of so many great Irish albums. It’s an honour and I’m very grateful. There is a sense of achievement that the album got nominated, not just for me but for all the musicians involved too – they all contributed so much to this album and it feels like a little pat on all of our backs!”While this is Marlene’s debut solo album, she released several records with The Hard Ground, while not consciously trying to change style she has noted a difference, “when I wrote this album I definitely wasn’t trying to make it a certain type of album, I just wrote what came out and produced it in a way that felt natural to me. I think you know in your gut when something doesn’t feel or sound right to you and I wanted to make it sound as much like me as possible, warts and all. I don’t really know how to write without being personal. Songs that I wrote with The Hard Ground were personal but I think I protected the sentiment of them by muddying the lyrics, I suppose I was afraid of being too honest or literal. My Mom always said to me nobody knew what I was talking about! It’s something that happens as your grow older I think, you gain confidence in your writing, you learn to be more honest with yourself and you start to develop a style. It isn’t always easy to take that from your head to the page and I guess that’s where the craft of songwriting comes in, you learn to find ways of saying something without explicitly saying it, all the while staying true to the sentiment and the emotional bedrock of the song. Sometimes only you will know what a song is really about but I’ve learned listeners can still relate to it as long as the sentiment is exposed. I’m still working on that.”

She credits the musicians on the album with shaping the sound of the record itself, “Davie Ryan played drums on the album but also was hugely involved in the production and arrangement side of things. Davie has a really unique sound as a drummer and is also very sensitive to the song and what the writer is looking for. I’m not great at articulating what sounds I like but I know what I like when I hear it and Davie was great in studio as he always knew how to achieve what was best for the song. We know each other a long time, he shared a lot of the stresses along the way too and was a great support. Hugh Dillon is a good friend who also played on both The Hard Ground albums so it was a natural thing that I would have asked him to play on this album. He can play anything on the guitar and again, is another great person to have in studio. I met Eoin Walsh through Davie and this was my first project working with him on. He was playing a lot with Davie at the time in various projects and I asked if he would play on the album. He’s a superstar on bass, such a talented player and a great guy.”

After putting together her accompanists, the next decision was what recording process she wanted to pursue, “I approached Brendan Fennessy about recording the bulk of it as I wanted to record it at home and I knew he had a mobile recording set up. It worked out really well and made for a very relaxed recording experience! Brendan is a legend and I loved working with him. Christian Best mixed the whole album and worked on post-production. He also recorded two of the songs. It goes without saying that Christian is such a pro, he knew exactly what I was going for sonically and positioned everything to give the album a lovely sense of space. He’s another legend and great at his job. I asked Philip Shaw Bova to master the album. Philip is based in Ottowa in Canada and had previously worked on Feist’s ‘Metal’ album, one of my favourite albums. He kept it all sounding very natural and I think did a great job. Cormac McCarthy and Paul Dunlea both did brass arrangements for two of the songs on the album, both such talented guys. John O’Connor and Roy Kelleher both contributed their talents on baritone sax and trumpet!”

While Marlene already has a busy diary but isn’t resting on her laurels though, “I’m looking forward to the awards night. I have a few things in the pipeline for the next few months, some nice gigs and I also have some collaborations planned. I just want to spend as much time as I can writing and seeing what comes out of me for the next few months! There’s still plenty to work on with the ‘Placemats and Second Cuts’ album. I won’t be releasing another album this year, but I won’t leave it too long either. Writing and recording is my favourite part of the whole process, hearing the songs come to life, so I know I’ll want to get back to it soon enough!”

The Choice Music Prize will be broadcast live, with performances from all the shortlisted bands, from Vicar Street on 4 Hour Radio special Radio 2FM on Thursday 8th March 2018.

Marlene’s next few gigs include Friday 2 March Connolly Of Leap, with guest Stephen James Smith and Thursday 29 March  in The inkwell Arts Centre, Minane Bridge as double bill with Jack O’Rourke.