Tracy Bruen: “‘Waiting’ is cathartic, melancholy and uplifting”

Inventive Galway folk-pop artist Tracy Bruen’s latest ‘Waiting’ is very much embedded in the soulful west coast of our country, an ode to the personal that carries with it the city’s melancholy winter feel. Signed to Strange Brew, a label owned and operated by Gugai, who also runs the city’s iconic venue Roisin Dubh, Bruen is at the heart of the scene.

‘Waiting’ is the follow up to debut record ‘Mirror’, and is heavily tinged with grief, but also a beautiful, flowing record full of clever twists and turns – a considered return that’s anchored close to Bruen’s soul. It’s taken time to create, and is better for it.

“I had much more of an idea of how this album was going to flow,” Bruen tells us. “Because of the pandemic, and a lot of forced time to sit with the record, it changed. If I had released it in 2020, the original plan, it would have been a very different album. Instead, there were songs written for the album through the pandemic that give it a flow. Other songs didn’t make it, because stylistically they didn’t work. As a band, we made decisions to remove bands that would break that flow. I hadn’t considered that as much with the first album.”

“I also did a lot of work in production with my recording engineer and producer, developing little soundscapes to link songs and things like that. I feel like ‘Waiting’ has a much smoother flow, if that makes sense. It’s a very personal album, dealing with a lot of stuff that I’ve gone through, and I think that’s reflected in it. ‘Waiting’ is also an expression of how much I’ve relied on the people and the love I have in my life. I work through aspects of grief, but it’s also about my husband, and the strong women in my life. There’s so much love that works its way through alongside the sadness.”

“The result, for me, is a melancholy, a deep melancholy, and a grief. I don’t know what other people are going to take from the record, but I hope they feel the hope that is in it, as well. It was so cathartic for me to write it, and I feel the uplifting aspect of the songs.”

There’s a natural ebb and flow to the record, then, that colours in shades of darkness and light.

“I’ve always gravitated towards a juxtaposition of melody and theme,” Bruen explains, “and in some of the songs there’s a very upbeat feeling, but when you scratch beneath the surface, the subject matter is darker or sadder. I’m fascinated by that, I listen to a lot of artists who do that.”

Ruth Mac: “Something about those empty streets stirred up this heavy sense of disconnect that I’d never felt in Dublin before”

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.

Groundhopping: Ireland (v The Netherlands, Aviva Stadium)

Competition: European Championship Qualifying.

Date: 10 September 2023

Result: Ireland 1 – 2 The Netherlands

Tickets:  Included in season tickets, but works out at about €45 for an adult and a kid.

Attendance: 49,807

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: There’s a sense of inevitability around Ireland at the moment. I’m a strong defender of Stephen Kenny’s attempts to play decent football with what is overall a pretty weak group of players (especially absent Evan Ferguson, as tonight), but there’s also a naivety that’s somewhat depressing.

It’s shown a fair bit tonight. After some fantastic Ireland pressure in the opening 15 minutes and the Dutch looking genuinely rattled for a short time, Ireland led 1-0 through a penalty resulting from a fairly obvious handball. The Dutch came back when Gavin Bazunu was forced to fly out of goal and took out a Dutch forward, but for much of the first half, Ireland were at least competitive.

In the second half, though, there was only one winner, and Wout Weghorst eventually slammed in for a 2-1 Netherlands win, something that late Irish posession made all the more frustrating as it resulted in so little in the way of attacking intent. Kenny might be on his last legs. Though the losses to France and The Netherlands are far from shocking given the quality disparity, he’s simply unable to adapt strategy to the situation.

The ground:  I have mixed feelings about the national stadium. Great views and a decent design, but annoying to get to (we found a slighty better way to park this time, wihch I won’t promote for obvious reasons, but it’s always awkward), with poor service and ridiculous prices. True of the most corporate end of football everywhere, I suppose.

Extras: Programmes, limited and overpriced food and drinks. The Aviva usual.

Assorted asides: Dutch fans seems a whole lot of fun. From forming a ‘bus’ (a kind of vibrant dance-march) to the stadium, to the chatty woman outside the ground who handed my son a pair of orange glasses to remember her by, the nicest bunch of away fans I think I’ve come across. I suppose they did win!

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 19. Home wins: 11 Draws: 4 Away wins: 4

Goals: 54. Home goals: 35. Away goals: 19. Goals per game: 2.84


Adore: “Sometimes, if we’re trying to figure out a song, we’ll play the half finished version and hope we can come up with something on the night”

Galway band Adore, a feisty garage-punk act growing from the ashes of former act GIF, are diving in the deep end this summer with a couple fo single releases that follow from their signing with local label Blowtorch.

Debut single ‘Postcards’, an experimental take inspired by the likes of Breeders and Sleeper, is followed by this month’s new release ‘Stay Free’.

I spoke to Lachlann about the band’s early days…

I understand while releases are fairly new, you’ve been gigging for some time. Can you tell me a bit about how you’ve progressed?

Well we started in the early part of last year and since then we’ve just been gigging as much as we can around the country in different places to new audiences. From that I think you get a good idea of what your sound is, it forces you to play to your strengths and puts you outside your comfort zone. Also you always want something new so it motivates you to write more.

Sometimes if we’re trying to figure out a song we’ll play the half finished version and hope we can come up with something on the night. So in terms of what we’ve learned in the last year I’d say we’ve gained a lot of resilience and we’re a lot more ourselves.

You recently signed to Blowtorch. How has that been?

Richard has been amazing. We couldn’t have asked for a better guy to work with for these two releases. He’s so on the ball, and kind and patient with us. Without him we’d have either nothing recorded or something bad recorded, and I think he maybe knew that and intercepted the possibility. We’re genuinely forever grateful, he’s the man of the match for us.

Can you tell me a bit about what to expect from your album?

Well, the album is but a dream at the minute, but we do have two singles coming out this summer that are being sold on vinyl at the end of the month. From that I’d say you can expect two songs, both in the realm of punk and pop with some garage in there, that the three of us love to pieces. They’re fun to play and they were even more fun to record and see them develop.

Do you find your live experience plays into producing a better record?

I’d say we do, it was the main reason we wanted to record them live. Also recording live is far more fun. Everyone has a better time, even though sometimes it feels like you’ll never get it right and you’ll just be there forever, but trust me it was fun.

If there’s a single song that best represents, you what would it be?

We’ve got a song called Supermum, it’s about not being taught that you can say no. Lara’s lyrics are genius, Naoise’s drums are crazy, I’m having a very hard time keeping up on bass, and it’s over in three minutes. Bish bash bosh back of the net

Groundhopping: Ireland v Gibraltar (Aviva Stadium)

Competition: European Championship Qualifers, Group B

Date: 19 June 2023

Result: Ireland 3 – 0 Gibraltar

Tickets: As part of our season tickets, circa €50 for one adult and one kid.

Attendance: 42,156

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆

The Game: Stephen Kenny’s Ireland project has been a strange journey. He’s launched a lot of younger players into international football, and unqiestiobnably plays a more attractive version of the game than his rather tactically limited predecessors, but is it more effective? I’d argue not. It was quite ugly to watch today, too, with the team far too focused on firing crosses into Evan Ferguson instead of actually trying anything all that original against an (obviously) below average Gibraltar side.

The first half was particularly poor, with Ireland going in at half time at 0-0, and the action so bad that for the first time ever, I let my son drag me downstairs five minutes before half time because he wanted a snack. The Aviva’s catering is dire, by the way. They were already out of any kind of soft drink before half time, and those prices…

Second half, thankfully, was better, with they ever-promising Mikey Johnston making an immediate difference (he really should be starting every game at this stage). It eventually finished 3-0, with Johnston, Ferguson and Adam Idah getting the goals. Honestly, though, this one wasn’t worth the effort, really. A shame, as I generally love seeing the minnows. San Marino, Lichenstein and Andorra are firmly on my bucket list.

The ground:  Great views from everywhere in the stadium as far as I’ve seen in the Aviva, but the atmopshere today was library-like, the most end-of-season vibe I think I’ve experienced at the place. The highlight was a Mexican wave, which probably says it all.

Extras: Let’s not get into the catering again. Poorly stocked and a rip off, what an odd combination.

Assorted asides: It’s a strange sensation going to an Ireland game that they’re expected to win very easily, and even stranger when, for the first half at least, it looks like a potentially memorable night because they might not. Not a classic, it’s fair to say.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 14. Home wins: 9 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 41. Home goals: 29. Away goals: 12. Goals per game: 2.93


Groundhopping: Bohemians (v Cork City, Dalymount Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 1 May 2023

Result: Bohemians 5 – 0 Cork City

Tickets: €16 (adult), €6 (kids) – prices including fees

Attendance: circa 3,000

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: Currently top of the league and playing a Cork CIty side whose manager would complain and then be sacked after the game, this always looked likely to be a home win. Oddly, it’s also the fourth game in a row I’ve been to with a red card, three of them in the first half: when a Cork defender kicked out at Bohs point man and saw red off the ball, and the ever-lively Jordan Flores scored the resulting free kick, this felt like it was only ever going to go one way.

That said, the score was more than a little flattering – I think Bohs only had six shots on target, but their four late-ish goals made Cork look like they’d been hammered in a way that didn’t really reflect the majority of the game (in which Bohs were on top, but not totally dominant by any means). The free kick and a finely angled finish by McDonald were particulary impressive. Bohs are away to massive rivals Shamrocks Rovers next Friday – a game that could be key to the title outcome.

The ground:  “Dalymount is falling down” came the chant from the Cork City fans midway through the first half. I had to laugh, as I well remember their ground having its roof blown off only a few years ago during a storm, a far more literal falling down. Dalymount has improved slightly in the last few years, not least through the addition of the away (Mono) stand, in tribute to a dedicated fan who has passed on, and the improvement of the Des Kelly Stand.

With its moss-covered closed end and the endless graffiti around the outsides, though, I think Dalymount is nothing less than iconic, and I’ll be genuinely upset when it’s inevitably eventually gone. Grounds with character have so much more to offer the game than standard issue identi-kit stadiums, and this is one of them. It was slightly quiet today, but I’m putting that down to the win being so comfortable.

Extras: Dalymount is fairly well equipped now with food stalls, coffee, and a nice club shop. I’ve always been a fan of Bohemians kit, and while I didn’t buy any today, I do own a fair bit of their merch. The shop is well worth exploring. I didn’t dig into the programme but there was one.

Assorted asides: There were queues for the food truck for 100% of the game near the Des Kelly Stand, which strikes me as a slightly bizarre way to enjoy a football match. My son insisted on chips. I left him to it, it took half an hour. Probably room for another food stand!

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 12. Home wins: 7 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 35. Home goals: 24. Away goals: 11. Goals per game: 2.92


Groundhopping: Dundalk (v Drogheda United, Oriel Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 28 April 2023

Result: Dundalk 3 – 2 Drogheda United

Tickets: €15 (adult), €5 (kids)

Attendance: 2,825

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: I’d never been to Oriel Park (though I attended a heap of Dundalk European games in Tallaght back in the day), so a chance to sett the Louth Derby on a bank holiday Friday night was too good to turn down. I saw Dundalk last week and they seemed to have a problem finishing chances at Shelbourne. No issues this week, as two first half goals coupled with a Drogheda red card saw them seemingly in complete control.

As is the way with derby games, though, Drogheda came storming back, getting back to 2-2 at about 80 minutes before a very late and slightly manic Dundalk winner. Great entertainment, though I had the toddler with me at football for the first time (at least at a proper stadium) and that made it a little harder to watch than normal!

The ground:  One massive stand and then a load of peripheral seats and standing areas make for a bit of an odd space, but it’s nice and atmospheric. I’m not sure I’d pay the extra fiver to get in the big tall part unless it was pouring rain. I spent most of the game in the grass at one end, where I had a great view of the fairly impressive away fan pyro displays and the little one could run about.

It’s run down and the away fans famously hate the little section they’re given in hte corner, but for the game reason I like a lot of the less impressive League of Ireland ground – that they take me back to the football of my chidlhood – I did enjoy Oriel.

Extras: Coffee, fast food, programmes, lots of pyro. About what you’d expect, really.

Assorted asides: Dundalk is actually as easy to get to as any Dublin side from North County – right off the motorway with easy parking around the ground. I’ll be back.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 11. Home wins: 6 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 30. Home goals: 19. Away goals: 11. Goals per game: 2.72


Groundhopping: Ireland (v France, Aviva Stadium)

Competition: UEFA European Championship Qualifiers, Group B

Date: 27 March 2023

Result: Ireland 0 -1 France

Tickets: As part of my season ticket, roughly €28 per game (not including non-international extras)

Attendance: 50,219

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: Ireland are improving rapidly at the moment, at least in terms of performances, and despite hte loss, it’s fair to say that this performance against recent World Cup Finalists France exceeded almost all expectations. The arrival of Evan Ferguson in the first team is the latest thing to get Ireland fans fired up, but it was an all round performance here that rarely saw Ireland outclassed, despite the French being fresh off a 4-0 hammering of the Netherlands.

In fact, star man Kylian Mbappe, booed throughout, barely got into the game, often dropping back into the France defensive line to collect the ball. As is sadly typical of Ireland, the goal was both from a long way out, and came directly from a defensive error, as Cullen gifted Ben Pavard the ball around 25 yards from goal and he slammed home in a moment that could almost have been called against the run of play.

Ireland had lots of great build up play and briefly threatened to equalise with a couple of late headers, one of which was absolutely magnificently saved by Mike Maignan, a save that made the front cover of L’Equipe the following morning as the French press admitted their side had been a little fortunate.

The catch phrase of Ireland fans online recently has been ‘green shoots’, and despite a loss that almost everyone saw as inevitable before kick off, there were lots of green shoots here.

The ground:  I’ve been disappointed in Ireland fans recently – there’s a bit of a big game mentality going on, I think, and the atmosphere at friendlies has been shoddy to the point of dull. That wasn’t the case for this, which saw the Aviva light up as Ireland went toe-to-toe with the French in front of a sell out crowd. It’s games like this that give Ireland fans their reputation. I’m not convinced it’s always deserved, but at times the Aviva atmosphere is nothing short of wonderful.

Extras: One of those games where I break my usual rule and grab an ‘I was there’ programme, plus a spare one for my son’s friend to keep, too. The little lad got a half and half scalf and loves it. He’s nine, it’s allowed.

Assorted asides: With, potentially, 15 years of being fronted by Evan Ferguson on the horizon, are Ireand on the way back? I find it hard to see tournament qualifcation this time around, personally, but it also doesn’t seem a millon miles away any more. Perhaps the 2026 World Cup, with a bit of luck?

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 8. Home wins: 4 Draws: 3 Away wins: 1

Goals: 21. Home goals: 13. Away goals: 8. Goals per game: 2.63