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Bessie Turner: “Nearly dying definitely gave me a new lease of life. I came out the other side quite hardened and definitely a little braver”

Bessie Turner is one of those oddly calm rockers, a guitar-led singer-songwriter not afraid of the odd riff, but able to lift audiences with emotional insights and deeply personal stories.

It’s been a tough couple of years for the Suffolk-based singer, who’s recovered from a near-death experience to take her musical story on the road. I caught up with her ahead of her show in Dublin’s Sound House, supporting Gengahr, to talk over new single ‘Donkey’, and how she’s bounced back…

Donkey seems to be something of a treatise on life’s frustrations – understandable. Does your music generally offer a type of therapy?

147437%. I can’t imagine not being able to express myself in this way. I’m really lucky I do, I’ve been writing since I was tiny.

I don’t know about in the UK, but in Ireland surviving as an artistic, creative type is very hard. How are you finding it so far?

It’s not easy but that’s part of it. Financially it would be impossible for me to survive at the moment from my music but that just adds to the drive and experience of it. I already look back fondly on how it all came about from nothing and nowhere.

You seem to be drip-feeding your music. Does it just make sense for you at the moment?

Exactly. I was quiet for so long in terms of releases due to ill health and building myself back up again so it feels so good to be in the position to just keep popping songs out.

How far off is an album likely to be, and what would you expect to change when it comes to producing one?

That’s a tough question. I’d love to release an album this year but it has to be right. I’ve met some amazing producers so it’s just convincing someone to invest their time on me really!

I guess the forthcoming show is one of your first in Ireland. Are you expecting anything to be different when you play here?

The Guinness to be the best tasting of all time ever. I’ve never been to Ireland but Guinness is my go to drink and I’ve heard it’s the best ever in its place of birth…..

Are you concerned what Brexit might mean for shows like this one?

I try not to think about it. It’s an obvious mistake, it gets way too much airtime and I don’t like encouraging the people that voted poorly with my thought processes. I love the EU.

How to Use Three Pay As You Go Contracts to make ‘Free’ Charity Donations

I currently use a Three Pay As You Go mobile phone contract. After all, I use my phone like a lot of people do these days: almost everything is internet-based, and the few phone calls and texts I make don’t usually come close to the limitations of the €20/ 28 days all-inclusive package they offer. It’s a decent deal.

What I’ve noticed recently, though, is that I typically have around €15 of the €20 credit left at the end of that 28 day period. Essentially, I’m nowhere close to using all the credit, right up until Three start charging me for internet after the free period expires. At that point, the internet charges based on use are really quite extortionate, and so my money disappears and I’m essentially always forced to top up the same day that the credit runs out. This is where I spotted an opportunity.

That €15 I’d been handing over to Three at the end of every Pay As You Go Period – around 12 times a year, in other words – is of essentially no value to me. I’ll be restarting the ‘free unlimited internet’ credit period again the same day, anyway, so I’m just burning through the remaining credit for no practical benefit at all. They even notify me when I’m about to go out of the 28 days, presumably with the intent that I ‘top up’ in advance, but since I never get to the end of the credit anyway, that’s a rather pointless exercise.

Instead, I’ve started intentionally draining my credit towards the end of the last day. Instead of handing €15 to Three for essentially nothing, you can text away your credit to a whole long list of charities, here. You can pick based on keyword, and it tells you how much you’ll be donating by texting.

The net cost to me in the total spend on my phone each month has been essentially nothing, and I’m handing over about €180 or so a year to charities just by being smart about the timing of the donation. Just a quick ruse I thought might be worth highlighting, if a few people did this it’d add up to a lot of money.

John Craigie: “I was actually a storyteller before I was a songwriter”

John Craigie’s road to the world of folk-style, quirky solo guitarist has been an unusual one. Starting out as more of a spoken word artist, the LA-born, Portland-based troubadour releases conventional albums, but has made his live show into a kind of blend of winding tales and audience interaction blurred with bluegrass-style, mellow guitar pop.

His offbeat side really comes out in those winding spoken fusions, with tracks aimed at particular audience members like, “Let’s Talk This Over When We’re Sober” for the couples, or jokey spoken-word release “Pants in England,” about struggling with language differences in Europe, and then finding England no easier.

On the live record ‘Opening For Steinbeck’, Carigie jokes that his ideal audience is a room full of people, who’ve just been dumped.

“I was actually a storyteller before I was a songwriter. As I began performing it did take a little bit of time to figure out how to blend the two together. But it was a natural path of discovery and I am still learning and enjoying it today,” he explains. “I’m still figuring out the answer to the touring stuff.”

“I find that senses of humor are slightly different. Some of my banter makes sense to the audience and some doesn’t. Other than that, it hasn’t been that different. I need to check my american accent sometimes and if the audience doesn’t speak english then I have to shift my set up a bit as well.”

Latest album ‘Scarecrow’ is, much like Craigie live, a collection of oddities blended from his back catalogue. There’s no particular theme, more a collection of scraps left from previous records.

Soulé: “To be streaming seven figures now just seems so far fetched, as an independent Irish artist”

For those in the know, London-born Balbriggan native Soulé – Samantha Kay to her parents – has been threatening to become a very major artist for sometime.

Hit single ‘Love Tonight’, launched early last year, has millions of streams and is a regular on almost every major Irish radio station. She’s appeared at the 3Arena and her social media does serious numbers. Perhaps most of all, though, her song appeared alongside every Love Island episode for a huge chunk of last summer, gathering hours of prime time play as part of a fashion advert.

“The Love Island placement really did a lot for me,” she remembers. “It was on every ad break for two or three months, and it definitely boosted the track. People were hearing it, but a lot of people assumed it was an American artist. I thought it was amazing. It doubled the number of streams, with radio boosting it too.”

“The dream was to have the song actually on Love Island, but that would be once. To have it on an ad every ad break was much better. At first it was cringey, but after a while I just got so excited about it, with the tweets going crazy all the time.”

Soulé might be flying now, but she finds some of her roots in the local Foroige club, where she spent a lot of her time collaborating with Farah Elle, who has also gone on to be something of a local rising star.

“We were in Foroige Balbriggan, there wasn’t a sort of music thing that they had, and my friends and I were very into that kind of thing, drums, guitar, dancing, singing,” Soulé recalls. “Our mentor there was an Irish rapper called Messiah J, an amazing guy, and he gave us loads of advice on recording, stuff like that.”

Moncrieff: “You want to give something genuine, something that is real, but you don’t want to dictate to the audience how they should see it”

There were plenty of barriers to Moncrieff pursuing a life in his colourful, emotive brand of pop music, from social pressures at school to a gut feeling that it wouldn’t work as a career at home. He’s jovial and outgoing, though, and prepared to spill his life into his heartfelt, poetic melodies. A move to London to commit fully was the kick start he needed.

“There were no avenues really to pursue modern music, just the choir,” Moncrieff says of his upbringing in a small town outside Waterford. “The choir was social suicide really. I did love singing, I probably would have enjoyed it, and the occasional musicals, but growing up I didn’t want to stick out. I was a sportsperson.”

“I didn’t start doing things publicly until I was 18, in a band, and played local school shows. It snowballed for me, I became obsessed. As soon as I decided I was going to make music, I realised that it was what I wanted to do, a dream to chase, and that it could be done. It’s been done before, so why not.”

“I knew London would make the learning curve steeper. Difficult, but worthwhile,” he continues. “There are a lot of people that succeed in Ireland but never achieve anything in the UK. Sometimes the quality in Ireland isn’t in the spotlight elsewhere, and there is so much quality. I knew I’d learn a lot more and get a lot further outside of my comfort zone in London.”

Since arriving across the water, Moncrieff’s Irish success has seen a massive uptick, with his show at The Soundhouse selling out extremely quickly, and his forthcoming Academy main room date showing his progression.

“For the first few months I couldn’t get on at open mic nights over there,” he laughs. “Later, I figured out when to get on for my time of music, how to get my name down, stuff like that. I did so many nights, and I learnt so much. I learnt so quickly, and that’s what London represented to me. It made it much easier to perform live, which is everything to me.”

The Brother’s Movement: “We were always fine on stage, but as soon as the amps were turned off, it wasn’t so good”

After an almost decade-long break, once buzz-laden Tallaght indie rock act The Brother’s Movement are returning for a one-off show this Christmas, or at least that’s the official line.

There are already hints, you see, of a broader return. Nothing set in stone, but enough little jokey lines throughout our quick chat with frontman Daniel Paxton that suggest that rehearsals have proven a hold lot of fun, and just lead to something more than a one-night nostalgia trip.

“We always said we’d come back and do some shows if we were still on talking terms, and we felt that we didn’t sound dated,” said Paxton, who has since played a key part in the output of popular rockers Sweet Jane, and later Buffalo Sunn. “We’re doing it to mark the ten year occasion, really.”

“We’re in a few different bands now between us. We worked hard on that Brother’s Movement album, and spent a lot of cash on recording it in Philadelphia. We were very proud of it. There’s no pressure, which is the beauty of this show. At the time, we always had that aim of getting something more from it, making a career. Now it’s just for the pure enjoyment of playing the songs.”

The rehearsals weren’t always easy, but things are coming together. At first the rehearsals weren’t good, to be honest with you,” Paxton says. “But after about three or four shows things started coming together. We actually sound a hell of a lot better than I remember, because we used to be in this pokey little room. Having a really good PA and actually being able to hear each other play definitely helps. Plus we’re a little bit older and wiser and don’t need to have the amps turned up to 11 all the time to make the point we’re trying to make.”

“There is one song we’ve been leaving until last. It’s ten minutes long and instrumental and it takes a bit of working out, it has so many twists and turns. A few of them took a little while, but once we figured them out, they came good. We enjoyed the process of looking at how we did it back then, and it came back to us.”

David Keenan: “I think I see things with an optimistic realism, but through a lens of romanticism”

Perhaps the strangest thing about David Keenan’s wild developmental story – still unfolding slowly after years of slow-building to the heights of an Olympia Theatre headline slow – is how long it’s taken the Dundalk man to release an album.

Keenan is an intense character, his words flowing with the considered, poetic bent of someone who’s spent a lot of time thinking about what the world means, and his own place in it.

Talking to him about his music is a strange experience, uncomfortably intimate at times, having a top-class songwriter look you in the eye and talk off the cuff in a way that isn’t all that dissimilar to the way he delivers his lyrics. The album ‘A Beginner’s Guide To Bravery’ is now just around the corner, being due just after Christmas, and is very much a long-term project.

“It’s a consequence of living,” Keenan says of his record. “It’s a kind of bookmarking of a certain period. There are songs on the record from four years ago, and others I wrote this year. They’re a byproduct of my own individuality, so in a way they’ve been developing since I was a child.”

“A collection of things have aligned. I’ve been releasing EPs for a couple of years, with the intention of getting a body of songs that tell a story. It’s always been about telling that story, not just a collection of strangers on a record. There’s a lineage between each song, but they have to have their own personality, too. It’s the story of my evolution, moving to Dublin, finding a stride, the emotional journeys.”

“It’s also been about getting the right band, and recordings that I was happy with. That was a lot about getting people I trusted into the band. I did it live, and that was important to me. Life isn’t click tracked.”

Harry Connick Jr: “I’ve been taking each day as it is for a long time”

NEW ORLEANS legend Harry Connick Jr has had a vast, varied career, taking in movie acting, Broadway performances, and his original and perhaps most passionate love, music.

With more than 20 albums behind him, and unquestionably a legitimate Hollywood star to boot, Connick Jr rarely produces a similar style of record twice. His latest, and first in four years, focuses on another Broadway legend, Cole Porter. Porter left us more than half a century ago, leaving behind a library of musical wealth.

“I signed my new contract with Verve Records after 30 years with Sony and we were talking about ideas. I said I wanted to do a songbook album, something new,” Connick Jr told us of the Porter-devoted record. “I made a list of my favourite Cole Porter songs, went out and discovered some new songs. I’ve always loved his music, so just picked the songs that spoke to me. The songs are great, so they’re easy to do justice to.”

Having been behind a piano since he was barely more than a toddler, there’s an endearingly jubilant confidence to the way Connick Jr talks about music, and about all his projects, though Porter brings out a particular vibrancy. He rewrote the tracks for his own style, focusing on the enduring legacy Porter left behind.

“I’ve been taking each day as it is for a long time,” he laughs as we chat about performing the Porter tracks on the Late Late Show. “I feel happy here in Ireland, a lot of my ancestors are from here and I walk down the street wondering if the people I see might be my distant cousins. But I’m really glad I don’t have to organise this stuff. I have a great management team behind me.”