Tag

interview

Browsing

Dagny: an album a decade in the making.

Norwegian pop act Dagny – a singer who made her way in the world through singles and shining gems of short pop-songs – has finally, a decade in, got around to an album. It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that now that the moment for a longer record has arrived, the popular singles-merchant, who has nearly half a billion streams to her name, has found her way to producing something that firmly breaks her own mold, going gloriously popcorn to long-form and conceptual.

‘Strangers/ Lovers’ is being released in two seperate parts across 2020 – a benefit of the less format-focused nature of albums in a post hard-copy world – and documents the stages of a relationship, from meeting someone new to the intimacy and closeness of being together, and the strange alienation that comes if it falls apart again.

“This album is a two part album, and it’s because of the way I assessed the songs,” Dagny explains. “I had well over 250 of them to look at when I started a couple of years back. I landed on my twelve favourites. I played all of the songs to my guitarist, and he said it sounds like there were two sides to the story. That kind of split things up, and created a conceptual album, giving me the idea for what it would be. I was worried it would be seen as two EPs and not an album, actually, but I’m happy I did it like that.”

With the songs written over a long period of time, they were the ones that happened to fit together, augmented by some extras written late in the day to hold things together. “I knew what the concept I would draw out was at the end,” Dagny says, “which made it easier to tap into the emotions in the studio and draw it out. Before I was so much about singles, and for this I was thinking about the whole, the story, and how all the tracks fit together. That’s been a really exciting part of the album.”

“There were songs I’d love to have on the album but they don’t really fit. It’s about the whole idea of meeting someone that’s a stranger to you, then you fast forward a year and you’re the closest people and they’re the person you always go to. And then when a break up happens you go from lovers to strangers, that transition, that disconnect and not being able to call them anymore… I find that whole scenario kind of brutal and yet inspiring.”

“There are so many emotions I wish I could put in the album,” she continues. “I could have written three albums on the same kind of subject, but I don’t know if people would go for that. It does feel like the music world is more a free game now, people can just do what suits them, and I like that.”

Sophie Doyle-Ryder: “I find writing a form of therapy and always write about real situations”

Sophie Doyle-Ryder, photo by Ray Keogh

Malahide singer-songwriter Sophie Doyle-Ryder is only four singles old, but already drawing comparisons with the likes of Anne-Marie and Ariane Grande, having reached number 9 on the Irish radio play charts with her third single ‘Too Much’.

Her music is vibrant, atmospheric pop, and she’s well-placed to make an impact, having teamed up with Grammy award-winning producer Billy Farrell for latest single ‘Little Black Book’. I caught up with Sophie to see how her lockdown is going…

I guess given you were releasing music at the age of just 17, it’s clear that music is a huge part of your life. How have you developed your sound?

I feel I developed my sound by trial and error really. It’s all about trying new things and finding what suits you well! It may take a long time or a short time it all just depends! I find writing a form of therapy and always write about real situations; either mine or my friends’ experience.

Can you tell me a little about ‘Little Black Book’ and how it came together?

Little Black Book is a women’s empowerment song, it is one of my favourites by far! It’s all about being good on your own and almost using people to your advantage. Knowing that you have boys, but only if you want them! It’s so fun and cheeky, I love it.

How many tracks do you have behind the scenes and ready to go – are there EPs or albums on the horizon, for example?

I will release a few more singles before then. I have a good few tracks ready to go! However, it might be another while until an ep and album comes. I want to make it really special.

Have you reflected on your music and changed anything during lockdown?

I feel like I’ve found my sound more than ever during covid lockdowns! I’ve really enjoyed the creative process of music even more because I just feel so established as an artist.

Lucy Gaffney: “Music and art’s pretty much all I think about most days”

Having grown up in Belfast, where she wrote songs with her brother to perform busking, eventually forming the band ‘Southern’, Lucy Gaffney‘s life has been steeped in music since an early age.

These days, Gaffney has settled in Liverpool where she’s pursuing a solo career, though one in which she still works closely with her brother. She’s won plenty of acclaim from RTE for her single ‘Send Me Away’, and elsewhere for her enthralling cover songs, not least from Liam Gallagher for her version of Oasis classic ‘Songbird’.

I caught up with Lucy to talk it all over…

Congrats on your new single. I believe you’ve been getting quite a lot of play on RTE. How does that kind of attention feel to you?

I can’t believe the response the track’s had, it’s such a great feeling to know it’s resonating with people. The support’s been really lovely

Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind the single?

I wrote it mid rehearsal with the band, I guess I was in kind of a romantic headspace. I felt like the vocals and lyrics should wash in and out of the guitars and the track should chug along like a force pushing you forward with a wall of sounds.

The ethos of ‘Send Me Away’ is a dreamlike state of mind, you’re daydreaming about someone you want and kind of know they’re no good for you, but the thrill of being together and reconnecting is intoxicating. I recorded it in Parr Street Studios in Liverpool with James Skelly straight after I made ‘Can’t Escape’ last summer.

Did you find it strange releasing music into the current situation, especially debut music?

Yeah, I was pretty hesitant with it at first when I released ‘Can’t Escape’. But I kind of figured, y’know I’ve never seen most of my favourite bands play live, so in a way, it’s taught me to adapt and push myself to play online, which is something I found really daunting before.

Now I kind of love the idea that if I’m quickly writing a tune I can just quickly video it to show people and they can casually listen from the other side of the world even though we’re both just chilling in our bedrooms. It’s sort of put the control back into the artist’s hands in terms of how they want to represent themselves. I know that when we can properly gig again it’s gonna be so incredible though.

How did you come to music, and what’s your background like as a musician?

I think I’ve been living and breathing music since I was a little kid. Music and arts pretty much all I think about most days. I started playing the piano when I was 7 and was in the choir at school so learnt to harmonise pretty early. After my brother learnt the guitar at 15 we used to sing together and go busking in Belfast for pocket money, we didn’t really know any covers so just wrote tunes.

It went from there really, and when I turned 19 we moved between London and Liverpool in a band called ‘Southern’ together. We still write and produce together but we do two separate projects because our styles are pretty different now.

N.O.A.H: “we are obsessed with the idea of making our show as performative as possible”

New on the scene, though a long time together, N.O.A.H. are the product of a lot of formal musical education and years of friendship.

Named in reference to a beacon of hope, there are a couple of albums worth of tracks ready to go for the three-piece, but for now we’ll have to make do with popular debut single, euphoric indie anthem ‘Shine’…

Congratulations on the first single. Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind it?

Like most musicians in 2020, we found ourselves with a lot more free time to create and write new music due to the ongoing pandemic. We wrote ‘Shine’ pretty much in the middle of the lockdown, at this time we were all writing with each other remotely, sending music and lyrics back and forth over the Internet. We would say that ‘Shine’ definitely brought an optimistic light to the band, it kept spirits high and kept us going.

The song itself is about a journey, one which we must all have to make at one point in our lifetime. Sometimes we do not know where we are going, but ultimately, deep down, we know something greater and more powerful is guiding our way. In essence, ‘Shine’ is a story about keeping good faith when in uncertain times.

You’ve already had some RTE radioplay. How did that feel?

It is definitely a great feeling to be recognised by the country’s national broadcaster, we have been frequently played on both RTE Radio 1 and RTE 2FM. The support from RTE, especially in the first week of our campaign was amazing, we were announced as RTE 2FM’s ‘Track of The Week’ and have been played every morning on the breakfast show with Eoghan and Doireann. It is just really cool to be recognised on such a platform.

What are your various musical backgrounds?

Music has always been a huge part of our lives, we’ve all been playing music from really young ages, like 9 & 10. It is only when we started secondary school together that our passion for music aligned. After secondary school we all went to study music. Ronan and Ryan went to BIMM to delve further into their instrumental craft, while Adam went to Maynooth University to study music technology.

Sorbet: “it’s a kind of writing that just doesn’t make sense to prescribe to a band”

Best known for his work with genre-bending jazz rockers Robocobra Quartet, Chris Ryan’s solo outlet, SORBET, is an entirely different kind of project.

Described by Chris as a “musical cleansing of the palate” (hence the name), it’s out via Hamburg based Bureau B Records today, and deals with specific feelings and senses, being very much ‘feel’ based.

I spoke to Chris ahead of the release, and he had this to say about ‘Life Variations’…

Congrats on the new EP. Can you talk me through the concepts behind it?

Thanks! Life Variations is a collection of three pieces of music that all share musical/lyrical themes around life, death, birth, rebirth, and all that good stuff. In a way it’s 3 pop songs but in a way it’s 3 parts to one whole composition.

Is there a certain amount of life examination going on for you at the moment, and has it led anywhere in particular musically?

Yeah. I spent some time in Sao Paulo last year as part of the PRSF/ British Council Musician in Residence and it made me think a lot about my life and identity. I’ve also always been interested in having an outlet for the kind of hyper-specific writing I’ve always enjoyed doing— a kind of writing that just doesn’t make sense to prescribe to a band.

If you have that kind of urge I find it’s much more appropriate to use sheet music or ProTools or these kinds of fixed mediums as opposed to the ‘band’ method of getting ideas across orally.

I’m a big fan of vinyl releases – was that an important part of the release for you?

It certainly does make it feel real for some reason, especially with a short format release like an EP. It looks really cool – it’s a one-sided 12 inch so the B-side is unpressed and is just smooth black vinyl.

Snowgoose: “The Making of You’ feels a cohesive progression towards the subtly sinister”

Scottish indie mainstays Snowgoose are known for their emotional warmth, their songs representing an exploration of folky, 60s-style nostalgia with a little psychedelia along the way. New album ‘The Making Of You’, their second full-length, has drawn them the vibrant backing of novelist Ian Rankin, who’s a huge fan, and also saw the band backed – more literally, on several tracks – by much of the Scottish indie community.

The duo’s core – although there are many others regularly on stage – are former Soup Dragons guitarist Jim McCulloch and vocalist Anna Sheard, though members of Scottish indie royalty Belle and Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub are amongst those that appear on the new record alongside the songwriting pair.

“There’s a mutual respect in the music community that’s built around trust and integrity,” McCulloch says of the depth of collaboration. “Then all it takes is a phone call or email to see if and when someone is available to record. I’m not saying that it works for everyone and every time, but if your pals are the best at what they do then why the hell not ask them?”

Unlike their debut record, vocalist Sheard is heavily involved in the writing of this record, and that has contributed to the way it’s performed, and indeed its very feel, alongside all those big names. “In much of the new material, Anna isn’t having to sing words where she is second-guessing motivation or whatever,” McCulloch says of the change. “There is a much deeper connectivity with the material there, and she is much less the auteur or interpreter and more the artist… I feel this is a much more satisfying approach, both as a musician and writer.”

“From my perspective,” Sheard adds “‘The Making of You’ feels a cohesive progression toward the subtly sinister, where the recognizably hopeful spirit of Snowgoose shines amongst the eeriness. For me personally, it has been a very transformational time between records, both in becoming a mother and returning to my roots in Somerset. These experiences have been hugely grounding and inspirational, allowing me to find my confidence as a songwriter with greater focus and less fear.”

“Myself and Jim become immersed in lyrics,” she continues. “They provide another layer of artistic expression, tell our story and add to the emotion of the music. A favourite line of mine is “Strength in your sweetness, love in your blood, proud of your weakness, just follow what you know”.

Imelda May: “I wouldn’t be a musician or a writer if it wasn’t for The Liberties”

Since writing and launching her debut, but especially since sophomore album ‘Love Tattoo’, the biggest selling record by any Irish female artist ever, Imelda May has been part of the folklore of a certain distinctive part of Dublin city.

The Liberties has its own special character, and Imelda, despite having moved to the south of England with her daughter, still holds the place in the highest of esteem. “My heart and soul is in The Liberties, and I’ll be coming back,” she tells us. “I wouldn’t be a musician or a writer if it wasn’t for being from there.”

“It’s so pervasive and colourful, a place where eccentricities are really encouraged. I used to put my demos in the fruit and veg store on Meath Street, and they’d make everyone who came in keep quiet and listen to them. You never forget that kind of support.”

“Poetry was everywhere, too. People have been asking me recently if I think poetry is elitist. It absolutely is not. My dad used to read me Spike Milligan. I have an uncle who was a taxi driver and a poet. Another guy did beautiful oil paintings and drove the delivery trucks, and my aunt used to dance. The place is so creative, it’s part of its spirit.” Some of May’s own work is used in support of the Penny Dinners in the area, with the poem ‘Liberty Belle’ a particular dedication.

R.S.A.G.: “There was an excitement in the unknown and where this could take me”

R.S.A.G. – the apt descriptor for Jeremy Hickey’s inventive and textured electronic act Rarely Seen Above Ground – is something of an icon in a certain segment of the Irish music scene. Known for his subtle textures, startlingly impressive drumming and clever production.

His latest, ‘Chroma’, is an unusual concept album, based on ‘Colour’ pieces that chart Hickey’s day-to-day life in musical form. He describes it as being about struggle and emotion, frustrations and regression, but also about concept and creativity.

“I think on this album the songwriting has gone to a different sensitivity, a more thoughtful space. I also decided to mix the album myself which was a very interesting and fulfilling exercise.”

“The process really started when I moved out to the country about 10 years ago and set up my new studio. I decided that whatever I was going to do next it had to be an honest reflection on how my life had changed and was continuing to do so.” 

“There was an excitement in the unknown and where this could take me. I was also struck by the wondrous colours and sounds nature had to offer from my studio view. There was an interesting correlation between nature and the recording process. I sat down with my co-writer Jamie Walsh and we talked about the album being a more colourful piece of work and that we could document it through a musical diary. Going back and forth with sketches until the right lyric fitted each musical mood.”