This morning I was reminded of an occasion when I had to face extreme negativity towards the music I made and the people I was making it with. This particular incident happened around 12 years ago and to my shining glory, it was all captured on video and broadcast for the world to see.
I was never a fan of “talent” shows. Pitting talented people up against each other to deem who was more worthy of getting closer to a grand prize was never going to actually work out well, was it? No matter how much faith you and even the people closest to you could have in your art, your skills and worthiness would be deemed by people who might have been having a bad day. I went along for the ride, it seemed like a good idea at the time and sure, what other means did we have of getting ourselves known to the general public and to what we hoped, would be relevant music people? The occasion also served as a common goal for us to work towards. We needed such goals for they came few and far between.
Smokey-eyed, hair teased sky-high and armed with our guitars, we set off with a killer song we were sure to assert our authenticity, credibilty and artistry. Our song was simply kick ass: co-written with top Irish music producers, we had riffs, guitar solos, hard hitting drums and a singalongable melody. We poured so much hard work into crafting the song and we felt it set the benchmark of who we were and who we wanted to become. Personally I had struggled so hard with the sound of the band for years- I always wanted us to rock more.
Of course, when I say “we”, I mean myself and the singer. It was a complicated set up because we were the ones with the vision and the drive to carry the band on, year after year. Drummers and bass players came and went and though we always wanted them to feel a part of the band, they could never be really. The band was a two-piece and even we ourselves, couldn’t handle that. We thought a band should be a 4-piece. Looking from the otherside, those subsequent musicians must have felt like aliens, stepping into our world. We had years of experiences together and had clearly grown together, anyone else joining us must have felt like enablers to our cause. Our cause, not theirs.
It was so very hard to find the other two members of our band, but we did eventually find them, in fact it was only a year or two later when we did. Which seems like a short time frame looking back but back then, it felt like forever. And when they came into our lives, it just clicked and felt right straight away. They got what we were doing and were actually excited about it. But that lineup isn’t the subject of this reflection.
So there we stood, four early-twenty-something year olds, with our guitars and Converse runners, on that stage. Huge cameras pointing at us and 3 people sat behind a table, waiting for us to show them what we had. We were immediately put off, this wasn’t your usual gig. Where was the audience? Where was the vibe?! It felt like a science experiment. Cold, calculated and analytical. And we were expected to show the best version of our art under those circumstances.
Off we went, I started the sha-bang with my signature power chord chuggy riff, followed by the singer with her melodic hypnotic melody. Seconds later, BANG! The rest of the band came in and we were off. We rocked our socks off. Okay the bass was out of tune and the drummer gave us perplexed looks throughout but we held it together. Maybe I shouldn’t have held that high F# during the breakdown, a nice F# power chord feeding back would have been tastier sounding but still! We were pretty damn tight.
To be told your image and your sound was a joke directly afterwards though was humiliating. One of the other panelists did apologise on their behalf but it meant nothing. It seemed shallow. My chest tightened up in disgust and I actually don’t know how the voice of the band was able to say calmly “Thanks for your opinion” because I was ready to cry! How angry I was to be called a joke. What was funny about us? What riled that person up so badly that they needed to hurt us so viciously? It was the single most rudest comment ever made to me in my life to date and ever since, I’ve always thought that person was hollow.
Especially when we came back the following year with our new lineup, they couldn’t get enough of us. What the difference was, we could never understand. I’ll still never understand.
On reflection, I believe that person was sent to us to teach us a lesson about respect and dignity. And I also believe that person was sent as lesson to me, personally. Meeting people like them, the ones who show disrespect and claim your art has no value can be hurtful to your very core but you’ve got to remember why you make art in the first place- for yourself. If you don’t make (in my case) music, that you personally enjoy, how will you ever expect people to find value in it? The music industry is vicious, it’s always looking for the next hottest thing, the catchiest single, the most mouldable people to exploit. It’s very easy to throw your hands up and fall into trends in order to make that hot record that people will deem worthy of radio play or whatever. And if that’s your path, cool. Just be mindful then that it’s not art your making, but a product. And if you’re cool with that, then cool. I’ve only ever created music that I wanted to hear and yeah, maybe that’s why the band never made it.
Not everyone has to like what you’re doing or get you, it’s grand for others to have opinions but to be told that you’re a joke is the wrong way to go about saying “You’re not what we’re looking for”. I’ve met people since who didn’t particularly care for my music production style or my thesis idea but for that humilating experience in 2006, I’m more able to cope with it. I believe art is about making something you want, not what other people want. I’ve been called a “maverick” multiple times by ones closest to me and I’m reminded to keep doing what I’m doing. We all need a reminder like that once in a while and if you’re reading this and that’s all you get from it, cool.
The next time you meet someone who openly mocks you, just stand your ground. Don’t bother arguing with them. They don’t like you already for some reason, they’re not going to change their mind if you argue back.
On reflection, maybe I should have sought different people to rock out with. People that were into the music I was into. But I always had blind faith that this was the right band to be in, even though they wern’t particularly into the hairy heavy rock bands I was into, they were interested in recording music and writing songs and playing on stage. The fact that they were different from me was always going to result in things I couldn’t foresee and even though that bothered me at the time, I see now that was a great, organic thing.
I’m still evolving. I’m still learning, thinking, reflecting and more importantly, I’m still creating. I like what I create and I don’t actually care if you don’t. I’m open to suggestions to improve my art but really, I have to make music for myself. If you like it, yay! It’s all about vibration. If you like my vibe, happy days.
So in conclusion, always stay true to yourself and never twist your art into something you think people want. It just won’t serve your spirit.
Since the beginning of time, (okay LOL!), since I can’t remember when, I’ve been aching to go to a Beach Road Studios workshop. After stalking/befriending JUNO award winning producer Siegfried Meier for many years on Facebook, the timing suddenly became RIGHT earlier this year. He announced he would be running the final ever Beach Road workshop this autumn and I knew, this was it! It was like the stars had alligned for me as it was happening on my week off! Within minutes (yes, I made the decision that fast) I had flights and accomodation booked, Canada, here I come!!!!
But how does a random audio girl from a sleepy, Irish countryside Nowhereness, find out about a mega, award winning, from Germany but living in Canada most of his life, music producer and his private, super-amazing-awesome studio?
When Kittie blasted onto Irish TV screens via the kick-ass medium that was (still is? is it? I don’t know!) MTV2 with the even more bad-ass video for their second single, “Charlotte” in 2000, I was hooked. Four kick-ass girls my age absolutely knocking it out of the park with a savage tune, how could I resist? Back then it was actually pretty hard to find out much about anything, even though we had electricity (LOL, Internet was dial-up and I wasn’t really allowed use it), I did my best to find magazine clippings about the girls. Metal Edge was the only place I could find anything about them and even then, I only ever got my hands on like, 2 copies, cos Nowhereness is in the middle of Nowhere, you know?! I got my hands on their debut Spit (produced by Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, 2000) when I went stateside that summer and it didn’t seem too long after that, their 2nd album Oracle (also produced by GGGarth, 2001) was released. That I did buy here in Ireland. The band developed and progressed over the years and while I kept an eye on them, Facebook brought them back into my world in 2010 and that’s when I discovered Siegfried Meier.
So Siegfried worked on their Oracle album back in the day (credited in the album notes as Siegfried “Private Dancer” Meier!) as an assistant in Emac Studios (London, Ontario) and then became their producer for their 5th In the Black (2009) and their 6th, I’ve Failed You (2011), producing the band in his Beach Road Studios . Cue a new style, sound and sonic force of awesomeness for the band. Kittie has been a highly creative and unique metal band from the get-go but the Sig albums are f**king HUUUUGE.
Their 2018 Origins/Evolutions 20th anniversary release, which documented the band’s career, cemented my personal opinion that Siegfried was one seriously cool guy (I could discern from the Internet that he’s a musician, producer, songwriter, audio engineer, mastering engineer, cat lover, and all-round super dude). But the footage on that documentary simply blew my mind and I ached for the chance to visit. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long!!
Fast forward a few months and I find myself driving an automatic VW Golf (black, shiny and sexy as hell!) on a 5-lane highway in Toronto, on the opposite side of the road. Huge trucks zooming by me and the setting sun in my eyes, my heart races with trepidation, I’M HERE CANADA! Immediately charmed by the picture perfect towns I drive through, hours out of busy Toronto, I just knew, this was a slice of Heaven right here and this was exactly where I needed to be (you know, you do kind of doubt yourself- am I mad to go to Canada for a couple of days?! How will I handle driving in another country? Will my Irish awkwardness ruin the vibe?! Am I still rock n roll enough to handle this?!).
I need not have worried. I may have been shaking in my runners driving down the magical road to the studio, parking the car after confirming I had indeed found the location and not some random persons house (imagine if I did that though LOL!), spotting drums through a window but the very second I opened the door and let myself inside (let’s face it, I still don’t even let myself into my fiances house 14 years on! I have to ring the doorbell and text prior to my arrival- that’s my own awkwardness, not their house rules!), I felt this absolute WAVE of love. Everyone smiled at me (walking into a room of 10 guys is a little bit scary!) and I was enveloped in Siegfried’s welcoming arms instantly. I actually didn’t feel shy!!! From the get-go I felt like I knew Sig forever and that it wasn’t my first time meeting him. It struck me it was a special connection and all my suspicions about him were confirmed- this guy IS the coolest person EVER! Larger than life itself, his warmth, genuineness, humourous wit, easy-going, relaxed, bubbly, passionate and humble personality shone like a white light. Just being around him made me feel an excitement and joy I haven’t felt in years. I probably looked goofy and starry-eyed as I openly gazed at him but that wasn’t for his incredible awe-inspiring career, it was for him as a human being. He’s the kind of person that you only find once or twice in your life and you recognise instantly he’s making the world a better place by just being in it.
Walking into his control room, my breath left me. What a beautiful room! Surrounded with a mix of vintage and modern equipment, yet with a vibe of home, I can see why musicians come to make music here. His welcoming personality is mirrored by his creative space. If I was a musician in a band, I would be extremely excited about making records there!
After a short introduction where everyone (Sig, the students and the rock band, Breaching Vista) got up and said a little something about who they were and confirmed they were indeed cat-lovers also, Sig dived into audio theory and concepts to ensure everyone was on a similar level. Notes were passed around and we were invited to jot down as much as we like. Standing on a footstool behind his amazing rare Amek/TAC Magnum console, Siegfried explained higher level educational audio concepts in a logical and exciting format. Hanging onto every word he said, my mind raced to keep up.
After coffee breaks and lunch, the fun really kicked off. The importance of preproduction was explained and a guide track was loaded into Pro Tools. Track tempo was discussed and experimented with and yes, I even learned a new thing. Sig gave us a golden nugget concerning click track headphone bleed (I admit I actually made that f**k up on my own most recent recording and even kicked myself afterwards for not paying enough attention). Drummer Micheal Sferrazza (also a talented pilot, no less) was invited to take up his sticks and we all ushered into Sig’s, huge live room. I momentarily got starstruck as I recognised the wall of guitars and the placement of the drums, for I had seen this room on Kittie documentaries and photographs before (imagine being starstruck by a room! NERD!). My jaw dropped at the sheer size of the converted barn (Sig built and designed the entire studio in 2006, with the help of his colleague Lee While, acoustics professor from Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology), again, huge but welcoming! The room was chock-full of equipment, instruments, consoles, computers, microphones, amps, cables and more. I do believe in that moment that I died and went to Heaven.
There we experimented with a dedicated Pro Tools 6 rig and Sig explained the importance of gain structure, what exact signal flow he was implementing and set up the Glyn Johns drum recording method. A method I’ve read about and listened to all about since the beginning of my audio schooling, but one I’ve never actually witnessed for myself. Well wasn’t my mind blown?! A great kit in a great room played by a great drummer with only 3 (also great) mikes equalled MAGIC. Hell, that was a drum sound I would killed to have gotten in my production projects in college.
After that the room was set up for the actual recording of the single for Breaching Vista. 20+ mikes were set up- close mikes, room mikes and even bulls***t mikes. Each mike was explained in fine detail and I got to meet many of which I had only read about in my studies and some of course, I had never even heard of before. Jet-lagged like never before, I think I was probably swaying standing up, I wondered was anyone noticing I was ready to start sleep walking! But that wasn’t going to last for long because before I knew it, we were back in the control room, listening to the sounds of the drums and setting up appropriate levels. Snapped awake by the exciting sounds, my heart raced as Sig explained what he was going to do next: track the drums in the digital domain AND on analogue 2 inch tape! WOW! Tape!! I remember I was asked in an interview in Derry in 2014 which I preferred, analogue or digital? and I fobbed off a bulls**t answer. How could I answer such a question when I had basically zero experience of analogue? I think I said I liked the idea of analogue but really all I knew was digital and therefore I liked the good things it had to offer. Maybe that wasn’t a bulls**t answer afterall, but I always thought about it afterwards, feeling like a twat that I couldn’t actually REALLY give an opinion about that subject. Sig gave us a highly detailed history and informative block of information which detailed tape anomalies, machine care, and so much more. Brand new stuff for me. Please let my brain absorb all of this!!!
A very small (surprisingly small- there have been sessions where I pushed 12 takes out of my drummer, the poor unfortunate soul) number of takes later, along with the band for guides, the drums were recorded. It was already getting close to midnight and Sig bounced the analogue drums back into Pro Tools, using the Studer tape machine as an audio processor to get a very different sonic character. There we ajorned for the night, for tomorrow there would be more- drum editing, bass recording, guitar recording, vocal recording, editing, mixing and mastering. I left Sigs close to 1am and drove back to his local town, my mind racing and my heart bursting. I fell into my bed thinking I’d probably never sleep but boom, I was out like a light.
Feeling surprisingly refreshed, the next morning there was a beautiful spread in my B&B. The sun was shining and with a spring in my step, I drove to Beach Road, feeling confident about driving on the correct side of the road and feeling like a local because I knew the roads already. I practically skipped in the studio door, proclaiming I was not jet-lagged and took my seat behind Sig’s racks. He kicked off swiftly, explaining he was up since crazy AM, editing last nights drums and showed us swiftly exactly what he did and how he did it. We A/B-ed the Pro Tools, digital drums with the tape, analogue drums, understanding the sonic differences between the two and the benefits/downfalls of both.
With the drums edited, it was time to get really serious. Bass guitar (Mike Chhangur) was up and there, Sig explained that he was not going to use just one mike on his bass amp (hang on, you can use more than one?) but four AND run more sources (okay this bit went a little bit over my head, studio routing is not an easy thing to get initially) but there, the audio concepts discussed yesterday came back into play and yes, it made sense. The importance of using the same tuner for the entire band (the very same tuner, not the same brand, but the same actualdevice) was explained and boom, we were away! Again, a few takes later, we had a phenomenal bass track recorded and edited.
Next up were guitars, rhythm (John Maksym) and lead (Al Malnar), I’m not going to go into any sort of detail but it was more mind blowing stuffs! Definitely the kind of stuffs this guitar girl loved. Again, epic players using using gear in an epic room, produced by epic ears. More editing tricks, beautiful recording methods and tactics, next up it was vocals. Vox were a sheer delight to watch. Using a mike I actually own myself but never ever use, I was enthralled. Sig’s vocal chain was delicious. I’ve never been so gear hungry in my life! After editing and comping and a host of processing, I was delighted to be affirmed that what I do myself is actually correct and I learned a few little extra things too.
Shortly after that, dinner was up and can I say right here, that Sig’s wife Rachel is the most talented cook I’ve ever met, as well as a fantastic studio momma and all round lovely, lovely person?! Her food was out of this world and she looked after all of us like her own. Her presence added more love, light and sparkle to an already sparkly, beautiful, heavenly place. I didn’t realise so much joy was possible in one space and I was sent to pick up my fiance who was invited for the party. Brotherly “I know you!”s were exchanged as I watched the love of my life meet the inspiration of my life, and Sig swept him up into his world, a world he knows just enough about to be floored by what he saw. That’s when I saw Sig has a huge salt lamp upstairs near his mastering suite, of course! Good energy huh!!! After all of that, the class resumed and the final touches of the workshop were completed, mixing and mastering to quarter inch analogue tape- SHREDDER!
We partied until an absolutely crazy hour, how Sig wasn’t totally crashing out (for he was up at the crack of dawn to edit drums, remember?) I’ll never know. Maybe it was the amazing maple syrup we ate raw from a dessert spoon?! Or the giant bag of those peanut butter M&Ms John brought and we all devoured?! The sheer joy of 14 like-minded people in the same room, simply enjoying each others company, exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories and culture, I suspect is what kept us all on Cloud 9.
My experience at Beach Road studios was simply second to none. I left Ireland thinking I might learn a little thing or two but instead I learned a brick tonne, felt joy and love like never before, got swept off my feet and felt a whole-ness I never felt before. I’ve definitely left a piece of my heart in Canada for I can never bear to say goodbye. Poor Sig had to get Rachel to pull me off his leg as I wept “Don’t make me go home!” I’m kidding of course but inside I was dying.
What an honour it was that I was allowed into Sig’s very special creative space, into the amazing building he built on a foundation of pure love and light. No wonder Beach Road has housed amazing musicians from so many genres, it’s the kind of place you gravitate towards and it wraps you up in a big cuddly blanket of passion for music. How lucky I am to have walked around those famous rooms and to have studied under the most passionate, intelligent, talented, skilled, witty, loveable and humble human I’ve ever met in my life. I’m so very grateful. Siegfried Meier is the producer I aspire to become one day. I can see why he makes brilliant records. Brilliant artists, brilliant gear, brilliant rooms, brilliant ears, brilliant skills, brilliant home. I haven’t even remotely touched on his history as a music producer- I urge you to visit his website Siegfried Meier and to pop his name into a Google search, you’ll be blown away by what you read and understand why I literally jumped onto a plane to visit a country I’ve never been to before, a journey of 5366kms each way. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I hope I see my friends Sig and Rach and the rest of the class group again in the near future.
I believe if everyone met Siegfried Meier, even for just 5 minutes, the world would be a much better place.
It’s not often (never before actually) that I blog about my old band, Black Daisy, though I have mentioned in my bio that I was lead guitarist and backing vocalist for the all female rock band. If you’re a first-time reader on this blog, I parted ways from the band in early 2009. The band was formed by myself and LA Halvey from the ashes of a band we found ourselves in which formed in autumn 2002. That band was named Ali, yes we all hated the name, but we couldn’t think of anything better so we ran with it (it was hoped we would get Bono’s attention! pfffff, as if!). We had high hopes and we actually did a few very cool gigs (Mountjoy Prison Christmas party 2003, MTV’s Breaking Point, a couple of appearances on RTE’s You’re a Star). The band eventually burned out but myself and the singer still had faith and we continued writing, recording, auditioning musicians and gigging. We eventually found the other half of the band circa mid-2007 (Nicki Billings from Wicklow on rhythm guitar and Asta Mileriene from Lithuania on drums) and became the last incarnation of Black Daisy. Well, until I was out of the picture but that’s a different story.
So the reason I’m blogging is because on this day 10 years ago, Black Daisy independently released our debut EP “Disturbing New Fashion”. It was available through downloadmusic.ie and a small number of Irish HMV and record shops.
We recorded it in Donabate (Fastlane Studio) with producer Stephen Brett (now CEO of InMusik), who said our drummer Asta, was a “machine” (she actually was though! you’ll never find a drummer who was on the beat like her). We had a lot of fun recording it and it happened very quickly. His studio was really cool, at the time I was interested in production but it was all a massive mystery to me. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what DAW he used (probably Pro Tools) or anything like that but I remember how I felt and that’s always the important thing. We had such great giggles, I remember we all got on really well, Stephen was a lot of fun to work with, we felt at ease, he “got” us, he let us do what we wanted to do and he pushed us to try out new ideas. It was a cosy space to work in, not small but not massive. Perfect for us.
So before we went to studio and before we even started rehearsals, the songs were all demo-ed by myself. I had just discovered Apple’s Garageband and I put together all the tracks using drum loops, my recordings of guitars, basses and LAs vocals. We had lots of fun recording in my bedroom and at the time, we suddenly felt empowered with cheap recording gear. In fact I wrote “Disturbing New Fashion” by putting together a bunch of Apple drum loops, recording them onto my Boss Loop Station and overdubbing guitars and vox over and over. I wrote most of the lyrics too, inspired by a documentary about festivals- I remember they were talking in particular about Lollapalooza, and the phenomenon of people losing their **** in the pit at the gigs. How disturbed the audience seemed to the onlookers. I thought that was seriously cool, so that’s actually what the song’s about! I still have some of those demos knocking around, not the session files (I suffered a massive hard drive crash in 2010 and lost all my digital memories from Black Daisy- photos, music, videos- all gone to digital heaven), but I still have some of the stereo bounces on mini discs.
So anyways, our preproduction was really important, we spent a lot of time as a band in our rehearsal space (Monster Music in Blanchardstown was the BEST place ever), going over each and every detail of the songs. We were very mindful of our limited recording time and wanted to maximise whatever time we had by sorting out the nitty gritty in rehearsals. It wasn’t always fun but we learned how to play as a band and we actually gelled really well during that time.
I was always happy with the finished product and I’m still proud of it. However my role with the band at this stage was on borrowed time, as I didn’t forsee the Eurovision fiasco at this point and I had every faith that the band was moving forward in a healthy way. We were playing great gigs on the back of RTE’s You’re a Star series 6, writing new songs and getting on like a house on fire. 6 short months later, it all would change.
I suppose it’s only fitting that 10 years on, I’m in the middle of my music masters. It all seems like a lifetime ago, I suppose it was. I’m ever the sentimentalist. Being in Black Daisy was a huge part of my life infact, it was my way of life. Everything revolved around the band- my jobs, work hours, my clothes, what I spent my money on, getting up and down to Dublin, countless hours on Myspace plugging the band. I even put college on hold in 2002, and never thought I would get there until I had my BCFE interview in 2009.
Part of me still thinks: I shouldn’t have bothered, I should have went straight to college in 2002, I should have spent more time focusing on an actual proper job, what’s to show for all the politics and drama anyway?
But then, I’d have never experienced so many cool things: the epic recording studios, the knowledgeable music producers, the experienced session musicians, gigging all over the country, the road trips, the late night sleepover giggles, the tense photo shoots, the fun video shoots, the nerve-wrecking radio interviews, the exciting TV shows, doing each other’s hair and makeup, swopping outfits, the car breakdowns halfways down the country, the parties, the clubbing in Cork city, going to Galway for the craic because the show was postponed 24 hours and we didn’t want to go home, the saucy jokes, the dodgey rehearsal rooms in Temple Bar, the serious songwriting sessions, the hunt for band members, the excited fans kissing my biker boots at gigs, the people dancing to our music, blowing away skeptical men with crossed arms at gigs, making our home demos and of course, the girls. I’ve probably forgotten half of the shenanigans. Feck, I’ve actually played the Ambassador in Dublin! So yeah, it was a good thing. It was a life experience and I wouldn’t understand band politics and musician’s emotions as well as I do now, only for it. Maybe it’ll stand to me when I produce a new band in the future or when I engineer my next gig or when I become a teacher.
There’s still one or two CDs knocking around on Discogs and eBay if you’re at all interested. I still think it sounds effing awesome and believe we were something unique. I also think we were a band at the wrong time of the industry, when everything was up in chaos and no-one dared (or cared) to invest in talent. The EP is no longer available on iTunes but the “Disturbing New Fashion” video (directed by Zoe Kavanagh) is still on YouTube if you want a quick peak.
A sudden burst of inspiration overtook me last week. What a delight because such moments are rarities nowadays! The creative process is a fickle beast and how happy I am that it’s come back for now! I’m still working on producing this little number but I’m just too excited so I’m sharing a preview right now. Looking forward to recording over these horrendous guide vox of mine with a brilliant singer in a few weeks time, but for now, enjoy!
Last Friday saw a belter of a night of music in Richmond Fort in Millmount Cultural Quarter, Drogheda. Louth traditional musicians Kern, with support from Drogheda singer-songwriter Gene Carolan, showcased local, contemporary talent in the new music venue which holds much promise for future, intimate gigs in the town.
A performance space which was neither too big nor too small for both, Richmond Fort is a delightful room to enjoy music in. The small upstairs room was cosy, bright and comfortable while boasting a high ceiling which carried the sound adequately. A professional sound set up surrounded by thoughtful and considered lighting made for a delightful setting in which to enjoy the music.
Gene Carolan opened the night, delivering a showcase of original songs which reflected his life experiences to date while looking brightly to the future of Drogheda, the town hosting this years Fleadh. Usually flanked by his brothers on stage, Gene carried a big show solo with his intricate fingerpicking guitar skills which seamlessly blended into his songs. His charming personality warmed the audience and his honesty and authenticity leaves no doubt that Gene has a long, sparkling musical career ahead of him.
Kern, a trio of musicians from south, mid and north Louth respectively, SJ McArdle (lead vocal, guitars, harmonica), Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes, whistles and backing vocal) and Barry Kieran (fiddle and floor stomper/fire-out-putter!) are the counties’ gem in contemporary folk and traditional music. Opening with the first two tracks from their debut album False Deceiver produced by Trevor Hutchinson, one can see instantly why their record was so well received. Executed so well on the stage, one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the CD and the live performance! A testament to their first class musical talents and the production of the album which in both settings sound full, warm and beautifully thought-out. Ale saw fiddle player Barry take the solo with the beautifully charming The Ale is Dear Scottish reel later accompanied by Brendan on the low whistle and SJ on acoustic guitar. The nuances of Barry’s fiddle playing so clearly audible in the perfect room, I couldn’t help by gaze in awe at his tasteful dexterity. The sudden break into the faster Teampall An Ghleanntain hits you right in the solar plexus followed by Crooked Road to Dublin, a delight to hear so early in the set as it sets the tone for the entire show.
SJ’s years of being a singer-songwriter in his own right, took him around Europe with multiple recordings under his belt. A natural front-man, his ad-libbed jokes and natural dry wit between songs left the room laughing hysterically. With the sudden realisation that most of the songs in their current repertoire are marine-themed, SJ made light-hearted banter about the coincidence while pointing out the true issues at hand, such as the sorrows of Irish emigration, love and loss. The town of Drogheda has a rich history of Irish maritime, my own great-grandfather worked on the port so it was a delight to hear a local group pay tribute to such an important part of our hertitage.
The group’s set has expanded since the last time I caught them, in Dublin’s infamous Cobblestone pub and venue. New jig sets, reel sets, new songs and sounds hint at what the band’s sophomore album will sound like. With each musician offering so much variety and creativity to the collective sound, backing vocals, harmonica, various whistles and last but not least, a growing number of guitars (acoustic and electric) and a plethora of pedals to boot/Converse (SJ even worked in live looping with absolute precision and perfection), it’s obvious that the possibilities for the future of Kern are endless! It’s refreshing to catch such an innovative band with traditional values at it’s heart and it’s wonderful that the musical heritage of Louth is being honoured in such a beautiful way.
Hup lads! Can’t wait for the next one! Here’s hoping there’ll be more of the like in Richmond Fort!
Two days after the Corrs played the Marquee, Cork and I’m still reeling. I have never felt such profound happiness, love, devotion and respect in all my life. Absolutely every little thing that happened at the concert was nothing short of amazing.
Where do I start?!
A Corrs fan from the word go, as a teenager I dreamed about the life the Corrs lived. Their astounding beauty and style coupled with their amazing music had me spellbound. How exquisite were Sharon Corr’s violin melodies? How angelic were Andrea’s vocals? How utterly mind-blowing was Caroline’s drumming? And how much did Jim rock his black and white Fender Strat and every other instrument he put his hands on?! I was ever-so-mildly obsessed!
Lansdowne Road happened. My first concert and my first time seeing the Corrs in real-life. I was truly smitten.
Next time I saw them was 2004 in the Point, Dublin. A very polite concert- in complete contrast to the dancing and celebrating in Lansdowne Road, the audience sat and clapped. I just wanted to scream “I love you Jim!!!” Nevermind- my sister did that for me! Jim looked up into the seating area in our direction in bewildered amusement!
That evening something amazing happened and we found ourselves invited backstage to meet and greet! How incredibly LUCKY were we?!!! We jumped up and down in excitement, fixed our hair, lashed on perfume and wondered out loud what on Earth were we going to say to the Corrs?!!!
When we got backstage we were in awe of our surroundings. The Corrs crew were like a family and were so warm and friendly to us. My knees went weak when I caught a glimpse of Jim peeping his head out of the band-room. There was my greatest inspiration!!!
When he came out, he was beaming. His smile broke my heart there and then (in the nicest possible way!). He looked ultra-cool in his black and white kicks, black jeans and grey camo t-shirt. Sporting a sexy, scruffy stubble and his hair spiked up, he was the picture of youthful joy and well-being.
I watched Jim (open-mouthed!) talking to the other lucky fans and suddenly manager John Hughes was by my side, chatting to us. I recognised him immediately. A moment after he drifted off, Andrea literally bounced over to us, talking excitedly about our pizza party she seen online while she was on her way down! She talked to us like a giggling school-girl and busily signed our merchandise and posed for selfies. Caroline was with her, much quieter and reserved but eager to say hello and graciously signed autographs and allowed photos. I was astounded by her natural beauty- herself and Andrea were total goddesses!
Breathless I turned around when I heard a very familiar voice “hiya Steffy!” there was Jim Corr himself smiling at me! I think I managed to squeak out a “hi” and threw my arms around him! He gave me the best hug of my life! We had our picture taken immediately and I introduced my boyfriend. Autograph signed during relaxed chitchat, I felt like we were talking to an old friend. I forgot it was the Jim Corr talking to us, it seemed like a garden party or a bbq and Jim was about to offer us a burger! He asked ME about my music and I managed to squeak something out! I gave him a soft teddy with a rose- a gesture of my humble love for him which he thanked me for 3 times!
Time to be moving out, the Corrs had to be on stage shortly! Sharon was talking fluent Spanish to a fan, I politely waited- enthralled by the sound of her voice. I loved her green sparkly eyeshadow- I told her so and she seemed genuinely pleased, having done it herself! She signed my White Light album twice (it was raining- she apologised for it! Good gracious lady, no need to apologise for that!) and let me take a photo! This was my second time meeting her and she was every bit as lovely and beautiful as I remembered!
Hurrying out I heard a shout “Hey Steffy!!!” I turned and Anto Drennan himself hurried toward me! Anto Drennan the legend himself recognised me!!!! We got a quick photo and a quick “great to see you again!” before we had to part ways! The Corrs were late for the stage and it was my fault! 😛 I still can’t believe my guitar hero called ME- what a perfect gentleman!!!!
Back in the Marquee, the Corrs did not disappoint! The concert was every bit as magical as the Point earlier this year. The band were tight, flawless and nothing short of insanely talented. One thing different from the Point was that the Corrs smiled much, much more this time. They never stopped smiling all night!!! The crowd out-sang the band during Runaway moving Andrea to near tears- her voice cracking in emotion. We danced the night away, bopping to our favourite Talk on Corners songs, Anto shredding his guitar solos like the string god that he is famous for, Keith Duffy pounding the bass through our hearts and each Corr shining on their instruments. The vocal harmonies were stellar- especially during Kiss of Life (my favourite track from White Light), those chorus “oohs” gave me goosebumps which still haven’t worn off yet.
The icing on an already amazing day was when the lovely security man gave me Jim’s setlist! I’ve always wanted one! I pressed it to my chest in pure joy and the people around me smiled- a stranger walking up to me saying “You deserve that setlist! I’m glad you got it!” Corrs fans are truly the nicest people on the planet!
The Corrs are amazingly kind and generous to have gifted us with these memories.
The Corrs give the world so much with their thoughtful, mature and poignant music.
The Corrs make the world a better place and inspire their fans to do the same and to enjoy life.
This is why the Corrs are so successful. White light surrounds them and they are earth angels.
Preview, buy and download songs from the album White Light, including ”I Do What I Like”, ”Bring On the Night”, ”White Light” and many more. Buy the album for €10.99. Songs start at €1.29: White Light by The Corrs on iTunes
For the creators and for the fans, active listeners or passive listeners, music has the power to move us all incredibly deeply. Sometimes we’re right here- in the moment and sometimes we’re floating in a sea of sounds- we blissfully lose ourselves for a tiny while.
And sometimes we’re both- Here and There.
The latest release My Names A, Your Names Zed from El Grey is exactly that.
If you’re already a fan of El Grey you’ll come to expect haunting, stunning and breathtaking vocal performances as standard. You’ll also expect crunchy beats mixed with a wash of synths and gentle acoustic guitars. You’ll also be aware that her music is deeply personal to her and each song is a little piece of her soul, committed to record.
Take all that you already know about El Grey and put a little twist on it. You won’t find this track anything like her previous release El Grey, but you will find her distinctive, trademark vocals affirming her ardent passion right here. Glistening synthy motifs bounce over and back a sound world of luscious piano playing and looped, reverberant vocals. Instantly you’re taken by the hand of El Grey herself into the infinite cosmos. If you haven’t gotten goosebumps multiple times within the first 60 seconds then you’re not ready for the journey she wishes to bring you on.
Hypnotic yet deeply grounding, her chanting vocal pulls you right into the centre. Looped over and over with additional harmonies, her voice guides the way- “Grab a coat, find a home”. While the chant gives way to a choir of swirly, angelic vocal expressions, we’re lifted further into the heavens, soaring high, looking for Home.
The mood changes somewhat after this point. You’ll hear a male voice enter- another new sound for El Grey. You’ll know that there’s something very special going on here- something very deep and very personal. In absolute contrast to what we’ve been listening to, she sings in her native tongue- and it works brilliantly. Switching languages in one song is a new and brave move for El Grey for she has something personal to say-revealing another dimension of herself and affirming her spirituality though her music.
For me the most poignant lyric comes in around the 7-minute mark- “It’s just one heartbeat away from you” with echoes of “one” bouncing around, underpinning it. The music producer in me loves that line. The sentiment in me loves it too. It’s a line I’d hang on to for dear life.
This recording is 100% live and one take only. There was no pre-production. There was no doctoring this up in post-production either. The barest moments of extraneous sounds pop in and out here and there but these are not faults. Such sounds tickle my imagination and for me, they add to the soundscape. The piece in its entirety has a completely natural feel and I’m certain the musicians lost themselves in this performances-lost themselves to find a little something on the way back.
You could use a multitude of words to describe this track (atmospheric, holy, meditative, serene, gripping, stunning, special…) and you could find a multitude of situations to enjoy it in – at home with a candle, on a long, night-drive home, walking around a busy city- for it’s completely immersive and completely El Grey.
As I write this, five days and 21 hours have passed since the Corrs made their truly glorious return to the Point Depot (called the 3Arena nowadays), Dublin. The brilliant buzz still hasn’t faded and from I see from fans Instagram accounts, it’s not going anywhere fast!
We always said it was going to happen yet last summer out of the blue 😉 the Corrs announced they were returning to music after a 10-year break. The gig: BBC Radio 2 Live in London’s Hyde Park. Their new single Bring on the Night followed shortly and after an abundance of teaser video clips and photos taken by all Corr siblings and their producer, John Shanks from the studio (Ananda Entertainment, Hollywood and Metropolis, London), their new album White Light was released in Ireland and the UK along with a string of tour dates. Two Irish dates, the Point, Dublin and the Odyssey, Belfast were included to conclude the mini-tour.
Fast forward to the 28th of January, 2016. We wake with a bolt and get to Dublin armed with raincoats, hats, scarves and nibbles. My dear friend Anne had travelled from Berlin, Germany just for this day- we met on a Corrs fan website some 16 years ago and have kept in touch ever since, meeting every few years in both countries. This was to be the most perfect day we could ever spend together- finally experiencing the Corrs music live with each other!
We arrive at the Point in the wind and rain to find a handful of hard-Corr fans already waiting, huddled in the arches. Hailing from Portugal, Brazil and Scotland, they greet us warmly, smiling broadly with excitement. It was only 2:30pm but they were there since 8am! We all watch our phones eagerly, checking Instagram and Twitter for any posts from the Corrs- only to be teased with a snap of Caroline sitting triumphantly behind her drum kit, arms raised in the air and wearing a winning smile, all under a magnificent white light in the venue. We get giddy and beg for time for pass by quicker!
Thankfully time did indeed pass us by swiftly and we found ourselves smack-bang in the middle of the front row! We can’t believe our luck- everyone who made it early and braved the cold weather was the front row.
The Shires burst onto the stage after a short introduction from their band- who I have to say were rock-solid. Drummer Ollie Harding particularly impressed me with his heavy yet steady playing. The Shires delivered an upbeat, cheerful and entertaining set, warming up the crowd perfectly for the Corrs.
An hour later, after a frantic yet systematic set up for the Corrs, the lights dimmed, a haunting bass drone fades in and the crowd erupted in roaring applause and cheers of excitement. The thunderous drumming that is undoubtedly Caroline Corr solo fills the arena and all we see on the side screens are her silhouette on a white background- the much-anticipated introduction we’ve all been waiting for and heard so much about, absolutely knocked our socks off!
Suddenly the curtain goes up and we see Caroline belting her kit with all her might, completely focussed and seemingly unaware of the spotlight. We’re already jumping in delight at this treat and the next thing, the entire band are revealed standing in the middle of the stage- Andrea is beaming with her beautiful smile, she looks like she’s breathing heavily in excitement, Jim is to her left looking cool and collected with his rockstar shades and brilliant green electric guitar while Sharon stands tall to Andrea’s right, clutching her violin, smiling somewhat nervously. Anto Drennan on guitar and Keith Duffy on bass stand either side of Caroline- not Corrs by name but certainly are family for both have been in the band from the beginning and are recognised and loved by the fans.
Opening with I Do What I Like, the leading track of White Light, Andreadanced her way to her microphone, still smiling, looking adorable in her tiny ballerina flats. She looked everyone in the front row right in the eyes and I felt as if she were an old friend. I had the pleasure of being at Lansdowne Road 1999 and the Point 2004 but I was nowhere near the front! This was the first time in my life I was seeing Andrea up close and personal! She has an incredible stage presence and I’m not talking about the type of awe that surrounds Sting or the sheer force of power that’s James Hetfield of Metallica (all concerts I’ve sung my heart out to), it’s a totally different presence. Here is an incredibly talented singer and tin whistle player who’s very much a icon in pop music yet she has a sweet sensitive nature on stage. Maybe it’s the way she dances like a tiny fairy, maybe it’s her aura or energy or the way her dark brown eyes look straight into your soul while she’s singing- perhaps it’s all of the above combined with the fact she’s got her feet planted on the ground. Andrea Corr impressed me immensely as a musician and as a human being.
Of course it’s not entirely all about Andrea! Jim has been a hero for me throughout the years- I was inspired by his musical diversity and creativity- playing various different instruments on all the studio albums and live. You name it, Jim Corr plays it. He’s also big into music production- the mics, the desks and all the gear. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Jim personally about the Corrs production style on their second studio album Talk on Corners (1997) just over a year ago and I could have listened to him for hours. Seeing him for absolute real in the Point was a dream come true for my fan-self. Effortlessly cool while providing backing vocals and rockin’ out on guitar, he provided big-brotherly support to his sisters who all looked at him adoringly at some point or another throughout the show. Still the rock and clearly the (unofficial) band leader, Jim swopped between electric and acoustic guitars and jumped onto keyboards throughout the set.
Surprising us with their second song, Give me a Reason was somewhat unexpected- mind you, a very pleasant surprise! Anthemic melodies and driving drums, the crowd sang their hearts out. Andrea looked lost of words after each song as the crowd literally screamed in sheer adoration up at the band. Keith Duffy never once stopped smiling behind Jim.
The band delivered hit after hit- Forgiven Not Forgotten, Bring on the Night, What Can I Do and Radio before settling down into a relaxed set which saw Caroline rise from her kit and take a seat at the front, right between Andrea and Jim. Known for being the shy Corr, she looked rather nervous taking her place on her cajon drum box. It can’t have been easy to step up into the front-line of camera-phones and strange faces when you’re used to the security a huge drum-kit! No need for her to be nervous, she took up band leadership, driving the group with expertise percussive skills on cajon, bodhran and shaker.
Starting with a beautiful medley of Lough Erin Shore/Joy of Life/Trout in the Bath, the Corrs prove they still very much value their traditional Irish roots and are still top-class! The sound was exquisite. Simple, serene and traditional. Next up 1996 hit Runaway proved to be still the fans favourite when the audience actually sang louder than the Corrs themselves! The look of pure astonishment on Andrea’s face was priceless! Played beautifully, still in unplugged-style Runaway was the song of the night. A couple of songs from the new album, Stay and Ellis Island fit perfectly into the set. Andrea strummed her ukulele to Stay– clearly this is a personal favourite of the band’s (there are two versions on White Light, the band opting for the more wholesome, slow-tempo version for the show. Ellis Island was visually enhanced with spectacular yet poignant graphics on the big screens. A song about emigration and full of sorrow, the band absolutely nailed it live. The audience were visibly moved as the voices around me hushed and drank in the emotion.
A moment of comic relief during the next song, Buachaill On Eirne as Andrea momentarily drew a blank on the opening lyrics. She stopped in her tracks, clearly mortified and burst into a fit of giggles, looking at her siblings for support. Everyone onstage giggled and helped her remember the Irish lyrics. Andrea couldn’t apologise enough to the audience (who thought she was being hopelessly adorable!) for her first ever blank moment on stage and voiced she hoped her old Irish teacher wasn’t attending the gig tonight!
Another total surprise for us was the following song Love to Love You, another 1996 gem. I think it was around this point in the show that I thought that this wasn’t like a reunion gig at all, more so the next stage of the Corrs music career. To be truthful the Corrs never broke up in the first place!
With Caroline back behind the kit, Andrea introduced the band one by one and the gig went back into full tilt with up-tempo Talk on Corners favourites Only When I Sleep, Queen of Hollywood and their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. Seamlessly fitting in to the set Kiss of Life was vocally stunning. For me, one of the top songs off the new album and without a doubt one of my absolute favourite Corrs songs, Kiss of Life soared and took us all to a special place.
Bringing up the tempo again for I Never Loved You Anyway and So Young, the band brought the roof down and left the crowd begging for more.
After a brief teaser of a disappearance, the Corrs returned once more with electrifying performances of White Light, Breathless and Toss the Feathers. It was all over too soon yet the band played for a full 2 hours!
The house lights came on, the finality of the gig being over dawned on us and we exited the arena in an absolute daze! The Corrs were back, sounding amazing and clearly in top form! We left the Point Depot talking excitedly, a bag full of merchandise under our arms, giggling at the lads walking in front of us back to the city centre singing Runaway at the tops of the voices! It was truly the best homecoming the Corrs could have wished for- a huge crowd but with an intimate feel, the Corrs are still our favourite after all these years.
In case you haven’t heard the good news, the Corrs are playing again this summer- the Cork Marquee, June 9th. Tickets go on sale this Thursday (a full week after the Dublin gig! Good timing or what?!). You can be sure to find myself and Anne at the front again!
Preview, buy and download songs from the album White Light, including I Do What I Like, Bring On the Night, White Light and many more. Buy the album for €10.99. Songs start at €1.29. White Light by The Corrs on iTunes
Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, 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.
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!
Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 ToVigo, 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.
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.