Category Archives: Education

For Your Ears, Heart and Soul: Leaca Bán – Na Tonnta

Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, Na Tonnta.

Na Tonnta
Na Tonnta

Introducing Na Tonnta (L-R as above): Daniel ‘Hearthrob’ Whelan, Ellie ‘Ellington’ J McGinley, Sinéad ‘Brings her own teabags’ O’Malley, Ciara ‘I♥ Beoga’ Moley and Fiachra ‘Figgy’ Meek. The group met while studying Music in DkIT together and bonded through their love of traditional Irish music, popular music, tea, biscuits and cakes!

My journey with Na Tonnta began in September 2014. I was searching for a musically-new band to introduce to the recording studio and collaborate with for my final music production project at DkIT, resulting in three songs- one being the core and most-polished production.

Approaching Na Tonnta was an easy task. It was actually perfect timing! I already knew Sinéad, their flute and whistle player from the Norway erasmus trip in 2013 and I worked with Ellie, their vocalist and fiddle player on my previous production project, “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl | Free Listening on SoundCloud.

I knew I wanted to carry forward my love for traditional Irish music while bringing it into a contemporary production and I also knew Na Tonnta were a hard-working, creative and driven group from my Facebook stalking since they formed in October 2013!

Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014
Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014

Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 To Vigo, accompanied by accordion player, Ciara. I sat, mesmerised by the performance- the beautiful tone of the B flat whistle, the rhythm of the tune, the sombre accordion, gently accompanying the haunting tune. The hairs on my arms stood and I knew instantly that this was a tune I wanted to be a part of. I could already hear our studio recording in my mind’s ear!

What happened next lifted my spirits even further. There was a lyrical idea. In fact, there was more than just an idea- there was a theme, a mood, an atmosphere and a poem! A vintage book was produced- a little blue book with yellow pages, about to be tossed out from a local school library where Sinéad worked. For some reason unknown to me, Sinéad opened the book and there was a beautiful poem at the beginning. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice Cashel is an old book intended for secondary school children but the poem simply titled Leaca Bán, found at the begnning of the book, is a literary work of beauty.  It was suggested that Ellie fit the tune to the words- amazingly, it worked like a dream. Ellie suddenly started singing the poem and it was just right.

Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room
Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room

By Christmas a humble demo which consisted of a vocal, fiddle, tin whistle and accordion was recorded and then my audio fun began. What I already had was a beautiful tune which was deeply Irish and could hold up on its own with such a small ensemble- how about adding drums? Synthesisers? Guitars? More vocals? How big could we go?! How big did I dare?!

Well, here’s the final production.  Listen for yourself.

Breaking Free From Radio Silence!

First off, apologies for the radio silence!!! I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet, I haven’t stuck my thumb and hitchhiked across the galaxy (as much as I would LOVE to do that!), I’ve been around, just quietly observing what’s been going on around me and stuff like that!

My last year in college has been a whirlwind. Where does the time go?! I’ve been working hard at many projects. A quick summary of what I’m currently up to- a research project on uilleann pipes and how to record them in the studio (interesting things I’ve come across regarding this amazing instrument!), my intervention project is going to be interesting and fun. A recording project where I’m producing Dundalk traditional/crossover group Na Tonnta. Exciting stuff to talk about there! Recording projects within the class- the current one I’m writing vocals for… A composition project for a final project for Creative Media 4th year students… A recording project for Music I engineered- recorded a bunch of trad instruments for a decent amount of tracks, very fun!

Outside of this, Trend-E and I are collaborating on some wicked electronic tracks of his again! I enjoyed collaborating with him last time… 

… this time we’re working on something much darker but very, very sexy!!!

I’m delighted to be this busy again! I was feeling very down on things after the rush of Christmas assignments were done, I had nothing creative *to do*. It’s well and good having free time to play with DAWs and guitars etc but when you’re not in the mood……….

I even purchased a Yamaha DX-7 before Christmas NOM!!!! Tubular bells!!!! I’ve been enjoying Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks album for months now, seriously mind-blowing music. I had to get a DX-7. Just had to. The fun starts when I learn how to programme it! I’ve been messing around, getting to grips a little bit. The way I see it, I’ve my whole life to master this. And I will.

My Yamaha DX-7 and Christmas Teddy ;)
My Yamaha DX-7 and Christmas Teddy 😉
My music room :)
My music room 🙂

So happy new year 2015! This is a year of serious life changes for me. I’ve been doing so much thinking, feeling, writing about my life and my life path the last year or so. I know big changes are coming. I can feel them. My spiritual side is guiding me very strongly and I’m learning to trust my gut feeling, myself and believe in myself.

Cue song lyrics…. yes indeed….

Probably meant to blurb out more stuff here but it’s kinda, sorta late and I’m getting tired!

More soon!!!!!!

Be good y’all!!!!! 😉

My Week at the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award Bootcamp 2014

I can’t believe it’s Monday already! This time last week I was sitting in this exact chair in Starbucks, DkIT School of Informatics and Creative Arts, planning my journey to Derry and feeling rather anxious about it!

What in the world was I worrying about? Absolutely nothing!

My journey begins with the completion of my music production project “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl on SoundCloud – Hear the world’s sounds at the end of last semester. On a whim I sent off my song to The Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award – Honeycomb – Creative Works.

Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award
Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award

I heard about the award through one of my lecturers at DkIT, they insisted I give it a shot. Normally I wouldn’t even dream of entering competitions!

You can imagine my surprise when I received an email a couple of weeks later telling me I was chosen as one of the top twenty digital creators of class of 2014 from colleges and universities across Northern Ireland and the six Republic of Ireland bordering counties! My prize was a week of workshops in Derry, meeting industry professionals, attending interesting talks about creative arts and business, working with the 19 other winners and an opportunity to pitch my skills to a panel of industry experts in a bid to win the grand ultimate prize!

I was immediately delighted but also a tiny bit anxious! Travelling 190 km to spend a full week with strangers! Shy, self-conscious and over-thinker- Steff almost completely backed out- if it wasn’t for the same lecturer who assured me attending the bootcamp was something I absolutely needed to do!

And glad am I for their assurance!

My drive up to Derry was very pleasant. As soon as I arrived at the hotel I met some of the other winners and I was immediately put at ease with their big smiles, interesting chat and genuine warmth. These were people like me!

That night we were treated to a fantastic meal in the Exchange restaurant in Derry city centre. The craic was ninety and the food was delicious!

The next morning (Tuesday) bootcamp officially kicked off with lovely welcomes from the Honeycomb team and straight into a fun personality workshop. After a card game which got the group instantly giggling and working together,  I learned about the four general different types of people (not that anyone can be labelled into any one type of course)- the two extroverted types and the two introverted types. I learned how these kinds of people generally think, behave and react to each other. The card game revealed that I am indeed an introvert- the kind who responds to others body language instantly, smiles a lot, tends to procrastinate, is generally quiet and shy and likes to take direction from others (over a cup of tea!)- yes, that’s me all over! I knew this already but it was lovely to learn there ARE others like me and how to approach the extroverts!

This was followed by a fantastic talk from Richard Williams from N.I Screen with great advice and useful information for us.

Great talk from Richard Williams to Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners. Really good advice on how to get started! pic.twitter.com/t8LCnKXgBi
Great talk from Richard Williams to Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners. Really good advice on how to get started! pic.twitter.com/t8LCnKXgBi

After lunch we started working on our pitching skills, learning how others deliver successful and smart pitches quickly and with structure.

After this we attended a Culturetech event in the Craft Village (much to my delight as there was a beautiful little shop I wished to visit there!) about starting up businesses in the creative arts. We listened to fascinating stories from three speakers about their ideas, their initial struggles, their developments and their successes. It was fantastic to hear how they went from their normal day-job to the job of their dreams.

Wednesday started with a workshop which was all about thinking on your feet- how to improvise. This was a lot of fun as it was all games that got us interacting as a group. I was initially terrified of staring into a strangers eyes- I tend to find looking into a strangers eyes unsettling- it makes me feel invaded and uncomfortable! And in turn, I tend to think I’m making them uncomfortable! I’m always aware of trust issues regarding eye contact but this is not my intent! (People I know and trust I am ok with!) So some of the games really freaked me out and I very nearly bolted but the ladies running the group were very understanding and said my feelings were totally ok- something I was never told before! It wasn’t long before I felt brave enough to join back in and enjoy the craic!

This workshop actually turned out to be one of the biggest benefits for me on reflection. It tied in perfectly with my life coaching that I’ve been working so hard on during the summer- building my self confidence, accepting myself, learning to feel joy towards myself and others, not feeling lost in the crowd and indeed- looking people in the eyes without fear.

After another amazing lunch, Josh Richards (science comedian and speaker, physicist, ukulele lover and astronaut candidate. graduate short-listed among 705 to colonise Mars with ) captivated us with his stories, his dreams, his infectious laughter and smile. We fired loads of questions at him and even though his hour ran out, he stayed back and chatted some more with us over coffee, we milled around him, taking photos and asking as many questions as we could! He really touched my heart and he will very well be the source for inspiration for a very future song I wish to write!!!

Meeting Josh Richards!
Meeting Josh Richards!
Funny Twitter conversation with Josh later!
Funny Twitter conversation with Josh later!

We continued our pitching skills workshop afterwards, pitching fun ideas to each other and then working on the tough stuff- our real pitches to deliver to the industry panel the next morning! We also received mentoring from industry experts- invaluable experience!

Teamwork!
Teamwork!

The next day (Thursday) was the day of truth- we were all a light-hearted bunch of people with all of our different personalities but one thing we shared- an anxiety about pitching our skills or business ideas to an industry panel! It was a big deal as we wanted to do our best- it wasn’t about winning, it was about doing a good job and pushing ourselves that little further.

My pitch went good! I couldn’t help but be nervous, my voice revealed that! But I felt good- I did push myself into something I would normally run away from- and hey, it didn’t hurt! 🙂 I pitched to them my skills as a music producer- what I could offer them if they were a top music studio, what ideas I have for the future of recorded music, my experience etc etc! My three minutes flew by in a heartbeat.

After a very pleasant walk around the city and lunch, there were more talks to listen to.

Greg Spence (producer of Game of Thrones) inspired us with his stories of the work he’s done, his journey and what he loves. He showed us the incredible work that goes into Game of Thrones (I knew it was brilliantly done but their pre-production is out of this world!!!). He didn’t just talk for the film/video/tv people, he spoke about the other creative work that goes into making a tv show (music, art, design, textiles, animation etc, etc.).

Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners 2014 with Greg Spence, producer of Game of Thrones.
Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners 2014 with Greg Spence, producer of Game of Thrones.

The last talk was more business- how to get investment in projects etc- valuable information was learned.

Bootcamp came to an official close that evening with two announcements- the person who came up with such a brilliant business idea that it was going to get further advice from an industry professional and the overall winner of the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award.

It was after the celebration that our lovely group parted- some of us left for home and some stayed for further partying and Culturetech events! I went home as Derry is about a three hour drive and well, I missed my cat 😉

My cat missed me too :)
My cat missed me too 🙂

It took me the rest of the weekend to recover from such an intense week! The wonderful thing is we’re all keeping in touch. All the Creative Buzz Award winners are connected online and we are doing a great job staying in touch!

The seven graduates from DkIT who won the wonderful week of bootcamp (Rebecca Dykes and Sinead Duffy - graduates of the BA in Communications in Creative Media. James Heffernan - graduate of the BA (Hons) in Communications in Creative Media. Stephanie Caffrey, Ashling Grufferty and Sean McKeown – graduates of BA in Music and Audio Production and Hugh Thornton – Graduate of the BSc in Computing in Games Development.)
The seven graduates from DkIT who won the wonderful week of bootcamp (Rebecca Dykes and Sinead Duffy – graduates of the BA in Communications in Creative Media.
James Heffernan – graduate of the BA (Hons) in Communications in Creative Media.
Stephanie Caffrey, Ashling Grufferty and Sean McKeown – graduates of BA in Music and Audio Production.
Hugh Thornton – Graduate of the BSc in Computing in Games Development.)

Thank you Honeycomb Creative Works for a brilliant week. I gained so much, I’m so glad I went! You did a brilliant job and events like these really do perk up people like me! I have new friends, new contacts, new skills, new self-confidence and new experiences!

Enjoy Derry! Yours truly sitting in the Mayors Throne in the Guildhall!
Enjoying Derry! Yours truly sitting in the Mayors Throne in the Guildhall!
I may have come home 2 stone heavier ;) yum!
I may have come home 2 stone heavier 😉 haha yum- worth it!

Update: The seven DkIT graduates were featured in this weeks DkIT Times, read the full article at DkIT graduates attend CultureTECH festival | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

1st Annual Final Year Showcase of BA Music and Audio Production

Tomorrow night is a big night for us Third Year Music and Audio Production students at DkIT. We are presenting our major production projects in the Spirit Store and we’re very excited about it!

Image

We were the first ever intake of Music and Audio Production (2011) and our production  projects combine everything we have studied over the last three years.

We have worked with teams of musicians from the BA Music Applied plus other courses in DkIT as well as musicians outside of the college on our individual projects.

There will be something for everyone at this event- our songs range from Folk to Rock, Pop to Dance and Celtic New Age to Metalcore!

We are looking forward to celebrating our hard work and hearing each others final mixes.

Entry is free and doors are at 7.30pm, do come along!

More info: 1st Annual Final Year Showcase of BA Music and Audio Production | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

For course details please visit: BA (Hons) Production of Music and Audio | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Culture, Society and Popular Music; Cultural Appropriation in Music

This is the sixth and final installment of my Culture, Society and Music blog for my Music and Audio Production degree coursework. This week I will discuss cultural appropriation in music. This blog also includes an accompanying playlist.

Cultural appropriation occurs when an artist from one culture takes elements from another culture in their work and gives nothing in return. The other culture may be used in the completely wrong way, misinterpreted or just used for commercial appeal. That culture doesn’t benefit at all.

Many examples exist in modern pop culture, the first one that comes to my mind is Selena Gomez “Come and Get It”. I actually really like this song as piece of pop music with it’s catchy stutter-effect vocals, EDM influences and use of Indian samples and loops. Yet the video shows Selena (a Latina, Western lady) wearing a bindi and other forms of Indian clothing. She hyper-sexualised Indian traditional dancing in the video. This shocked South Asian culture. Furthermore Selena called the song “tribal” in interviews.

Anisha Ahuja from Feminspire.com writes of her disgust toward Selena Gomez:

“My tabla is the music I grew up to and not a sample for you to pretend to understand with your “twisting the lightbulb” dance moves. My tabla is the music that has been understood at my family members’ weddings, and not in your safe place in Billboard’s top ten hits.

My bindi is not a way for you to present yourself as being friendly to South Asian culture while exotifying it. My bindi is from my mother, put in my drawer because it is another mark of my internalized Otherness, on top of my brown skin. My bindi is tainted by Western celebrities trying to be “cultural” or “bohemian” or “tribal.” My bindi is not just a piece of plastic, my bindi is not for sale, and my bindi is not for you.”

(http://feminspire.com/selena-gomez-what-are-you-doing/)

Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” is another example of a Western commercial pop star hyper-sexualising Arabian dance and clothing in her video. The song in my opinion isn’t half as likeable as Selena Gomez’s, though it also takes influence from EDM. The music itself has no reference to Arabian culture. It’s the video that causes offence.

EDIT (APRIL 25)

A fine example of cultural appropriation has just hit the ground running- this time form Avril Lavigne with her new song “Hello Kitty”. Lavigne wrote the song with her husband, Nickelback front-man Chad Kroeger. It is a bizarre hybrid of pop and dubstep! This song has no musical reference to Japenese culture but the lyric alone “Hello Kitty” sparks Kawaii appropriation.

Kawaii is the art and culture of cute, Japenese cartoons- Hello Kitty brand being the most famous.

Kawaii art on Pinterest
Kawaii art on Pinterest

Lavigne’s video absolutely violates this culture with the use of Asian women dressed up in matching outfits, Lavigne eating Asian food (using slick editing to make a comedic show out of the affair). The video was removed countless times from the Internet. I currently can’t find a link.

The video sickened me, as a fellow 29 year old musician, a guitar player (Lavigne dances around with a pink Strat covered in fluffy teddys and stickers) and I was appalled at the display of Japenese culture the video.

Ladies of pop music are not only guilty of cultural appropriation. Haitan-American Jason Derulo’s R&B track “Talk Dirty to me” uses an alto sax sample from 2007 single, ‘Hermetico,’ by Tel Aviv/New York City’s Balkan Beat Box. Ori Kaplan’s brass playing has kept Eastern European dance floors dancing for years atop Tamir Muskat’s beatmaking. The video shows hyper-sexualised women playing trumpets! A fine example of Western music taking a piece of culture that was successful in it’s own right and turning it into profit.

Lastly is Lady Gaga with a new low. Her video for “Burqa” shows her wearing Muslim clothing as a fashion statement, not as symbol for religion. She also hypser-sexulaises the burqua with her lyric “I’m not a wandering slave I am a woman of choice, my veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face.” This song promotes the trivialization of the religious clothing of Muslim women.

Playlist:

Culture, Society and Popular Music; Gender in Music

This is the fifth installment of my Culture, Society and Music blog for my Music and Audio Production degree coursework. This week I will discuss the male-female ratio of music producers. This blog also includes an accompanying playlist.

First off I am a female in the music industry. I have absolutely no concern over the “issue” that is often discussed in our classes- the male to female ratio of music producers in our class. Our class has 20 students, 4 of which are female. The two years behind us show a similar ratio. When I studied in BCFE there were 2 females in a class of 15. The year after us, there were 3 and the year before us there was 1. I’ve never felt out of place in male dominated studios or classrooms, in fact I’ve found men of sound engineering discipline to be very open and sensitive towards women in the music industry.

The ratio is interesting but I cannot fathom why there are so few females in music production education.

My own interest in production was piqued when I joined a rock band and started recording. Recording in various studios inspired me and I always thought that was something I could do. Though we were a female rock band we never actually met any females in the music industry. All record producers, sound engineers and record label reps were males. We never even noticed this. Any females we met were other musicians, makeup artists, stylists, photographers, stage managers or tv/radio personalities.

As an all female rock band we were always frowned upon at gigs. 4 girls in their early 20s with guitars and drums? We were usually met with sneers but after gigs we were always approached by men and women, expressing their delight of how we played and hold we held our own. I’ll never forget playing in Mountjoy Prison for a Christmas party in 2003 for the inmates. Before the gig one lad insisted on calling me “Avril” with my long blonde hair and black eye-shadow, I was highly offended but smiled politely. By the end of the show the 200 inmates had jumped out of their chairs and were rocking out with us, begging for more! I suppose we were a novelty, that always bothered me. I always wanted to be judged as a player, not as a female player.

The BBC published an article in 2012 about female music producers (5% of music producers are female according to their article), some of the names they included are:

 

  • Cordell Jackson founded her own record label, Moon Records, in 1956, and produced early rock’n’roll singles
  • Sylvia Robinson produced hip-hop classic Rapper’s Delight, for her own Sugarhill record label
  • Susan Rogers was the engineer on Prince’s biggest albums, including Purple Rain and Sign O The Times. She also worked with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Barenaked Ladies
  • Leanne Unger Produced and engineered seven albums for Leonard Cohen, and scores for TV shows such as The Wonder Years
  • Sally “Louder” Browder emerged from the California punk scene to make records with Rocket From The Crypt and Dwight Yokam
  • Trina Shoemaker, winner of three Grammys, best known for her work with Sheryl Crow, Queens Of The Stone Age and Emmylou Harris
  • Ann Mincieli recording engineer and studio designer for Alicia Keys

(http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-19284058)

I noticed Mandy Parnell (mastering engineer), Catherine Marks (mix engineer, producer, song-writer) are not in the list.

There seems to be a lot of female producers active in electronic music production. This is especially apparent on SoundCloud. Two I follow are DJ Colette (Colette Marino) and the Amazonica (Victoria Harrison), these ladies have years of successful music industry presence under their belts but there are tonnes of up and coming female producers posting content on SoundCloud.

I personally believe the in-balance between men and women as record producers and sound engineers will balance out in the future. It may take 20 years but it will happen, especially with so many music production educational courses being available, young women are being invited to the studio and the sound engineering booth with open arms.

Playlist:

(mastered by Mandy Parnell)

(mixed by Catherine Marks)

(engineered and mixed by Trina Shoemaker)

(created and produced by Colette Marino)

(created and produced by Victoria Harrison)

 

 

 

Culture, Society and Popular Music; Music and Moral Panic

This is the third installment of my Culture, Society and Music blog for my Music and Audio Production degree coursework. This week I will discuss music and moral panic- why is music so often attributed to the breakdown of society and include my own memories of moral panics associated with music when I was growing up. This blog also includes an accompanying playlist.

Mass media has always had a strong obsession with subcultures. Media has a history of reacting to the behavior of youth subcultures and discussing such behavioral activities as though they were part of greater society. The attention often gets overblown and this in turn leads to feeling of persecution and group solidarity.

Elvis Presley is famous for being the earliest of such moral panics in music. His rock and roll music was highly commercial but also extremely controversial and was quickly branded as damaging and dangerous to society. Devil Dancing and an association with black magic rituals which stemmed from African-American roots was seen as damaging the moral fabric of white US society. Any TV appearances of Elvis also showed his young, excited teenage fans and this led to an over emphasis of teenage involvement in deviant behaviour. Elvis was said to have aroused teenage girls in ways they shouldn’t be aroused with his “hyper-sexual” dancing of the time.

I do remember the moral panic surrounding the music of Marilyn Manson and the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. The massacre led to debate over gun control laws, bullying, goth culture and video game culture. The shooters were initially branded as fans of heavy metal music such as Marilyn Manson, KMFDM and Rammstein but it was later revealed that there was no link. The music and imagery of Manson were said to be the sole motivation for the killings. The media pointed the finger at Manson and sensationalist headlines such as “Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson” and “Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids To Kill” circulated in a massive media frenzy. In Michael Moore famous documentary Bowling for Columbine, Manson’s response when asked what would he say to the students of Columbine was “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.” Marilyn Manson isn’t the only heavy metal artist who’s been associated with deviant behaviour.

My Chemical Romance and emo culture was branded as dangerous to society in 2008. Emo (emotional) was the new goth culture- guitar based music, dressing in black, emotional lyrics. The haircut was usually dyed black with a long fringe brushed to one side. It became associated with self-harm and suicide because teenagers were reported to be becoming obsessed with the music and lyrics of such bands who apparently glamorised death and misery. (the Black Parade was said to be a paradise were all emos go after death)

The latest moral panic in music surrounds Miley Cyrus. We all remember her MTV VMA performance with Robin Thicke and the social media outrage which immediately followed. It’s Miley’s childhood history as child superstar Hannah Montanna which upsets parents. Their children are fans of Miley’s pop career which has developed from the innocent Disney star to hyper-sexualised young woman. Parents don’t want their children exposed to Miley’s pop lifestyle of sex, drugs and racism.

Playlist:

Culture, Society and Popular Music; The Country Music Scene in Ireland

This is the first post in a weekly series of blogs relating to topics in the Culture, Society and Popular Music module I am studying this semester as part of my Music and Audio Production degree.

Country music is at the centre of attention of the media this week with Garth Brooks selling out 4 dates in Croke Park. Garth Brooks was a very popular artist in Ireland in the early 90’s and the announcement of his Croke Park gigs has caused huge excitement among his old and new fans. It’s been impossible to ignore the frenzy on social media and the fact that this is the first time ever that one artist has sold out so many shows in Croke Park in record time! This blog continues the discussion in class about the country music scene in Ireland.

I would like to begin by expressing my personal opinion of country music and its’ culture. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the genre as I find prolonged listening very boring and cheesey (the I, IV and V major chord progression, the vocal styles and the bland, basic drum beats)! To be quite honest, it generally doesn’t grab me inside. I can’t connect with the music and it doesn’t make me feel good. This is not ignorance or disrespect towards the genre at all. It’s a simple matter of personal taste.

On the other hand as a guitar player myself, I do genuinely really like the guitars in country music. I love fingerpicked acoustic guitars, twangy electric guitars (especially Fender Stratocasters!), pentatonic scales, bends and slides. I have absolute respect for country music guitar playing and acknowledge how skilled guitarists are. I love when these guitar elements combine with rock music, for example Metallicas’ “Mama Said” (country rock) is one of my all time favourite Metallica songs.

As I’m not a fan of the music itself, I have never really connected with country music culture. Growing up in a rural area in the early 90’s, I was aware of the line-dancing craze and of the dancing sessions in the local parochial hall- it seemed cheesey to me, even as a child! No one in my family was interested in country music or attending the dancing.

This picture reminds me of the image I had from my childhood of the locals line-dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe"
This picture reminds me of the image I have from my childhood of the locals line-dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe”!

Fast forward to the present. About four times a year every year, I work with my father at country music gigs he organises in a country club venue in county Meath.

I should explain that my father is a DJ on a local radio station and presents a very popular show dedicated to céili country, old time songs and ballads. His playlists includes songs by artists such as the Wolftones and the Dubliners as well as local artists and musicians.

The gigs are very popular and usually sell out, drawing a large crowd usually of elderly and middle-aged people. The gig consists of a live band who plays all night with local singers (all these singers have recorded material played on the radio show regularly) and usually one or two bigger stars who are full-time musicians.

An old Facebook event screen shot of my fathers country music night.
An old Facebook event screen shot of my fathers country music night.

I usually do front of house- taking tickets, greeting the people as they come in, selling raffle tickets during the show and help out with loading of music gear. I usually end up chatting with the people and I’m always struck by their friendliness. I’ve noticed that the middle-aged folk tend to take the country music culture side more seriously than the older ones- dressing in cowboy boots, hats, leather jackets and denim shirts. It’s always an enjoyable night and although I can’t say I like every song I hear, I do enjoy the energy and sound of the live band!

As mentioned in my opening paragraph, the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park have caused a frenzy on social media. My own Facebook feed was a mixture of excitement and annoyance.

Screen shot from my Facebook feed.
Excitement: screen shot from my Facebook feed.
Annoyance: another screen shot from my Facebook feed.
The opposite view: another screen shot from my Facebook feed.

I’ve noticed through posts on Facebook that the ticket sales itself was a big social event. Friends posted pictures of themselves q-ing and tagged their friends in them. These kind of posts got plenty of likes and comments, giving me the impression that this was actually a lot of fun for fans of Garth Brooks.

Q-ing to buy tickets was a positive social event.
Q-ing to buy tickets was a positive social event.

I have never in my life seen photos of people q-ing for tickets months and months before any event. Occasionally I might see a photograph of a ticket with an additional comment along the lines of “Got my ticket! Can’t wait till the show!” but never photos of smiley, happy people meeting and waiting in the cold to buy their tickets.

I was impressed with the community spirit at these social events when in class we saw fans looking out for each other. The fans seemed genuinely caring towards each other.

I haven’t seen any evidence of bad natured reports or derogatory comments through the media about Garth Brooks, his fans or country music in general. I have seen funny tweets and posts about the fact so many shows were added but these were good natured.

A good natured Facebook post by a fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.
A good natured Facebook post by a fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.
Musician Niall Breslin tweet
Musician Niall Breslin tweet.

Today FM’s Gift Grub incorporated Garth Brooks in a new satirical song on their show. The song itself is country music and the lyrics are humorous with mock Irish politicians singing about the Recession to and with a mock Garth Brooks.

My attention was drawn to an old Rich Hall interview about country music on Paul Merton’s Room 101 (I do take into account that this is a British not an Irish show). I thought Rich Hall made valid points about contemporary country music becoming more manufactured, overly produced and losing its’ traditions and values. The interview was funny and light hearted but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. I never considered that country music might be losing its’ roots and values.

My perception of country music hasn’t really changed with the recent coverage. For me it always was and still seems to be- you either love country music or you hate it! I for one am glad that the country music fan (who may sometimes only consider themselves general music fans) still has the passion and enthusiasm to q for tickets, support their country music hero, stick to their guns and be proud to call themselves a fan, especially after having to wait almost 20 years since his last Irish show. I think it’s great a new generation of fans have become passionate about country music. Even if I personally don’t like most of the songs I hear and the music itself is not quite as authentic as Johnny Cash, it still delivers relatable lyrical messages while showcases musicianship and songwriting. That to me is a healthy thing.

New Song Coming Soon!

Thought I’d post a little update of my own creative musings!

Yes, I have been busy musically. I’ve been working away on my next New Age/Chill Out/Sexy Celtic/Whatever You Wanna Call It track! It’s an idea which sparked off a few weeks ago but I did not have the energy to continue, now it’s full steam ahead!

I’ve been having fun blending my favourite sounds from Logic’s ES2 and EX24 synths as well as making my own sounds in the Sculpture synth and recording lush harmonics from my 12 string acoustic, reversing them and having fun with my Roland Gaia SH01 synth.

Vocal ideas suddenly came and with them, a lyrical theme. These were sent off to my songwriting partner Keith Caffrey and although he has only indulged me with a tiny taste of what he has written, I have been blown away. He has possibly outdone himself this time! I can’t get over what a gift he has with words, he really writes so beautifully and from the soul! Every lyric Keith writes, whether it’s for our acoustic-rock Shock Sorrow duet, his heavy metal band Black Svan, his own solo material or for my solo New Age/Electronic music, is always deep, meaningful, interesting, emotional, personal and universal. I can’t wait to hear his lyrics with melody! (Oh I forgot to mention his amazing melodies, guitar playing and all round gift for music, any instrument Keith puts his hands on, he can play it!)

Keith Caffrey
Keith Caffrey, great photo of a great musician and friend.

I recorded some violin ideas last week on a whim, when I say “violin” I really mean “fiddle”! My love for Irish traditional is clearly evident in this one! I always preferred playing traditional music, be it fast or slow (really love the minor and modal pieces I learned from a great old fiddle player many years ago) to the classical, technical pieces (which are of course wonderful but that style never felt right for me- though I do not knock for one second the theory and technicality I learned through those pieces!) I studied in my school days.

Having the craic in college in semester 3, the lads thought it was funny to put me in the middle of 6 AKG C414s! (and not plug them in!)
Having the craic in college in semester 3, the lads thought it was funny to put me in the middle of 6 AKG C414s! (and not plug them in!)
Sneak peek of what I have so far...
Sneak peek of what I have so far…

I decided tonight that yes, indeed, there will be a fiddle solo in this one. 😉

That’s really all I will say right now, until I hear the rest of the lyrics with the melodies, I can’t finish the structure but I really am looking forward to recording this. I’m thinking of asking a guest female vocalist to sing it. I’m also strongly thinking that this might well be a demo for a possible future college recording project, real drums would be fantastic… now to find a drummer… if you know any, send them my way please!!! (stephaniecaffrey@gmail.com, for reals!!!!)

Still on a high from the Trouble Pilgrims gig over the weekend, still badly wanting my own Burns Hank Marvin signature series electric guitar!!!!

Also I see Logic Pro X has been unveiled today! Looks pretty slick, I gotta say! I do like the new interface. I was afraid it was going to go all GarageBand and childish in style- I LOVE GarageBand-hey, it was how I started, pretty much (if you don’t count mucking around in good old, Cool Edit years and years ago) but desperately hoped Apple would keep Logic professional! It sounds good with new features Drummer, Flex Pitch, Track Stacks and an Arpeggiator! I am excited! But I have absolutely no reason to upgrade, I love Logic Pro 9, it’s stable on my iMac and Macbook Pro, it works a treat. I wouldn’t mind having a go though! The Apple Press Info hasn’t said whether it has changed it’s plug-ins at all, like Pro Tools 11 has (oh dear! Big no, no for me there! Happy to stay with Pro Tools 10 for college work, even if off-line bouncing is a desirable plus!). So for now, I’m sticking with Logic Pro 9, it’s the only Logic version which ever appealed to me (7 and 8 were disasters for me!) and the only version which ever inspired me!

Read more on the new Logic Pro X via Apple – Press Info – Apple Unveils Logic Pro X.

Signing off for now… I will of course publish more soon. Happy out y’all.

What I’ve Been Up To Since Semester 4 Finished!

I’ve been terribly naughty as I’ve been absent from my blog for a while!

Semester 4 has come and gone in a flash! Where did Second Year of DkIT go?! I can’t believe my 4th YEAR of studying has finished. This has been the best 4 years of my life without a doubt! Thank goodness I still have a few years still to go! I think I’m one of those types who likes studying somehow! (nerd!)

Results have already come out and I’m just delighted. A weekend of partying was had and many much-needed laughs!

Cocktails, vodka,pizza and music trivia board games is how we celebrate exam results!
Cocktails, vodka,pizza and music trivia board games is how we celebrate exam results!

The sudden appearance of summer has left me almost winded! I had a couple of weeks of “Oh no! What do I do with myself now?!”. The first thing I did was finish reading the 4th Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book. (Awesome! Now to get the 5th one!)

I’ve been feeling a bit blue due to a writers block. I wanted to jump straight back in with new material but nothing was happening! I hate times like these! My acoustic 12 string was the only thing which felt half good and brought about a few ideas. What I’ve been really wanting to do is start a new Logic Pro project and create a new chill-out song/instrumental.

With not much musical inspiration I decided to throw myself into the next best thing- running! I’ve been running like a mad thing and slowly starting to shake off this block. Energy, self esteem, positive self image, motivation, creativity- is all returning.

I’ve also been doing a bit of creative and personal writing online! That’s a lot of fun actually.

And I’ve been taking in some amazing scenery around Northern Ireland on my days off from work.

I did indeed walk in the Giants footsteps!
I did indeed walk in the Giants footsteps!

It looks like I’m embarking on a new musical project with the fabulous Lauren Murphy. We’re great friends (since the first week of DkIT) and we’ve been planning songwriting sessions for a while now. Ideas have been emailed back and forth and it’s looks like the collaborations are going to start very soon!!! (Watch this space).

Queen of rock, the fabulous Lauren Murphy!
Rock goddess, the fabulous Lauren Murphy!

Tonight I decided to remix a project which I thought the world deserved to hear. Until I decided it was another days job (if I ever feel it musically again) and started writing something new. Something chill-out, something deep. We’ll see if the feel stays!

Ideas are coming...
Ideas are coming…

Until the next blog… Happy out 😉