Having left behidn her native Galway for Berlin, Ruth Mac has, like many who have departed these shores, found herself reminscing about what she’s left behind. Describing her sounds as ‘slacker rock’, the lyrically inventive sound behind debut album ‘Living Room’ saw Ruth support Hot Chip and tour her homes, new and old.
I spoke to her around the release of her new track ‘Home From Home’, a whistful look back at her former home Dublin, penned from a distance…
So, you step away from Dublin for Berlin and end up writing an ode to Dublin. How did that come about?
Yeah it is kinda funny when you put it like that, though it’s a song that could only have been written from the perspective of someone that has been away a while. At its core, the song describes my evolving relationship with a place that once felt like a home, rather than being solely about the city itself.
I’ve been watching Dublin change for 15 years now, so I can relate to your alienation. What in particular stood out to you when you were writing ‘Home From Home’?
Yes, it was definitely a feeling of alienation that sparked it. It was one particular trip during a lockdown. Most people I knew living in Dublin had scarpered, I think it was something about those empty streets that stirred up this heavy sense of disconnect that I’d never felt in Dublin before. I had been away for about three years at that point, maybe that’s enough time to start feeling like a stranger, not enough for it not to hurt? I was simultaneously thinking about the changes I’d felt on each trip home – probably similar pain points to the ones you have felt – and also coming to terms with the fact that I can’t expect it to stay the same and hold me the way it used to, you know? As much as I’ve been moving on with my life, so too has the city.
How has Berlin infused its way into your music?
Sonically, I actually don’t think the impact has been huge – yet to enter my techno fusion era – but of course my environment influences how I create and who I create with. Berlin introduced me to all my close collaborators who naturally impact my music. Berlin has also presented me with opportunities to explore new perspectives, topics and concepts in my lyrics, from the more obvious themes like home to observations on cultural quirks. Like why do Germans hold flowers upside down when they are carrying a bouquet around?!!? Show those flowers off! I had to write a song about that.
How does performing and writing in Berlin compare to being back home?
I honestly feel quite lucky that I get to do both, as well as be well positioned to play in other parts of Germany/Europe. It’s always special to come back to Ireland and play for the home crowd – the reception is warm and, yes, there’s always a bit more craic with the Irish crowd. Writing in Berlin has been great though. I share a special little studio space with three friends just outside the city. Having a dedicated space to write, demo, record in has been a game changer, and something that would be hard to come by (/afford) in Dublin
Coming back for something like Ireland Music Week feels like a chance to do the ‘industry’ thing a bit. How helpful are those kind of events in terms of getting the word out there?
Yeah, it’s a great opportunity to get the music out there and to start new conversations, as well as connect with other Irish artists. First Music Contact have built Ireland Music Week to be a really great event/opportunity.. and they have really worked hard to do it, fairplay. I had a lot of fun, though the self-inflicted pressure to meet people, pitch yourself, network, get the word out…. is intense! I slept for a week after that.
What’s your favourite little detail in your music so far?
I guess I consider myself a songwriter, before a musician or singer, so it’s probably the small details baked into particular lyrics. At gigs, I tend not to give too much away about song meanings and enjoy when people tell me what they’ve understood or about the response they’ve had to a particular track or lyric, especially when it’s something completely different to what I had in mind.
How was playing with Hot Chip, and did you take anything from playing live shows on that scale?
It was pretty mad to be honest. I’d never been on a stage that size, in front of such a big crowd. I had a lot of fun though in the end. Honestly my biggest takeaway was probably if I can still perform with that level of nerves, I can do anything! haha It really was an honor – I’ve always been a big fan, we got to chat a bit after too, they were nice!
It’s been a while since the EP now. Are you working on something to follow the single?
YES. Much music. TBC
You’re back in December. What can we expect from those shows?
These shows will give you a good feel for what’s to come from me. Full band, primarily unreleased music, fun times.
What are your hopes for your music going forward?
I hope that my music keeps me curious and continues to take me to new places, physically and creatively. It’s easy to get distracted by thoughts of what “success” should look like so I’m just trying to focus on writing good music, recognising what a privilege it is to get to play it live, and have fun doing so.