All posts by Stephanie C

I am a music producer and sound engineer. I love songwriting and playing music. I graduated in 2015 from Dundalk Institute of Technology with a B.A (Hons) in the Production of Music and Audio. I am a postgraduate student pursuing a masters degree. I have also studied Music Production in Ballyfermot College of Further Education. My greatest passion is producing the music of the artists I work with. I also record and produce my own material- my main interests being Traditional Irish music, New Age, Rock, Pop, Dance and Chilled Electronic.

Irish Women in Harmony: RuthAnne Cunningham and The Corrs

In 2018 the collective voice of Irish women in music started singing in harmony in public spheres. Karen Casey (founder member of Solas) noted onstage in Dublin’s Liberty Hall theatre she was the only female artist at a recent Armagh Pipers concert, Pauline Scanlon spoke to The Irish Times about gender representation on international folk stages and in response, Fair Plé produced a number of events to raise further awareness for gender balance and representation in Irish music. I was invited to work at one of the Fair Plé concerts in Belfast as sound engineer and I was proud to be part of the positive collective movement. Yes, there’s a gender imbalance in music globally (particularly in music production and live sound) but that doesn’t mean there are no women working in these circles at all. However the celebrated women are few. This blog will highlight some of the recent female trailblazers of Irish music.

In June of this year, Irish Women in Harmony released a cover of The Cranberries Dreams with all proceeds going to Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working to end domestic abuse and coercive control in Ireland. The project was set up by RuthAnne Cunningham as a response to the rise of domestic abuse during the Irish lockdown. When you flip the vinyl to inspect the credits, the list of Irish female artists who worked on the single is downright impressive: Ailbhe Reddy, Aimée, Áine Cahill, Allie Sherlock, Caroline Corr, Elaine Mai, Emma Langford, Erica Cody, Eve Belle, Faye O’Rourke (Soda Blonde),  Fia Moon, Imelda May,  Laoise, Lilla Vargen, Lisa Hannigan, Loah, Lyra, Melina Malone, Moya Brennan, Niamh Farrell, Orla Gartland, Pillow Queens, Roe, Róisín O, RuthAnne, Saint Sister, Sibéal, Soulé, Stephanie Rainey, Tolü Makay, Una Healy, Wyvern Lingo, Aoife Dennedy, Louize Carroll, Lucia McPartlin, Maria O’Connor, Maria Ryan, Sarah Lynch and Theodora Byrne.

And of course, how lovely to see “Produced by RuthAnne Cunningham” on the back. Her credits are vast and include smash singles Too Little Too Late (JoJo 2006), Work Bitch (Britney Spears 2013), In the Name of Love (Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha 2016), Slow Hands (Niall Horan 2017) Pray (JRY 2017) from the Fifty Shades Darker movie, and a number of tracks by Westlife and One Direction. RuthAnne is also an artist in her own right.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBi9T8NHg-L/

The Corrs’ international army of fans have responded particularly well to the Irish Women in Harmony single. The sense of pride for the “quiet Corr” saturated Instagram and fans congratulated and thanked Caroline for making a difference through music and for standing with Irish (and by default, all) women. The Corrs’ fans know this is not the first instance that RuthAnne and The Corrs have creatively worked together. In 2015 The Corrs released White Light, their first studio album since their near 10-year hiatus and one of the album tracks is Unconditional which features a writing credit by RuthAnne. I asked RuthAnne about this collaboration at her 2018 music production seminar in IMRO Dublin and today I was asked by a Corrs’ superfan what RuthAnne’s response was. Below is the transcript of what she said:

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 13.54.41

For the record I wasn’t disappointed RuthAnne wasn’t in the same room as The Corrs while writing Unconditional, in fact I wasn’t even surprised. This is the perfect example of modern songwriting and music production, where people can’t physically meet and end up working remotely. This practice is becoming more and more normal due to lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions. But that’s another school of thought altogether. It was lovely to listen to RuthAnne recount her experience of writing with The Corrs in mind. As an Irish female sound engineer, music producer, musician and academic, the Irish Women in Harmony project and creative endeavours of RuthAnne Cunningham fill me with so much pride for the women of Ireland. As a longtime Corrs’ fan, I too am inspired by the creativity, success and many charity projects of The Corrs.

 

Music Production Archive: (12) “Leaca Bán”- Na Tonnta

Another dip into my music production archive. Presenting “Leaca Bán” by Na Tonnta.

 

“Leaca Bán” was my major music production project in my final year of my BA (hons) in Music and Audio Production (2015). This track was the main showcase out of three productions for the project (I previously shared “Bedlam Boys” and “Iver Banks/Bill Harte’s”).

“Leaca Bán” is a special production. Sinéad O’Malley (tin whistle and flute) of Na Tonnta found the beautiful lyrics as a poem in the front of a book about to be tossed out by a local secondary school library- “The Lights of Leaca Bán” by Alice M. Cashel (1935). The girls set the poem to the Irish tune “Two-Fifty to Vigo” which can be heard on Lúnasa’s (2003) Redwood album. The lyrics matched the melody beautifully.

 

The song could have been produced so many ways. There are so many possibilities for it! At the time I chose to add drums by my go-to drummer, a wash of synthesisers including my Yamaha DX7 for that Enya touch and acoustic and electric guitars to Ellie McGinley’s vocals and fiddle, Sinéad’s tin whistle, Ciara Moley’s piano accordion and the girl’s combined backing vocals.

My production was found by a researcher who explored Alice Cashel’s life (she was an amazing woman) and Na Tonnta were invited to perform at the Centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 in Dublin. Alice Cashel (1878-1958) was a Sinn Féin activist, teacher, member of the Gaelic League and member of Cumann na mBan (Irish republican women’s paramilitary organisation founded in Dublin in 1914 and auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers). Na Tonnta performed “Leaca Bán” as part of their set during a special talk about Alice’s life. I was present and it was a beautiful honour to be part of something so special.

It was really hard to choose one minute for the IG post but the full production can be streamed for free on my Soundcloud!

Stephanie Caffrey · “Leaca Bán” – Na Tonnta

Music Production Archive: (11) “Backbone”- The Dead End Girls

Continuing the music production archive project today with something previously unheard: “Backbone” by The Dead End Girls.

I mentioned previously The Dead End Girls was a two-piece recording project of myself and vocalist Sarah-Louisa Nolan.

This track was our follow up to “Chains”, so you’ll notice we had our own little signature sound going from the start. We never finished recording “Backbone”, I don’t even remember recording it at all. We definitely tracked the vocals in my house because I can hear the distinctive fluttery sound of my room on the vocal tracks. I would record her using different gear and a different room for sure now. I also don’t have any memory recording the music itself but it was certainly all my work in early 2012.

I revisited the project yesterday and gave the existing mix a bit of a polish and restructured the song. There was only one recording of the chorus in the session so that’s all that’s in this version. It’s a bit short but hey, I’d rather share it like this than have it sit on my hard drive for another eight years unheard.

Sarah-Lou’s lyrics are really awesome, she has such a creative mind. Listening back on her vocal, I hear a lot more now than I did then. I was always really impressed with her power and tone but now I hear nuances in her voice that really are fab.

Hope someone enjoys the song!

Rock on.

 

Music Production Archive: (10) “Spider Web (live)”- Hypnotytz

Today’s clip from my music production archive is “Spider Web (live)” by Hypnotytz.

This was recorded in Ballyfermot College of Further Education in Dublin where I completed a HND (level 6) in music production 2009-2011. I loved BCFE! It was the perfect way to start college life and start my production journey.

This was recorded live on campus in the state of the art purpose built venue on a Pro Tools HD2 system. It was mixed afterwards as an assignment.

Hypnotytz were students of the Rock School (music performance course) and this song was basically all us producer’s song for the year cos we all loved it and we all wanted to mix it! I’ve no other info on the band, after all it was 10 years ago 😱

But as you can hear, they were fab live. Great vocal, great drums, great guitar and bass. The hall sounded class too. A joy to mix!

(I’ve no photo of the hall, just this from the recording studio in BCFE).

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCW2MOBh95m/

Music Production Archive: (9) “Believe It”- Shock Sorrow

Today from my music production portfolio/archive it’s a real throwback! “Believe It” by Shock Sorrow. Pedal to the metal, let’s rock!!🤘🎸

Shock Sorrow was myself and Keith Caffrey (no relation lol). We did a lot of music together- mainly songwriting, plenty of recording and occasional live gigs as an acoustic/unplugged duet.

We recorded and mixed this song way back in 2010 in good old Garageband on an Apple G5 craptop. I was literally learning about recording and it was one of my most fun projects. We both loved making this track.

I remember giving Keith these guitar riffs and wondering what would he come up, well I was only floored. I also remember recording his vocal in his house and him rolling around the floor 😂 there are plenty of recording/mixing rookie mistakes but it still sounds fun I think!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCTUqAGBEMV/

Music Production Archive: (8) “Iver Banks/Bill Harte’s”- Na Tonnta

Today’s music production archive clip I revisit Na Tonnta and their Irish traditional instrumental “Iver Banks/Bill Harte” jig set, recorded as part of my major music production project in my fourth year in DkIT Production of Audio and Music. Bill Harte’s is a double jig and was notably performed by Dervish in 1995.
I would go back and tweak the mix balance slightly but I still enjoy listening to this ❤

Piano accordion: Ciara Moley @ciarajmm
Fiddle: Ellie Níc Fhionnghaile @ellienicfhionnghaile
Flute: Sinéad O’ Malley
Uilleann pipes: Fiachra Mhic Reachtain Meek
Guitar: Daniel Whelan.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CB3A-DOBAl0/

Music Production Archive: (7) “Ticking Time”- Stephanie Caffrey

Today’s music production archive clip: “Ticking Time”. This is a song I suppose I wouldn’t call it produced now, rather just recorded in my bedroom.

Quite simply and obviously it’s about the passing of time and moving on. I loved making this recording. The mix isn’t stellar but I know if I go back and start fecking with it, it will fall apart.

Demo-itis.
Sometimes I sing. This is one of those times.

Also: I miss that top I bought in Berlin 😂

https://www.instagram.com/p/CByXTmeBTdB/

Music Production Archive: (6) “Crystal Hearts”- Stephanie Caffrey

Today’s clip from my music production portfolio “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona Cantwell and Keith Caffrey.

This song can almost be thought of as Part Two to “Close Your Eyes” because there is one year between them. This was a musical idea I started off creating in Logic Pro and brought to Keith for lyrical and melodic input. I explained to him I would love the lyrics to be centred on the idea of crystals and soulmates and what he came up with blew my mind (as always). The production grew as I started shaping it for my BA Year 3 production project where we were encouraged to produce a single. I went back to my Corrs roots and took inspiration from their Talk on Corners album, and I composed an Irish traditional style middle eight for the production.

I asked @ellienicfhionnghaile to play fiddle over my guide fiddle in the studio and the lilt she put on it was just gorgeous. I was floored. The bodhran player Corentin pulled a low whistle out of his bag of tricks that night and I almost wept I was so impressed with his skills and how he added to the production. My classmate Shane played Celtic harp and the piano (another virtuoso musician). Fiona sang Keith’s melody to his guide track which I ended up keeping. Myself and Fiona spend an hour stacking backing vocals in an Enya style, layer after layer. Jay, a metal drummer played the drums, again I was delighted he understood the track so well. The synths all carried over from Logic into Pro Tools.

It was a massive production and I put everything into it. I still like it.
We had a fun night in the Spirit Store Dundalk where we (MaAP3)got up and spoke about our productions and had a listening party with friends, family and other lecturers. (We had a massive session too!). This was also the track that alerted one of my future MA joint-supervisors to me and what I was about: Celtic sounds and influences in modern production. He appreciated my production and I always felt he understood me well for it.

Complete track on my Soundcloud!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBvaLt2nGIy/

Music Production Archive: (5) “Pictures”- Stephanie Caffrey

Today’s clip from my music production archive is “Pictures” featuring Fiona Cantwell (lead vocal). This is a song I wrote about friendships when they come to their end. I recorded it at home and Fiona was so gracious to lend her voice to it.
I’ve uploaded the full song to IG TV so feel free to listen.

Hope you enjoy!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBqbjQ2hnt5/

Music Production Archive: (4) “Bedlam Boys”- Na Tonnta

Today’s clip from my music production archive: “Bedlam Boys” by Na Tonnta.

I recorded, produced and mixed this song as part of my bachelor’s major project in 2015. Na Tonnta were an Irish traditional and folk group comprised of music students at DkIT. I worked with their lead vocalist and fiddle player @ellienicfhionnghaile on some projects before and I got to know the group very well during my final year. I chased their uilleann piper Fiachra Mhic Reachtain Meek down corridors to involve him in my research project and ask him all about his elusive musical instrument 😂
I got to be a sixth member of the group and went with them to rehearsals, recorded demos and introduced them to the recording studio. They took me as one of their own and even cooked me dinner and gifted me a beautiful framed collage of our Kodak (and often hilarious) moments! “Bedlam Boys” (Boys of Bedlam/Tom of Bedlam) is an English folk song published in 1720 and was popularised by Steeleye Span in 1971. Na Tonnta included it in their repertoire because often English folk songs fit into Irish traditional sets and because quite simply, they enjoyed it so much.
Theres a certain liveliness to this recording which I quite like. We went about recording it in a funny way: we recorded the vocals first to a synthesizer drone, overdubbed @ciarajmm piano accordion, then overdubbed the acoustic guitar (Dan), bodhrán (Fiachra) and the boys backing vocals afterwards in a different session and location! It worked so well because the group knew exactly what each other did bar for bar, note for note and were comfortable to record in this odd, disjointed way. Lucky me!! Gosh we had so many laughs, the girls would randomly erupt in peels of unstoppable laughter and the boys would bounce off each other, making us all cry laughing. They were a great group together, and they’ve all gone on to do amazing music and academic research projects.
There are two more productions from this body of work which I will share soon.
As usual, the full version is available to stream on my Soundcloud page.

Enjoy!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBoBVBZBnSW/