Interview with Laoise

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A shorter version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-2-22, article under the photo of article

TID - Echo Article - Laoise - 2018-2-22

Lauded by several media outlets such as The Line Of Best Fit, played regularly on Irish national radio, and added to Spotify’s influential ‘New Pop Revolution’ playlist, Galway native Laoise built up a huge momentum in 2017. She intends to build on it during 2018 starting with the release of her latest single ‘Bother’, which came out on 7 February.

Chosen by RTÉ 2FM Radio as one of their 12 ‘Rising Artists of 2018’, she is not letting it go to her head, “I’m making sure to keep checking in with my family and friends, continuing to be my normal self as much as I can, to not let that stuff define me. Of course, to get any recognition is always nice, and that ‘Rising’ list is so insane, the other artists on it are so amazing. It’s an honour and that pushes me more as an artist, to experiment and to see how much further I can develop. Rather than thinking “I’m great now so!”, I’m interpreting it as a challenge.” 

Laoise doesn’t think she works in a vacuum, and she credits this country and her musical peers as some of the reasons she has developed, “Ireland has been so good to me as I’ve released music. I don’t know if it would be the same in any other country, the Irish are just so supportive. We have a level where the humility is still there with people, we always feel like we can still learn from someone else. Irish artists such as Ailbhe Reddy and Maria Kelly are great friends of mine, their support has always been there. I think Ireland is a good place to be in the industry.”

Her musical journey started well away from studios and electronic equipment, “I started writing when I was 15, before that I had been playing trad session with the fiddle. Sitting in on those sessions helped me realise how important songs are, when we’d take a break in between tunes someone would sing a song and I’d always feel it was so magical. I started writing because I was so inspired by people singing their own material. The songs I wrote started off pretty folky because of that background and it wasn’t until I met Sean Behan that I moved on from that. We started working together and he began to produce my songs, they became electronic but it was very natural change.”

While she develops her recordings with Sean, the material normally comes from a solitary place, “I usually write on my own on piano or guitar and then I bring it to Sean and we work on it together. As I’ve got older and become a woman – when I started writing I was really a girl – my music has been focused on aspects of my life that I found difficult or empowering.”

The immersive atmosphere of traditional music has an impact on every musician to come from that background, but Laoise isn’t forcing herself into any creative corners, “I don’t consciously try to forget my trad background when I’m writing and recording, and it also wasn’t the only stuff I listened to growing up. I had an older sister who introduced me to acts like Imogen Heap, Stevie Nicks, Joan Baez. I’ve listened to songs and lyrics all the time, my father loved explaining the background of songs to me, I’d really listen closely to them after that. While there are bits of Sean Nós inspired singing on some of my songs, I don’t try to push it one way or the other, if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. I guess I’ve been introduced to so much music that it is bound to show up in what I do.”

Recently her song ‘Rich’ was featured on an episode of RTE’s ‘Striking Out’ which features Amy Huberman, and Laoise noted an immediate impact, “there was a bump in Spotify and Twitter after people heard it, people were contacting me saying ‘I just heard you on the telly!’, and even just watching it myself was crazy.”

Social media interaction is something Laoise relishes, and she has used it to test merchandise ideas, “I’d never really used Twitter until the last year, it’s really fun and a good way to make new relationships with fans, to hear them talking back is so nice, and when they are saying nice things it’s very nice! It helps me get my music heard, and it wasn’t for that I don’t know where I’d be. I like to post some of my merch ideas to see what people think of this or that idea. With merch specifically, you don’t want to make stuff that people don’t like or want to buy, you want it be something they’ll enjoy and use.”

A lot of her fans requested the chance to buy some of her lyrics written in ink, which Laoise will enjoy producing, “the option of handwritten lyrics is something that a lot of people went for, I think people want to have a physical connection, it’s sentimental. It’s coming straight from the artist and it looks just like when it was first written down, you can’t get much closer than that! My father was super sure I learned how to write clearly when I was younger, and I’m glad he was because I weirdly love using my penmanship now. I started doing calligraphy when I was about 8 or 9, and I love it. Even that is an art.”

Laoise will be opening for Wyvern Lingo when they play Live At Saint Lukes on Sat 3 March. Tickets available via uticket.ie

Interview with Clare O’Mahony

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

A shorter version of this was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2018-2-8, article under the photo of article

TID - Echo Article - Clare O'Mahony Joni

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Ballygarven raised Clare O’Mahony has forged her own solo music career for nearly 2 decades, bringing her original songs to Irish and International audiences via both extensive touring and television appearances. Recently she has developed a new element to her musical performances –  a night entirely of the songs of Joni Mitchell, which will be this year’s Valentines Day concert in The Everyman Theatre.

While Clare had learned piano as a child, she had drifted away from musicianship until reconnecting again with it in college, in some ways she interconnects her guitar playing with Joni, “I used to listen to Joni Mitchell when I started learning to play the guitar when I was around 19. ‘Blue’ was the first Joni album I heard and I was mesmerized by it, I couldn’t stop listening. I used to practice singing the songs before I learned to play them as they are pretty challenging.”

Despite that album being Clare’s first connection to Joni Mitchell, it is a song from Joni’s 1982 album ‘Wild Things Runs Fast’ that she picks as her favourite, “I love playing ‘Chinese Café’. Probably because of all the movement in it, also the use of ‘Unchained Melody’ throughout the song is just so clever.  I love the reminiscence of it and the tinge of regret – it references Joni’s daughter as well, “my child’s a stranger, I bore her, but I could not raise her”, whom she had and gave up for adoption due to circumstances she was in.”

Trying to programme a concert of someone else’s songs was quite a challenge for Clare, which she wasn’t afraid to get some extra input on, “I picked some of my favourite songs to play and rehearsed them together to see if that would work.  It’s not chronological.  The set was put together more by listening to what I felt would work as a show of her songs.  Pat Conway from Lobby Promotions took a look at the set list too, and his input was taken into account until we came up with a set that we think works best.”

Clare is very motivated with the idea of taking on Joni’s catalogue, “I see it as a great challenge to play a concert of her work. Also, no one else really does it, you can go to a venue or pub any night and hear Dylan, Leonard Cohen and other artists from her era. but you never really hear Joni Mitchell. I think that is such a shame, partly because it’s so challenging musically.  I’m certain there are loads of Joni Mitchell fans out there who’d love to hear her stuff played live.”

She did a test run of the idea to make sure it was ready before they booked out a larger venue, “we played the show in Coughlan’s in summer of 2017 and it went really well. It sold out really quickly and we were delighted with it.  My ultimate intention for the show was always to bring it to a theatre setting.  The atmosphere created in a theatre like The Everyman will allow just that – the material to breathe.  It allows for the intricacies of her music and songwriting to be shown off and the audience will really get to experience that in the Everyman setting and to witness it undistracted.  They will be witnessing something special because of the material and setting.
Obviously the date of ‘February 14th’ can be quite a loaded one, but Clare is adamant that while romance will be a major component of the night it won’t be just a ‘date night’ event, “a lot of Joni’s songs are borne out of relationships one way or another, songs like ‘River’, ‘A Case Of You’, and ‘My Old Man’ all have romantic elements to them.  I think for anyone attending the show as a date, it will be just right.  BUT… anyone thinking that they shouldn’t go because it’s Valentine’s night – think again! It’s a concert, essentially, so couples, friends and singles are all welcome – who knows, you might glance at someone from across the auditorium while listening…”

Clare has put together a very high standard of band to do justice to Joni’s material, “I love the band I’ve got, they are all super musicians.  Most of the band have attended Colaist Stiofan Naofa, as I did, except Niall and Bart, whom I found through a different route; on keyboards I’ve Sarah Power, also working as Musical she plays all the time with Stephanie Rainey; Peter Piggot on electric and acoustic guitar, I’ve been working with him since 2014 on both my own original material and this project; Niall Dennehy on drums, who is full time with The Art Crimes Band as well as a session player with people like One Horse Pony, Jack O Rourke, The Darktown Strutters and Lynda Cullen; Bart Kondrat on Bass, in 2015 he won the TG4 Irish television music show competition ‘Busker Abú’ with the band Mahoo; then on back vocals we have Jennifer Clarke, who is based in UK now and set release her own latest single ‘I Remember You’ but coming back for this; Carol-Ann McKenna, who has sang in National Concert Hall in concerts as varied ‘Carols by Candlelight’ and Cerys Matthews, and Lee-Jane Eastwood, who has performed at The Everyman Theatre and Cork Opera House in productions such as ‘Sound of Music’, ‘Der Vampyr’ and ‘Orpheus’.

Clare O’Mahony and her band play the Songs Of Joni Mitchell in The Everyman Theatre on MacCurtain Street on Wednesday 14 February. Tickets are €25 and available at their box office, www.everymancork.com or 021 450 1673

Interview With Keith Barry

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-12-14

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While Keith Barry cemented his place as Ireland’s most prominent mentalist, hypnotist and magician many years ago; he has continued to make his name on an international level, he has been a regular guest on the Ellen Show, featured as the resident Magician on the UK, US and Australian versions of the TV show ‘You’re Back In The Room’ and his TED talk from 2004 is still one of their most watched videos of all-time with over 13 million views on the website alone.

While bands can fill their set with the songs that made them famous Keith Barry doesn’t have that luxury “there’s no option of doing the ‘greatest hits’, I change my show every single year and they are usually around 3 hours long. Every show has to be completely different so in my 15 years or so in the industry I’ve created 45 hours of material, and this year is no different so it’ll be all brand new material, but I love that part of it.”

At the time of the interview Keith was moving from the preproduction stage into the intensive rehearsals with his staff for his latest show ‘Keith Barry’s Magic MadHouse’, “Jose, my assistant, flies in from Spain; Joe Cleere, my audio visual guy comes down from Carlow, Eamonn, my manager, and I go into the rehearsal room, and we don’t really come out till it’s finished, we rehearse, we get pizza delivered to eat, and we sleep – that’s it. 20 hours a day till it’s done. I take all the post it notes I’ve been putting on my wall; the props I’ve been trying things out around my office; and the ideas I’ve been thinking about and then turn it into a show. Then then I look at it all again with a directorial head and make sure there’s an arc and finalise transitions, sound cues etc. Normally my show’s title gives me a theme for the show, and I normally have a meet and greet with each audience after I perform and the feedback I kept getting recently was people wanted to see more magic, which I haven’t really done in ten years, so this show is mostly visual comedy magic. So there will be crazy illusions one minute, escape tricks the next and then brain hacking experiments. There’ll be new things all the time, it will be mental – which is why it’s called The Madhouse.”


One element of the show have had to specifically built for Keith such as “for a crazy escape at the end of the show I’ve had a one-of-a-kind metal strait jacket made for me, it’ll have padlocks, chains and handcuffs, to my knowledge there’s never been a metal straitjacket. I’ll be letting the audience examine everything before I put it on. They’ll have their hands on the jacket and padlocks etc and they’ll be the ones locking me into it. Then I’ll have a perspex box padlocked to that and it’ll be around my head, like the Radiohead video for ‘No Surprises’. That will get filled with water, don’t forget the audience will be able to see me the whole time, and I’ll have to escape before I pass out or drown.”

The degree of danger involved with such a trick isn’t lost on Keith, “You can see videos online of tricks going tragically wrong for magicians, there is always that chance, there’s loads of accidents. People love that drama, but I’m not stupid – I don’t have a deathwish. I’ll have safety aspects in play but for instance this perspex box took two weeks to cure, it’s bulletproof so the lads can’t just use a hammer to crack it open if things go wrong.

While that perspex box has been constructed Keith still hasn’t got his hands on it, “it’s still in transit, and once it arrives in Ireland Customs will probably want to have good look at it too. So over Christmas when most people are playing with their kids mine will be getting pots of water and throwing them in over my head while I test the thing!”

Trying to work out how a magician has done any of their tricks is human nature, but one Keith encourages people to try and resist, “I always say forget working out the tricks for the three hours of the show, and just enjoy it for it is then you when yer at home or in the bar afterwards then try pull it all apart, it keeps the show going after the show if you will. A lot of magicians make DVDs of their shows but I don’t really film any of my material; I do a bit of television stuff of course and some people do sneakily record clips of me on their camera phone but in a general sense you don’t see any of my live material online as I love giving the audience a live surprise experience. People can’t google my material or how it works as it’s ‘ungoogleable’ as it’s all come from my brain, these days you can youtube and google pretty much everything but there’s nowhere to help figure out how my show is done and I like that.”  

The Cork audiences and his trips to Cork are something Keith values highly, “over the last 3 or 4 years I’ve always done three nights in the Everyman when I’m on tour, I’ve always got great support down here, in the majority of places in Ireland we just do one show and I don’t say this lightly but thanks to the Cork people we’ve enough demand to do three nights in a row, it really works for me down here. It’s not just about money, travelling is hard when away from your family and it is nice to be able to ‘bed in’ in one place for a few days and walk around the place. There’s only two places I visit a lot in Ireland when I’m not touring and that’s Waterford (his hometown) and Cork, because I fish a lot out in Ballincollig – I might see the O’Donovan brothers flying down the river! – I go out on The Lee and The Bandon a lot. I always have my gear in the boot. It’s great to clear the brain” (Even on the day of the interview he had an hour and half in between two interviews so he nipped off to Monkstown to get a spot of fishing done).

Keith Barry’s Magic MadHouse will run in The Everyman Theatre from Thursday 8 to Saturday 10 February 2018. Advance booking is advised and available via http://www.everymancork.com or 021-450 1673.

Cork’s 12 Gigs Of Christmas 2017

 

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-12-14

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It’s quite common for most people to go out in Cork a lot more than usual during the Christmas period, so why not take the opportunity to see some music acts you haven’t got around to seeing or try some venues you mightn’t have been in for a while, Ronan Leonard has compiled a list of 12 gigs – and one club night – that are each in a different venue around Cork City. Most of the gigs are free as well so that’ll help your Christmas budgets. More information on each act are on the websites or facebook pages of the venue.

Perhaps you’ll already have every bit of shopping done and want to start your Christmas holidays with a hot toddy or maybe you haven’t even starting writing your shopping list but  either way why not start the 12 gigs of Christmas on Friday 22 December in The Oliver Plunkett with Laoise Leahy (6pm, free admission), her gorgeous voice will be delivering some of the great Christmas songs along with some Jazz standards.

Just after that another of Cork’s most striking vocalists, Senita (9pm-11pm, free) along with her band The Appiakorangtones, will be playing a set of boogie, soul and R&B classics in The Crane Lane. This Cork-meets-Kerry group claim that they have “just one doctrine to share with the public… dance, let ye!”

Complete a hat trick of gigs in one night by going to ‘Kristmas with The Krauts!’ (9.30, €10), a Christmas party put on with one of Cork’s most vibrant promoters Alliance Promotions along with Beatnik Disco in The Roundy. The evening will feature Laurie Shaw, perhaps the most prolific releaser of music in Cork, along with Sissy and Any Joy, with DJs throughout the night. They also promise goody bags to give away for early birds in the door and encourage the wearing of Christmas jumpers to add to the fun.

The following day on Saturday 23 The Poor Relation will host the Cuttin’ Heads Xmas Party (8pm, free), you can expect pretty much any member of Cork’s Hip-Hop community – particularly those who are coming home for Christmas – to be there and possibly perform. There will be scratching, live MCing and vocalists all marshalled by DJ Jus Me and other members of the collective.

The same night Motown, another great style of Music imported from America, is the soundtrack of Reardens when The Papa Zitas (10pm, free) take to the stage, the 10 piece band will be playing all the classics from the label, as well as some Christmas songs in that style.

While the city does wind down on Christmas Eve there is one haven for anyone who wants some live music and that’s the institution that is the Hank And Ray Session (9pm, free) in Charlies, as well as these stalwarts of the music scene you have no idea who else to expect who’ll turn up and play a few songs. There’ll be more than a few men with white beards too!

Once the Christmas family catch ups are over it’s time to start stepping out in the city again, and one act really worth checking out at Coughlans Live on Wednesday 27 is Elly O’Keeffe (9pm, €8), now developing her songwriting and performing career over in London working this will be a rare performance by her on her home sod. Christmas being such a family time, she even has her brother, Dan O’Keefe, as the opening act!

Also that night one of Ireland’s most lauded world music bands, Kila, play in Cyprus Avenue (8pm, €17.50), the energy alone of this band is enough to impress you, but when you hear how they combine traditional Irish with so many other international ideas you will not fail to have a great night. (They also play De Barras in Clonakilty the following night.)

On Thursday 28 December The Hothouse Flowers (7.30pm, €27.50) will return to Live At Saint Lukes, where they had a stormer of a set when they played in March, the expressive style of Liam Ó Maonlaí and the rest of the band is only increased by the beautiful surroundings of the former church.

Many will remember Christiana Underwood (9.30pm, free) as the vocalist on ‘Addicted’ and ‘Deep Down South’, both singles released by Stevie G’s Soul Jamz Label, but on Friday 29 she will be performing a night of silky soul jams from the 1990’s to present and and her original music with her band in Brú Bar.

Across the city that night Cork’s newest clubbing addition Advent (18-19 Hanover Street) will be hosting Bantum (10pm, €10) with Generic People, to celebrate the release of the latter’s remix of Bantum’s dancefloor anthem ‘Feel Your Rhythm’ ft Rusangano Family & Senita (see Friday 22 Dec).

New Years Eve also provides two options, The Frank & Walters (8pm, €25) will be playing The Cork Opera House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their ‘Grand Parade’ album, which many believe to be their most definitive album, the show will be opened by Ian Whitty & The Machine.


And my final tip is Two Time Polka (10.30pm, free) at The White Horse, Ballincollig, a band that take the cajun music and the roots of rock and roll and whip up an absolute musical storm. Their signature closing song at gigs is a medley called ‘Dark Side Of Macroom’ and I’d argue it’s rarely played so close to the place geographically! And where better to ring in the year than in the venue that is the home to Cork’s first music festival of 2018 – The Winter Music Festival!

Overview Of Live At Saint Lukes December 2017

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-12-7

text under photo of article

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Echo Article I Did - LASL Christmas

Having just announced the ‘It Takes A Village’ festival to be held in Trabolgan in April 2018, the promotion team that is The Good Room finish off 2017 with a tremendous run of concerts in Live At Saint Lukes. Interestingly the line up is made up entirely of homegrown acts which is a great reflection of the talent in Ireland at the moment.

This weekend features Declan O’Rourke presenting his Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine album/song cycle which he has spent the last 15 years writing and recording. He will be accompanied by his 8 piece band which includes John Sheahan of The Dubliners. (Saturday 9, Sunday 10)

Little Green Cars also return to the venue to play two gigs to give an airing to some material off their new album due out next year, as well as their much loved songs such as ‘The John Wayne’, ‘My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me’ and ‘Harper Lee’.  (Wednesday 13, Thursday 14)

The following day features two separate concerts, starting with the long running annual fundraising Christmas Carols concert by the Saint Lukes Male Voice Choir and The Jingle Belles at 5pm; and later that evening there will be a double bill concert by Jack O’Rourke and Marlene Enright, who have both received significant national radio airplay throughout 2017. (Friday 15)

The rest of that weekend features The Four Of Us – will their Christmas be a ‘Mary’ one? – just back from a recent German tour. (Saturday 16). The next night Damien Dempsey will be filling the former church with songs from his well received SoulSun album released this May as well as ‘Sing All Our Cares Away’, ‘It’s All Good’ ‘Apple Of My Eye’ and his many other crowd favourites. (Sunday 17)

 

The ‘most musicians in one night’ award will be probably be taken by freezerRoom when they are joined by Gemma Sugrue & The Voiceworks Choir, collectively they will be playing the entire ‘Fire On The Ocean’ album that the band launched this year live at Electric Picnic, as well as playing some of Gemma’s own upcoming solo material. (Wednesday 20)

 

Another Cork act that will take the stage is Talos, who has had a tremendous year by anyone’s standards, with shows in London and New York in support of his debut album ‘Wild Alee’ – which was launched in Live At Saint Lukes this April – gaining great responses. (Thursday 21, Friday 22)

The last three musical options to catch at Live At Saint Lukes in 2017 are The Hothouse Flowers, a band who never fail to create a cracking musical atmosphere. (Thursday 28) The singer and raconteur Jerry Fish performing ‘The Songs & Tall Tales Of Jerry Fish’ which starts as a theatre show and turns into a gig ‘Celebrate’ing his life story. (Friday 29) Brian Deady will be the final act to play there and will certainly sign it off in style. (Saturday 30)

 

Tickets and more information for all the events can be found at www.liveatstlukes.com

 

 

Interview with Myles Manley

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-11-31

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Echo article I wrote - myles Manley

Coming out of the traps in 2012 with three albums in quick succession Myles Manley immediately became a fetching figure on the Irish music scene. Describing himself as a ‘Popstar’ he of course stood out on Irish independent music scene but didn’t fail to deliver on his confidence with albums such as ‘Rocknroll Vicar / Rocknroll Priest’ and ‘More Songs’ showing his ample songwriting abilities.

His only release in 2017 was a 7-inch single in February, ‘Relax; Enjoy Your Night Upon The Town’, but he and his band have had a busy year ahead of their gig in The Roundy in a few weeks he reflected on how the year developed, “you are always kind of following the touring, we released that single at the start of the year and we’re still getting gigs that come from that. For instance we did a UK tour in February and March this year, there were some dodgy gigs, and there were some great ones. We booked the whole thing ourselves and one of them was in Sheffield with a band called Rattle. We got on very well with them so they brought us on tour around the UK with them in September.”


Organising that original tour of 2017 was a real eye opener for Myles “when I started releasing music I didn’t have a clue but now I’ve a bit of a clue… I do feel in Ireland we’ve got better at the DIY thing, but in the UK it’s been going on a lot longer, there’s much more of a network. It’s really good over there there, Rattle are playing all the time. Making real human connections still matters and the internet makes it easier to keep those connections, like the person who sorted us out in Sheffield was Eimear O’Donovan (a Cork native but now based in Sheffield), she’s great and recommended a tonne of other people to get in touch with around the UK. I don’t know how I’d have booked that first tour without her help.”


Myles is very straightforward about why he plays the UK, “I’ve always wanted to tour outside Ireland, playing here is great of course but we can only really get away with doing maybe 2 gigs a year in each city or big town, so that means playing 20 times a year in the whole country.”

2018 looks like it will be quite busy for the group as Myles continued, “we’ve a new album coming out. It’s just finished, it got mastered last week and that’ll be coming out one way or the other in the new year, I’ve sent it to some labels already. Chris Barry, our guitarist, has run the Alifionn Studios for the last few years so he recorded us there, that was very handy. We did one a straight week with a lot of live takes of the songs, it sounds very naturalistic.”

 

There was a lot of preproduction work needed to be done to make that week run so smoothly, “I had to do a lot of figuring out of how to make this record, in the past I used to get everybody in and we’d rehearse every week but it’s quite a demand to ask of them and it’s quite inefficient. So for the songs on this album, I made very elaborate demos of them so for instance the drummer came in and came up with their own versions of what I had programmed on a drum machine. It means we don’t have to rehearse that much either.”

While not a concept album, there are recurring themes that in the song, “when I started writing the songs it was kind of around the time of the 1916 commemorations. I was so uncomfortable with the nationalism and hypocrisy of it all; what were we actually celebrating when we see how much of a mess the country is in now? My mother’s family are Northern Irish who fled the troubles and moved to England;my father is English and I grew up in England until we moved to Sligo when I was 7, so I’ve always been quite sensitive to all that. It was interesting about how to fit into Irishness, so when I started writing the songs for the new album I had that in mind but as I progressed it seemed a smaller issue when compared to what was happening with Trump and Nigel Farage and the other horrible nationalism that is happening else where so it became about bullying, what is other mentalities come out of that sort of wave of nationalism. At the gig in The Roundy we’ll be playing the whole new album, that’s the set and we might play some of the hits at the end!”

Myles Manley play The Roundy on Sunday 17 December with special guest Rattle. Tickets are €10 and available at www.uticket.ie

Interview with freezerRoom -& Gemma Sugre

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-11-2

text under photo of article

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Echo Article - freezerRoom Gemma Sugrue

While referred to as a band, freezerRoom might be better described as a music stable led by Graham White, with about 30 different collaborators involved on their most recent album and launch gig at Electric Picnic. While the working relationship might seem complicated Graham relishes it, “the secret of freezerRoom is we’re all great buddies and have fun when we work together. I spend a lot of time writing music in my studio in Monkstown, it’s more of an addiction then anything, I’m totally obsessed with it. I send it onto Rory Dempsey, with whom I split the work on the album, where he adds musical parts in his studio in London. He’s a member of The Heritage Orchestra, a 60 piece UK orchestra who’ve worked with people like John Cale, Jamie Cullum and Tim Minchin, he gets some of their brass and string players to add parts. While all this is happening I’m also reaching out to vocalists we’d like to collaborate with, which is why our album ‘Fire On The Ocean’ has so many different singers on it… and took so long!”

Thinking back on how all the pieces fell together for the album to be made still entertains Graham, “I could actually write a book on how it all came about. It was definitely the most interesting musical experience I’ve ever had. I had no plans to start recording but my friend Christian Eigner [the drummer in Depeche Mode] got the ball rolling with an invite to his studio after I played him some of my music on my iPhone speakers. We’d had a few drinks so I didn’t take him too serious but six months later I out was in Austria working in his studio! That was a massive influence for me to make the best possible album that I was capable of making. It took a bit of time to get the vocals, I recorded Joe’s two vocals in his bar ‘Levis Bar’ in Ballydehob after a lash of whiskey at 2am! Tracey K has her own studio set up in Berlin so she was able to record herself and Wallis Bird; wheras Jack O’Rourke and Ray Scannell were recorded in my studio.”

While the recording process had one working model for the last 4 years, Graham credits someone else with turning them into a live unit, “if it wasn’t for Paul Dunlea we wouldn’t be having this interview. I sat down with Paul in June and asked for help, he listened to the album, made some notes and came back to me with a plan and some of the best musicians Cork has to offer. He really did a mountain of work to make this happen, he charted out the music for each musician – and we needed close to 20 musicians to be able to play the new album live! We played at Electric Picnic on The Hazel Wood Stage and launched it there on the Saturday night.”

Gemma Sugrue, sings with freezerRoom and is also the founder of Voiceworks Studio Choir, so she will perform a dual role at the concert, “we’re a contemporary choir with the capacity to sing choral arrangements, which means we can “dig in” as pop singers but we all have a training background in classical. The beauty of the freezerRoom gig is that it’s a very collaborative project so we’ll fully integrated into their programme throughout the night.”

As a regular attendee of ‘Live At Saint Lukes’ Graham is putting a lot of thought into programming the concert, “it’s exciting, I kinda feel like a DJ going through a bag of records! I’ve spent many a night at gigs in St Lukes, thinking and planning while I’m there. I have been like that for years but again it was more of a dream, I didn’t think it would actually happen. I’m definitely prepared for this show. When I was in The Shades with Ray Scannell, the best live show I played was to a seated sold out show in Vicar Street, it’s a whole new experience playing to a seated venue. You have everyone’s attention from the start, and it’s silent, we had every person’s attention from start to finish, I look forward to something similar on December 20.”

Working with Gemma has created an interesting dynamic for Graham with some of the material that will be played at the concert, “I’ve started working with Gemma on both freezerRoom and also her solo project. I’m currently writing freezerRoom music for her and we’ll also be performing one of Gemma’s own songs at the Live At St Lukes gig, I’ve heard the song a few times and it’s fabulous. She has some amazing tunes that she wrote over the last few years and finally has decided to record them. She’s on tour again with the RTE Orchestra next year so it’s a great time for her to release her own music.”

Graham firmly believes he, Gemma and the group all have the ideal momentum for their music at the moment, “we have an incredible bond now and the vibes when we are all together is amazing, I’m hoping we will have a busy 2018 and bring it to the next level, everything is in place to make it happen.”

freezerRoom and The Gemma Sugrue Choir play Live At Saint Lukes on Wednesday 20 December. Tickets available at www.uticket.ie

Interview with Gemma Sugre – Cork Jazz Festival

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-10-19

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Articles I Wrote - Echo - Gemma Sugre - Jazz 2017

Gemma Sugrue, who has received national acclaim as the featured vocalist for Jenny Greene and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s live performances of 90s club classics at places such as Electric Picnic, Live At The Marquee and The 3 Arena, has been a noted vocalist in Cork City for quite a while as both a singer and teacher (she opened Voiceworks Studio in 2011). While she has no shortage of gig opportunities during the Cork Jazz Festival she chooses to not fill her diary, “I usually do about 4 gigs, so 1 a day. In the past I’ve tried to play the “how many gigs have you got!” game by taking on about 10 shows one year and it wasn’t fun. As a singing teacher I’m a bit paranoid about vocal fatigue too, I get a bit “analysis paralysis” about my voice when it’s not functioning well.”

Despite working solidly as a performer, teacher and currently moving forward into songwriting, Gemma feels that only recently are things falling into place, “I used to feel busy for the sake of busy before but I’m finally getting some clarity on what I want to do career wise. I have to say doing the gigs with the RTE Concert Orchestra and Jenny Greene has been a life changing experience for me. I have never felt so terrified in the run up to a gig as I was before The 3 Arena show last November. I couldn’t get my head around it, this is where I go to see Beyonce and likes! Engaging with that fear was key, it made me prepare like crazy and rise to the challenge. I’ve spent the last five years championing my student singers so it’s been a slow process asserting confidence in my own voice.”

She will be using the relentless gigging during the festival as an a opportunity to test out the original material she is working on, “I actually find the audiences at jazz weekend tend to be the most open minded and want to hear what you’d like play.  I’m in The Oliver Plunkett [Friday at 9.30pm, Monday 10.30pm] and The White Rabbit [Saturday 10pm], I’m trying out some of my own tunes with the band and also covers that inspire and inform the music I write. I haven’t recorded anything properly yet but I hope to have some clarity after I perform some of the material at jazz weekend.”

With so many great musicians in town she is going to also do a set that pushes her Jazz vocalist abilities, “I’m playing with my quintet in The Bodega [Sunday 2pm], I’ve picked a set of my favourite jazz standards and I’m going to just see what happens there. The band is made up of Dan Bodwell on double bass, Julien Colarossi on guitar, Ariel Posen on guitar and Dominic Mullan on drums. I haven’t performed with some of these guys before so I’m excited to just be in the moment for this gig and see what happens!”

Her Voiceworks studio will also have an input in the festival, “I’m running a master class on in Voiceworks Studio [Saturday 3pm] The theme is vocal health and I’ll cover lifestyle and vocal technique. then I invite 5 soloist to perform and I work with them with the group. And we’re in Coughlan’s [Sunday 2pm] with our students and tutors performing in various combinations showcasing jazz material they have worked on.”

To hear more of her music and more gig information go to www.gemmasugrue.com/
To learn more about Voiceworks go to www.voiceworksstudio.ie/

Interview with The Mae Trio / Clonakilty International Guitar Festival

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

This article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-9-14

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Now in it’s 13th year The Clonakilty International Guitar Festival have steadily built their reputation, both in Ireland and worldwide, to such an extent that they’ve enlarged the festival to  team up with Folk Alliance International to co-host their inaugural European event.

It will see the folk artists perform showcase events around Clonakilty the days before the Festival’s traditional Thursday night opening concert. As well as panel discussions and showcase concerts, there will be a presentation of the FAI Lifetime Achievement Award to Dónal Lunny to celebrating his contribution to traditional music, such as being a founder member of Planxty, The Bothy Band and Moving Hearts, as well as the countless other collaborations he has been involved in since 1968. Previous recipients of the award include Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Mavis Staples which shows the esteem in which he is held.

International acts attending the showcases include Australia’s The Mae Trio, John Smith from the UK and two American acts Laura Cortese and Steve Poltz. They will be joining eminent Irish acts such as Wallis Bird, Lankum, Mick Flannery, Moxie, John Spillane, John Blek, Lisa O’Neil and Ye Vagabonds.

Elsie Rigby, who plays fiddle, mandolin, ukulele and sings in The Mae Trio, spoke with great excitement of coming to Clonakilty, “We love Wallis Bird! – and there’s others we’ve met along the way who we can’t wait to reconnect with like John Smith, Steve Poltz and Moxie. I also can’t wait to see Laura Cortese and Ye Vagabonds for the first time. It’s a great line up!”

The professional development of The Mae Trio is directly connected to being awarded the Folk Alliance Australia Youth Award in 2013, according to Elsie, “they’re so supportive of musicians on the Australian scene, they are completely dedicated to helping out and developing new artists and bands. To feel that encouragement for our band early on was a huge boost, we were thinking about taking a ‘year off’ to make music full time, and the Folk Alliance Award really helped make that possible.”

The band which is made up of Elsie; her sister Maggie, who plays banjo, guitar, ukulele and sings; and Anita Hillman, who plays cello and sings, consider themselves  to be a folk group but find it hard to be any more specific about their sound, “we think about this all the time! Irish and UK folk music roots run very deep in Australian folk music. There are all kinds of musical styles swimming around in the Australian folk scene, as we are a nation with such a diverse immigration history. More recently North American folk music has made a huge impact in Australia. We were born into this small, but rich folk music scene; while you can hear international influences, there is something distinctly Australian about the music we make. It makes us laugh that we are often called Bluegrass in Ireland and the UK, and regularly labelled Celtic when playing in North America. It’s all in there!”

One element that is crucial to the band are their vocals, “we have so much fun making harmonies. Our instinct is to sing in three part harmony all the time, so often arrangement is a process of paring it back to a place where the harmonies are highlighting the melody. The sound of three part harmony is such a basic human joy, especially to sing. Maggie and my parents are musicians and choir leaders so we were raised on group singing; the more, the louder, the better. It’s very much in our bloodstream.”

The two sisters have been immersed in performing and folk music for as long as Elsie can remember, “growing up, my parents played tunes in the Irish scene in Victoria. Many of my earliest memories are from sessions, lying on the floor or snoozing on someone’s lap. I used to fall asleep in my uncle’s harp case. The sound of an Irish session is one of the most comforting sounds in the world to me. I was twelve when we starting performing as a family band, too young to think about what we were doing. It was natural and just something we did. I was incredibly at home on stage by the time we started playing our own music. The change really happened when Maggie and I started writing our own songs; that new voice belonged in a different band. Even from the first time jamming with Anita we knew there was something good going on. That developed into our sound, the Mae Trio became such an exciting creative framework. Each time we record together it is new, scary, overwhelming and exhilarating all over again.”

The Mae Trio play The Clonakilty International Guitar Festival on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September, they also play Levis in Ballydehob on Thursday 21 September.

Answers To The David Bowie Article

so here are the answers from the article I wrote with 21 David Bowie song titles in the text of this article  – someone posted to say they found 25, I look forward to being shown what I missed!

The second Great Irish Beer Festival, created by Shane Long, the man who sold the world [Album: The Man Who Sold The World, 1970] Franciscan Well beer, and music promoter Tom Keating, returns to Cork City Hall next week for three days of live music, lectures and brewing demonstrations. Rebel Rebel, [Diamond Dogs, 1974] a tribute band to David Bowie, will be headlining on Saturday night. Peter Quinn, the band’s founder, explains how he had originally focused on an original music career but that is no longer his sole love [“Soul Love” – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, 1972], “from the time I cut my very first demo tapes, record companies told me they my voice sounded like David Bowie, so when I was looking for a new project a Bowie tribute was the obvious direction.”

Rather than moving to London and trying to forge a new career in a new town [Low, 1977], Peter chose to stay in Dublin and build from there, “I started initially as a solo act under the name of ‘Acoustic Bowie’ in 2008, I wanted to get a feel for the material before I brought in a band, it was also a good way to learn the songs as a looming deadline focuses the mind! The full band formed about seven [Hours, 1999] years ago, one of our first gigs was in Cypress Avenue in Cork. I remember it was October but it was very mild, we felt like we were abroad! The streets at night around the city centre have a bohemian almost Parisian feel.”

Since playing such complex and varied material wouldn’t suit absolute beginners [Absolute Beginners, 1986], Peter has developed a very experienced stable of musicians, “they’ve played with people like Sinead O’Connor, Clannad, Gavin Friday, and Jack L. It’s little wonder [Earthling, 1997] that I’ve other musicians always saying to me if I ever need a sub player for a gig they’d love a chance to fill in and play the songs!”

While some tribute acts can get bogged down with the fascination [Young Americans, 1975] of copying both the sound and vision [Low, 1977] of a band, Peter and Rebel Rebel choose to keep the show rooted in reality [Reality, 2003] and focus entirely on the songs, “rather than coming off and on stage with different changes [Hunky Dory, 1971] of outfits from the different eras, we keep the show going the whole time, we’ve a lot of songs to fit in!”

Considering Bowie’s career lasted over 50 years of fame [Young Americans, 1975] and brilliant adventures [“Brilliant Adventure” – Hours, 1999]; 25 studio albums with very little repetition [Lodger, 1979] of style or genre, and so many classic songs that never get old [Reality, 2003], Peter admits that it ain’t easy [The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, 1972] to stick to just one simple set list, “there are so many songs in that back catalogue that can be a candidate [Diamond Dogs, 1974] to be played, each of us have our personal favourites and we pick each set with the venue and audience in mind so there’s we’ll still be discussing it as we drive in Saturday [Aladdin Sane, 1973].”

While Rebel Rebel had been playing solidly for five years [The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, 1972] before David Bowie’s death, the sorrow [Pin Ups, 1973] that emerged after he passed away put the band in a different spotlight, Peter remembers the day he died very clearly, “on 10 January 2016 we were playing alongside Gerry Leonard, who was David Bowie’s band leader and guitarist at the time, as the headliners of the Dublin Bowie Festival. After it was finished, I thought  it would be hard to ever top that weekend,  and then the news that David Bowie had passed away started filtering in.”

Since then Peter has noticed a difference in the reaction to their gigs, “it has made the shows much more emotional. When we play ‘Lazarus’ [Black Star, 2016] there is an atmosphere I can only describe as bordering on the sacred, like we are in a church. The audience often comment on how emotional the song is, but that’s what Bowie intended, it’s loaded. Then we change gear and play something like ‘Changes’ and the mood shifts to a happier nostalgic place. So his passing has added a new dynamic to the show. As a fan myself I can only describe it as a bittersweet thing [“Sweet Thing” – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, 1972] to be a part of. It is quite a therapeutic experience though, for all of us – the band and the audience – sharing the loss of a musician who had such a powerful effect on our lives.”

Rebel Rebel – The David Bowie Experience play The Great Irish Beer Festival on Sat 26 August, ticket details available via www.greatirishbeerfestival.ie