First Published October 2020
BURYING HER HEART IN HER SONGS
Photo Credit: Molly Keane
These are intense times we’re living through right now. And Tullamore singer/songwriter BRÍ has managed to perfectly capture a flavour of what so many of us are feeling most days in her captivating new single, BURYING. Released last Friday, Burying is Brí’s third single, following on from her critically acclaimed and beautiful debut Low Supply and the follow-up, Polite – which was also greeted with open arms and hearts by the Irish music scene – both of which were released last year. Brí possesses a voice of the most exquisite and tender quality, which instantly draws you into her music, as if to share a secret whispered from her very soul. And in a sense, that’s exactly what her songs are.
With the deft touch of a true artisan, Brí’s songs entwine the reflections of her own life’s journey with moments of time that we have all experienced in our own ways, but will feel an instant kinship with through her words and melodies. That’s no easy thing to do. But when it’s done as well as Brí can do it, what’s conjured up in that space of time is a world that becomes a better place for at least as long as the song plays. Burying is a song that we’ll all be hitting repeat on for some time to come, and the world will be a much, much better place for it.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Brí towards the end of last week. In fact, as it just so happened, it was the day before the official release of Burying when we spoke. I began our chat by asking Brí how she was feeling knowing that in less than twenty-four hours, Burying would be officially a part of the musical landscape of the world? What’s the day before a single release usually like for her?
“I suppose today I’m mainly focusing on replies from different people I’m hearing back from, which is great. I’ve got a few nice reviews already. And making sure all of the links and everything work, and run smoothly. But yeah, it was different recording this time, because I was recording it during the first official lockdown, when was that…? Back in March time, was it? April? I recorded the vocals at home in my house, which I had never done before. I kind of recorded them as guide-vocals, and I didn’t think I would end up using those vocals at all. Then when I was able to actually visit Daragh in Astakalapa Studios in Wexford, he worked his magic on the rest of it, and my guitarist, Aidan [Mulloy] added his guitar. And I kinda just said, I think the vocals are good! [laughs]. Somehow! The same ones I recorded from home. So we were delighted with that.”
Was it a kind of a nervous day for Brí? Or exciting? Or perhaps one with a lot of tiredness in it, just wanting at that stage for the following day to arrive and everything to go according to plan?
“I probably would be a bit nervous. I’ll probably enjoy it more once I know that everything is out, and all the links are working. I’m probably a bit of a perfectionist as well, I put a lot of work into doing my own PR for it, and giving it its best chance by sending it out to all the right people. I’ve got my coloured-coded Excel spreadsheets that I’m keeping an eye on [laughs], and once that all goes smoothly I will be excited, yeah. Once I finish work here this evening I’ll be able to enjoy it, because I’m amazed at the response so far which has been really affirming, which is nice.”
Brí has described Burying has being a song written almost in reaction to the way the world has turned today, in that everything needs to be seen as being ‘left’ or ‘right’, every issue has to be either black or white, and in many cases now, quite literally so. And that ‘have to be’ part can be quite forceful too. So Burying, while it’s not a political song, is most definitely a statement song. And very, very definitely a very personal song for Brí. I asked her if that was fair to say…
“Yeah. And it’s actually funny, because I didn’t have that in mind at the time when I wrote it. But it’s become that for me. It was an experience I had when I was writing it, I feel that there’s certain people you meet in your lifetime that they have a lack of tolerance if you see something in a different way to the way you do. And they need to convince you to see it their way. I’ve just always thought that was wrong. I like hearing peoples’ opinions. But I find that in today’s world, it’s sometimes hard to share that without feeling that you’re against one another. I really dislike any feeling of tension or argument, it just makes me want to get out of the situation and bury my head in the sand, and just go, ‘Yeah, ok, I agree.’ Because with some people, it’s just not worth having certain conversations with, I guess. And it’s just me learning that. Every time I listen to Burying now, for me it’s a mix of strength and weakness, because I know that sometimes checking out of a situation is a sign of weakness. But also there’s a bit of strength in it. I really wanted – and I was insisting [laughs] – on having tribal sounding drums [on the single], as kind of like an inner-strength, that I’m also feeling a little bit above having those kinds of arguments. Conversations don’t necessarily need to turn that way when you’re talking about controversial things or issues.”
I would have to agree with Brí here. Sometimes staying out of some conversations or arguments on social media is an example of inner-strength, because you’re taking the decision to look after your mental health by not allowing yourself to become dragged into some of that stuff…especially of late.
“There’s a lot of people sharing strong opinions and views that I would agree with as well, and I’d say good for you, you’re standing up for what you believe in. Sometimes it can be seen as a negative, maybe if there’s a silence, that you’re on the opposite side. But for me, personally, I just think that everybody is entitled to believe what they do. It’s great that people are sharing their opinions out there, but it’s also ok if you do want to stay quiet on some of your own views. That shouldn’t be seen as a negative either.”
So the way the world is right now had a very real influence on Brí writing this song. But I wondered if how this whole year, the way it’s been and the way it’s going, had affected her songwriting at all?
“Yeah, and it’s funny actually, because overall I’ve found that I’ve written less because I’m not having as many experiences out in the world [laughs]. None of us are doin’ a whole lot right now [laughs]. So no, I haven’t been writing as much. But one of the first songs I wrote during lockdown had this strange kind of peacefulness. There was a lot going on in Dublin at the time and I had to move home again to Tullamore, and I hadn’t lived with my parents in about ten years. So suddenly, it was very quiet. I think a lot of people noticed around that time that there were no traffic sounds, so you could hear the birds singing again. I wrote one song that was very peaceful and happy. And I barely can write happy songs! Usually I would write a song because I’m going through something, so just to kind of let it out. So that was one song. I’ve written a couple based on the past, like memories of certain things if they’re triggered, rather than things that are happening to me right now. That’s probably the main difference.”
Burying is a gorgeous song, no doubt about it. Equally so, there’s no doubt that Brí has made an astonishingly beautiful video to accompany it. It stars – and stars is the word, because this is one very special performance – the fab dancer Lisa Hogan, and was filmed in Tullamore’s Charleville Castle. I asked Brí to talk me through that process that goes into making a video for one of her songs, and specifically, to how it led her to Lisa on this occasion…
“I really wanted to hear those tribal sounding drums in the song, and I could just see a dance every time I thought of a music video. So I really wanted there to be a dance to it. So first of all I was asking a friend of mine, Sorcha Fahy, who had been teaching dance before, to maybe teach me a dance. I had done a bit of it in college, but I wasn’t that confident so I was thinking we could work together on one. But she actually recommended a friend of hers who is a dance teacher, and that was Lisa Hogan from Birr. Originally we only went to the ballroom of the Castle to use it as a rehearsal space, and she was teaching me the dance. But I was just amazed at her doing it. So I said could she please be in the video instead! [laughs]. And she said he’d love to, so I was delighted. When I sent the video to our videographer – Alan, of Aldoc Productions – and he was looking at the background. Originally, we were actually planning on doing it at the beach, to go along with the photos I had taken and with the sand idea. But he said that room – the ballroom in the Castle – is beautiful, and I said you’re right, it would be crazy not to use that room. So we ended up doing it there. And Lisa is just…amazing! She must have done twenty or thirty takes of the video and she wasn’t even out of breath! I don’t know how she did it, she’s incredible. She’s a choreographer and dance teacher, and she just interpreted the music perfectly and came up with the whole thing herself. She kept asking me if there was anything I’d change, and I was just like, ‘No! You’ve nailed it!’ [laughs]. She was amazing.”
Brí has covered all the bases creatively on this release. There’s the audio aspect – of course – with the track itself. There’s the audio/visual element with the outstanding video starring Lisa. And, there’s the visual side of things to which Brí had briefly alluded to, a magnificent photoshoot she did with photographer Molly Keane on Killiney Beach in Dublin. As an artist who obviously puts a lot of thought and planning into her career and her image, I wondered how important is that image to Brí, and how it compliments her music? And also, how much of her focus goes into taking care of that through her social media?
“That’s a good question. I think it’s something I’m starting to get better at. I suppose it depends on the song and if certain ideas come into my head that are really strong. This time I really felt that way. I felt I needed a long flowy dress in the wind, like on a cloud day. And luckily enough we got one, you can’t always bank on a cloudy day in Ireland [laughs]. They just turned out beautiful, and I just felt really lucky that they turned out the way they did. It’s definitely something that I really want to keep improving at. I think recently, I’m taking a little bit more care. But I wouldn’t say I’m the best at planning the old Instagram and having all the right photos in order, or anything like that! [laughs]. Sometimes I’m quite spur of the moment. Ya know, I mightn’t have thought I was going to post that day, but then I’ll just have a thought and decide to post a photo. But I would like to put a little more thought into it as I go on. I’m trying to keep similar themes. I suppose I think of the long, flowy dress as a kind of feminine frailty almost, that I want to keep running throughout the rest of my songs.”
Having mentioned Lisa and Molly – who are clearly hugely creative in their own rights also – does Brí feel that, as an artist, she has – and maybe even needs – a certain kind of community of creative people that she surrounds herself with as much as possible in life?
“Definitely, yeah. I think once I moved to Dublin, about seven years ago, once I moved there I really felt a support system coming together. I started going to songwriter nights and meeting creative people. And I just found that, as a whole, they were such an accepting kind of person, everyone I met. They were all so accepting of who you were, and happy for you and the things you wanted to achieve, and in helping you along the way. So I’ve learned a lot from other artists. And as I did my first two releases, I got to know various people like photographers, like Molly Keane who is amazing. And videographers like Alan at Aldoc Productions who is just so good, too. The biggest part for me was finding Darragh Nolan of Astakalapa Studios, I just feel like we’re a great team. He’s very patient and understanding when we’re working through what I’d like out of a song. And he also adds so much of his own creative ideas. There’s so many people. Aidan Mulloy, my guitarist, has been amazing. Whether it’s an unpaid open-mic night [laughs], or a big gig in Whelan’s or wherever, he’s up for it and he’s there with you. And he’s so talented as well. It’s a huge help. I’d say to anyone who might be trying to start out, to try and surround yourself with as many creative people as you can.”
Burying is Brí’s third single, following on from her debut, Low Supply, and then Polite. But was that always the plan Brí had for the order of things?
“I probably should have had a plan like that [laughs], but the truth is, no, I didn’t [laughs]. I actually didn’t know what I was doing when I first started. The first song – ‘Low Supply’ – I think I had written it only a year or two before that, and it was probably one that I was hearing that people liked the most when I was playing it ‘live.’ So I decided to go with that one first. ‘Polite’ then, was kind of quite catchy and again, a lot of people would ask me to play that one ‘live.’ So I decided to go with that one next! I actually didn’t have an original master-plan, and it’s only now that I’m trying to bed down which songs are coming next and how I’m going to wrap them up. I’m trying to figure that out at the moment actually.”
Speaking of master-plans, as far as ‘live’ music as we knew it goes, the rest of 2020 can be written off. And the cold, hard truth of it all is that we have no idea what 2021 is going to bring for the prospect of ‘live’ music either. For Brí as an artist, how hard does that make it for her to plan ahead for her career? And on that note, what is she planning for 2021?
“Yeah, well at the moment, I’ve taken a step back from my ‘live’ music plans. I’ve just seen so many friends of mine planning gigs and then cancelling them, and rescheduling them. And it’s pretty stressful for them at the minute. I’m lucky in that I’m working away at something else as well, so I can manage without the ‘live’ gigs for the moment. I’m focusing on recording at the moment. I wasn’t a big fan of the live-stream gigs, so that was one thing that I didn’t really jump on with everyone else at the start of lockdown. I think I did one of them, but it wasn’t the same atmosphere at all of having people around you and getting that feeling from the crowd. So yeah, I’m holding off for now on booking anything. But I’m hoping to get a lot more of my music out there, and to have that to promote on a tour hopefully some day.”
For our last question, I wanted to take Brí back in time to the reasons why she first began writing songs. Who were the songwriters that had inspired her, and could she remember the very first song she ever wrote?
“Yeah, I can. I was sixteen, and my late aunty Kathleen passed away. My mam is American, so we would have spent every other summer over there visiting her. And at the time, she would have been the closest person to me who had passed. So it was my first time really feeling huge emotions of loss. It felt like there were so many emotions that they needed to spill out into something else, rather than just be held in me. I was following a Taylor Swift documentary, I was a fan of Taylor when I was younger, and she said something like she just tried writing a song some day and she was able to. And that stayed in my head. I was a huge fan of Laura Marling at the time as well, and Birdy, they would have been my biggest influences at the time. So I just wrote a song kind of describing how it felt losing my aunty at the time. Then when I listened to it back, it was just so cathartic. I just couldn’t believe the relief. It was like it was bubbling over, but once I wrote the song it was somewhere else. And I could visit it, rather than it staying in me. So that was really nice. It was called ‘Picture Frames.’ The idea was that you had the picture frame, but the photo wasn’t there anymore. So it was all missing the face.”
~ BURYING, the brand new single from BRÍ, is out now, and available on all platforms. Check out Brí’s YouTube channel to see the amazing video – starring Lisa Hogan and filmed in Charleville Castle – that accompanies the song.