Chances are that anyone who knows the music scene in the midlands will already be familiar with the name of SORCHA FAHY from various singer/songwriter nights. Well, the Tullamore native has now taken the next steps in further building her reputation at a national level too, with the release of her stunning debut single, No Sleep.
Sorcha first came to my attention, as she did many others, when she began showcasing her immaculately emotional interpretations of various songs via her social media platforms. These videos, usually as simple as a piano and vocal set-up, placed Sorcha’s vocal gift right at the centre of everything…and by everything, I mean the very heart of the listener.
What I felt, others felt too. And following the strength of this online reaction, Sorcha began gigging her original material around Ireland, playing intimate sets supporting fellow musicians in venues like Whelans, the Grand Social, and The Vintage Rooms. Sorcha supported JJ Hannon at his debut Irish show in the Academy, Dublin , and has also made appearances at the Canal Quarter Festival and Riverfest.
Released on April 9th last, Sorcha describes No Sleep as being about, “…finding yourself in a cycle of bad habits and struggling to pull yourself out of them. This all leads to a place of anxiety and panic when you don’t keep the promises you make to yourself, leaving you feeling like control over your life is slipping away from you.”
In the works for over a year, No Sleep was originally in Sorcha’s diary for a March 2020 studio session, but that ended up being postponed until July due to the health restrictions around Covid.
No Sleep was eventually recorded at Darklands Audio recording studio in Dublin with Dan Doherty. “Dan’s great at guiding you through the process whilst delivering your vision for the track”, confirms Sorcha. “As well as producing the track, he laid down the drums and bass, and Kaitlyn Cullen- Verhauz performed the stunning cello on the track. I provided keys and vocals.”
To double the impact of this spectacular debut, Sorcha has also recorded a video to accompany the No Sleep, filmed on location in Whelan’s Parlour Room, directed by Gerard Walsh, and shot by David Christopher Lynch. According to Sorcha, “The video represents a repetitive cycle of events in a surreal setting but also captures the real and intense emotions that accompany that. The gradual build in the song, the intensity of the shots, the turning bottle, all mirror the image of a life spinning out of control and one that’s a victim of its own decisions.”
Sorcha recently performed an acoustic version of No Sleep on the RTE Today Show with Maura and Daithi.
Sligo’s LISA STANLEY was born into showbiz with both her parents being household names in their own right, the legendary Maisie McDaniel and the gifted Fintan Stanley. That showbiz gene has seen Lisa shape a successful career of her own over the years, with her weekly appearances hosting her own show – The Lisa Stanley Show – on Spotlight TV making her a very well-known face with fans across Ireland, the U.K., and beyond.
Lisa has toured extensively with the likes of Nathan Carter, Dominic Kirwan and The Phil Mack Country Music Tours, building up a fan base wholly appreciative of her four studio albums.
And the Stanley star will be shining bright for a third generation too, with the news that Lisa’s daughter, SOFIA, at only seventeen, has released a brand new single. Describing herself as a “passionate pop artist”, Why? showcases Sofia’s strong and confident vocals which have been causing fans and commentators alike to sit up and pay attention. Birmingham based Sofia actually joined Lisa’s band as a backing-vocalist, and would even perform some of her own songs during Lisa’s shows.
Despite her youth, Why? displays a maturity that bodes well for what we can expect to hear from Sofia in the years to come. The track touches on the silver-linings that can occur even through some of life’s more unfortunate events. Why? was inspired by an uncomfortable, awkward day at work, with the result that Sofia ended up putting pen to paper in order to get those feelings out of her system, doing so in just three hours. The combination of Sofia’s powerhouse voice and the sincerity of her lyrics create something that listeners of all ages will be able to relate to.
Why? is the follow-up to Sofia’s previous releases, last year’s Angel, and 2019’s Sweet, Sweet Smile, with the track incorporating a wide variety of styles and sounds fusing elements of rock, electro-pop and even soulful R&B. While it took ‘one of those days’ in work to finally bring the song to life, Sofia definitely has the songwriter’s knack of threading experiences together in order to weave the story she wants to tell.
Sofia explained, “I was able to look back on some of my most embarrassing moments, ones that simply wouldn’t give my mind peace, and draw on them for the sake of the song. Moments like calling your teacher ‘mum’, or committing a photobomb, to getting someone’s name wrong and wanting the ground to swallow you whole.”
Sofia recorded and produced the song herself in her home studio last October, using Logic Pro X on her laptop and voice memos on her iPhone. Sound-wise, Sofia reveals that the song was inspired by a wide variety of different artists, ranging from Julia Michaels, to Ariana Grande, and with even a little pinch of Shania Twain in there, too.
“I think”, continues Sofia, “that for anyone who has ever spent long stretches of the night re-living any social faux-pas or mortifyingly clumsy incidents from their past, ‘Why?’ will surely resonate!”
According to Offaly indie-pop princess BRÍ, her latest single More Than is, “about craving more than the situation you currently findyourself in. It’s a place where passion and emptiness meet, the point where two conflicting paths overlap and where all that is cloudy becomes clear.”
Fans who have been following Brí’s career to date will already have enjoyed her debut single Low Supply, it’s follow-up Polite, and most recently, Burying. On the back of the success of those releases, Brí sold-out her own headliner show in Whelan’s, earned high praise from a multitude of blogs and at radio, and was selected to perform at Beatvyne’s MusicX Tech Experience. 2020, despite all of its obvious difficulties, saw Brí performance at the esteemed Whelan’s Ones to Watch, the Ruby Sessions, headline in the Sound House, the Spirit Store, and festival line-up announcements such as Vantastival.
With More Than, Brí expressed a determination not to let the chaos of the past year hold her back. Speaking about the process of the project, Brí said, “My original plans for the visuals fell through due to travel restrictions. After a lot of waiting for restrictions to lift, I decided to direct my own music video and my friend Constance Vance stepped in as my photographer, videographer, and stylist. We discovered that she had talent to burn! The photos and video were shot at Charleville Castle, Tullamore.”
Bri continued, “In this music video, I long for more than my current situation as I struggle to sit with the spinning wheel which, for me, symbolises that ‘groundhog day’ feeling. Watching this video back reminded me that my passion for songwriting could never have been discovered if there wasn’t firstly a struggle. The very action of writing a song to express this was my answer to feeling the passion and excitement in my life that I was craving. I love the simplicity of that.”
As well as fashioning up those homemade visuals, the vocals on More Than were also somewhat of a DIY affair, recorded in Brí’s bedroom due to restrictions. “Darragh Nolan, of Asta Kalapa studios in Wexford, built magic around it as usual,” revealed Brí, adding, “and my friend Aidan Mulloy lent his electric guitar skills once again. He also makes his debut bass performance on this track.”
~ All three tracks – NO SLEEP from SORCHA FAHY; WHY? by SOFIA STANLEY; and MORE THAN from BRÍ – are OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. The official music videos for all three songs can also be enjoyed on YouTube (Search Sorcha Fahy Music, Sofia Stanley Music, and BRÍ respectively).
The latest release from singer/songwriter LARISSA TORMEY is sure to have fans and listeners thinking she’s ever so slightly mad…but in the best possible way! Larissa’s creative spark has been anything but diminished by the strangeness of the last year, and with 2021 only midway through its fourth month, Larissa, remarkably, is about to release her third single! That in itself sounds slightly mad, and so it should too, because that’s what her forthcoming single is also called.
SLIGHTLY MAD, which is scheduled for release across all platforms on April 17th, will be the latest installment from an album of original material that Larissa began work on last year. Highlighting the Russian-born and Kilbeggan based artist’s amazing versatility, Slightly Mad follows on from her single Black Cat – a funky, jazz infused number – which preceded it in 2020. Larissa, who has built up a loyal fanbase of Irish country music fans, is currently working on this album of original contemporary songs in parallel with her latest country projects, and she’s enjoying the back-and-forth between both.
“It keeps things interesting and exciting for me as a writer, that’s what I find. I have always believed that old saying, that there are only two kinds of music; good and bad! So what concerns me first of all and most of all, is writing a good song. But if I’m doing that for a new country album, I take a slightly different approach because I have to be aware of my audience and what they like and what I hope they will enjoy. Writing a song like ‘Slightly Mad’ can be more of an adventure, there’s a greater sense of freedom in how you can express yourself. So you can go slightly mad if you want to! [laughs].”
Making sure that her fans won’t be left wanting for new music to enjoy, Slightly Mad will become her third single in almost as many months. Just last month the Jon Philibert penned One Man Band hit radio and music libraries across Ireland and the UK, and indeed beyond as well. Londoner Philibert is the man responsible for writing what became – and remains – Tom Jones’s longest ever country charting record, the beautifully titled, I’ve Been Rained On Too. The song became a top-ten for the Welsh legend in 1984, going on to hold a place on the Billboard Country chart for a staggering twenty-two weeks. Getting her musical year underway in February was the traditional country flavoured Agree To Disagree, a duet with the respected and prolific British country songwriter Dave Sheriff. The multi-instrumentalist performed at the famous Wembley Country Music Festival in the 1970s, and also worked with the American country legend Don Gibson, and toured with both Patsy Montana and Slim Whitman.
In fact, Slightly Mad will actually be her fourth single of the year if you include Larissa’s involvement in the double number-one charity single Reach Out, which featured over eighty stars of Irish country music. With 2021 not yet having reached its halfway point, Larissa can also look back on two Hot Press Award nominations, one for Female Artist of the Year, and another for Best Songwriter.
Asked if she intends to keep this pace up for the remainder of the year, Larissa saw an opportunity to poke a little fun at herself, remarking, “Well, I’m slightly mad enough to try!”
~ SLIGHTLY MAD, the brand NEW single from LARISSA TORMEY, another original from her own songbook and taken from her forthcoming long-player of contemporary songs, will be available on all platforms from April 17th.
There are some dreams shared by artists all around the world when it comes to certain moments in their career. Take the release of a debut album, for instance. British singer/songwriter TWINNIE waited her whole life for that moment to arrive. And when HOLLYWOOD GYPSY finally did officially come into the world on April 17th 2020…it was smack-bang in the early days of a pandemic. Not ideal, to say the least.
In normal circumstances, there’d be a somewhat straight line between moments like hearing the mastered songs for the first time, holding the physical album in your hands for the first time, seeing the album advertised in print or online for the first time. Every moment, really, is a first of some kind. And each of those moments, of course, generally leads to the biggest moment of them all…performing the album ‘live’, in front of your fans, for the very first time.
But…when all of the above happen, but that final – arguably most important, most exciting, most liberating and climactic moment of all – just can’t…that’s heartbreaking. And tough to deal with, too, because…well, what DO you do then?
Well, that was the set of circumstances Twinnie (full name Twinnie Lee Moore) found herself in a year ago, and has been living with ever since. And while it was heartbreaking, and Twinnie doesn’t shy away from that truth, she’s nothing if not resilient. Yes, it was among the cruelest possible twists of fate for any artist launching their debut album, but the great thing about Twinnie – as anyone who knows her will testify to – is that the fire within her always finds a way to burn brighter than whatever dark moments may shade her life from time to time. Twinnie is a beacon of light in every aspect of her life, from her music to her personality, in large part because her instinctive sense of the real leaves her with no other option than for her music and personality to be ever-entwined. Even if, at times, that has meant taking to the battlefield of principles. But with Twinnie, if something needs to get done, it gets done.
Unable to perform or promote Hollywood Gypsy after its release last year, Twinnie satisfied her innate need to remain creative and positive by first recording a beautiful acoustic version of the album which dropped in October 2020. And now, on April 17th, a year to the day since Hollywood Gypsy first announced Twinnie’s brilliance in long-form, she has reimagined five tracks for the album for a very special EP.
I had the pleasure of spending some time in Twinnie’s company last weekend, and I began our chat by asking her to talk through her choice of songs for Hollywood Gypsy (Reimagined) …
“Well all of them on the album are my favourites [laughs]. But one we picked is Daddy Issues. The studio version is very uptempo, and I think a lot of stuff, when it is uptempo, people kind of miss the lyrics. So I really wanted to highlight those lyrics in a different way and show off a different kind of style and perspective. I really believe – and I think this is something that I struggle with within the music industry, is that everyone’s always trying to put you in a box, and in a day and age where we can’t even label people anymore – but I really believe that there’s just two types of music, it’s either good or it’s bad. So I wanted to highlight that a song – if it’s well written – can be heard in different ways. Imagine the song to be the girl and the production to be a dress, well you can dress it up in whatever [kind of] production, and someone will hear it differently. I wanted to give a new lease of life to these songs. I wasn’t ready to let them die yet, I guess! Releasing them in a pandemic wasn’t the most amazing thing for me [laughs]. but it did alright. But I still haven’t managed to play it ‘live’ yet. The album will have been out eighteen months before I get a chance to play this stuff ‘live.’ So I thought this would be a nice nod to the album, and to the long journey that I’ve had throughout music, just to kind of redirect people back towards the studio album too, and maybe they’ll have a different perspective on the songs. So we picked ‘Daddy Issues’ as one, and it’s very different.”
Twinnie continued, “Feeling Of Falling, it’s quite uptempo anyway, but I wanted to do a few versions where they were straight pop, like Dua Lipa, something that you can dance to. ‘I Love You Now Change’ and ‘Feeling Of Falling’ are very much like that. ‘Better When I’m Drunk’ – which is an instant download when you pre-order – it’s making fun of myself in the original version, like in the video. But I thought, actually really, underneath the surface of that, there’s quite a lot of hurt and pain. I think this one just really suited being a ballad. Again, that was to encourage the listener to hear it in a different way, even though it’s a party song. So we wanted to completely reimagine it. Then we’ve got ‘Hollywood Gypsy’, which is one of my favourites, and I just wanted to dance to that! So I had an idea of well, what if it was a kind of a funk version, with the bass and the drums really being prominent, so kind of a bit more cool in that…I wouldn’t even know how to describe it [Laughs]. I guess I can play you a little bit, just to give you a little bit more of a reference. I’m just gonna try and play you this…I have so many Dropbox links! [Laughs]. Here we go, this is it…”
At this point, Twinnie proceeded to share a few moments of the reimagined version of Hollywood Gypsy, and let me tell you, there is a serious vibe a-coming!
“So it’s got that very 90s, hip-hop, r’n’b kinda vibe, I guess. On some of them, they’re completely new vocals. Obviously ‘Daddy Issues’ is, and I think all of them are apart from ‘Hollywood Gypsy’ where we used the original vocal, and just rearranged the track. It was really fun to go back and delve into these stories. And for me especially to go, ok, so how can I reimagine this? I’m really proud of ‘Daddy Issues’, I just love that song. It’s such a great sonic sound. And then ‘Hollywood Gypsy’ is just so fun to dance to…”
So going by what Twinnie was telling me about the title track, her Reimagined EP wasn’t simply going to be an acoustic affair, as such projects can often be…
“Well we did a whole acoustic version of the album, because I just needed something because, again, it’s just such an anti-climax moment when you release an album in a pandemic. Because I wasn’t able to promote it. So I sat there in my room, in my bedroom, and really I just cried my eyes out. I had been thinking that this was going to be a big massive moment for me, and then it wasn’t. I didn’t really that from my team either. It was like, ‘Oh congratulations’, and then ok, we’re onto the next thing now. And that was no fault of theirs, because we didn’t have anything to push to. But it was a real kind of…I guess I was humbled without needing to be humbled. Like, I need to let go of any expectations that my music will do well or that it will connect. I do music for me. If it connects with people, then great. I just really turned back to some of the great people that I’ve admired so much. Like Billy Joel tried to kill himself after the first album he released. And Queen and Freddie had their struggles. All of these amazing people that I grew up listening to, even Judy Garland. Art imitates life, I think, and vice-versa. So I was like, I can either be downtrodden about this situation, or I can use it as a catalyst to create more, And I think, honestly, it’s been one of my best years. I released a podcast called ‘Breaking Through’ to help inspire other people. I wrote my first screenplay. Worked with Alan Menken, Andy Garcia, Mary Steenburgen. So many things happened out of being bored, and everybody else stopping. I was just like I’m not gonna do that! I’m just gonna use this as a catalyst.”
Twinnie is in Nashville at the moment writing for a new project…
“Yeah, I’m working on some new music with my record label, BBR, which is owned by BMG, so we’re just working on a new EP to take to country radio. Obviously that won’t happen straight away. The label actually didn’t want to put these new reimagined versions out, even though I produced it last year, cos’ they wanted my next look to be all-hands-on-deck for the American stuff. But I felt that it was just such a waste not to have these songs heard, and to celebrate the album, so I just did it anyway [laughs]. I often do that [laughs].”
While in Nashville – from where she was speaking to me via the magic of Zoom – Twinnie will also be getting a much welcomed and long-awaited chance to perform again during her time in Music City, when she plays a writers’-round at the Listening Room on April 20th. But that ’round’ is part of something far bigger, and something which Twinnie clearly feels deeply passionate about…
“So, during this pandemic, I wrote a song called ‘I Know A Woman’, and launching from that next year is a global initiative trying to create more opportunity and community for women. So we’re setting up these residencies called ‘I Know A Woman’ and raffling off merch and stuff to raise money for global women’s charities. And we’ve got our first writing-camp of ‘I Know A Woman’ this weekend, so I’m really busy. So I’m a founder of that, and we’re in meetings with the Grammys, MusicCares, Women In Music, CMA. People should follow our Instagram page. Basically we highlight different talents of different women from all sorts of industries. Launching on International Womens’ Day next year, we’ve got a project called Nominate, Collaborate, or Donate. We’re setting up an ‘I Know A Woman’ music fund for grants, and a wellness fund as well to help with therapy and all that kind of stuff. The collaboration is obviously writers’ camps, where we get established writers to come and write with unknowns or smaller artists who haven’t had their break yet. So it’s that pass-the-mic thing. On the nominate side of things, on International Womens’ Day we’re asking everybody to give up their socials to a woman in their field that can have access to their audience for the day. So you’re empowering another woman, which is in turn empowering other women to have this back of forth that says hey, we are stronger together. Women in the music industry, especially artist to artist, feel like they’re pitted up against each other, especially in country music where ‘the gatekeepers’ don’t play women enough. It’s even worse on Spotify. You look at those curated Spotify playlists, there’s like fifty songs and three of then are women. It’s disgraceful. So I’m creating a board of directors with all the heads of the PROs like BMI, ASCAP, PRS, there’ll be someone from Apple, someone from Spotify. Those are the most influential people in the music industry, so why is it not changing?“
“Tunecore did a massive global study of the last ten years, and we’re still massively under-represented. So I’ve been speaking to the Home Office about going in [to schools] and doing workshops called ‘I Know A Song’ for kids, to get to the root of the problem, so we can educate them on being a songwriter, being an artist, being in the music business, A & R, music publisher, any of those. So you create from the bottom up this ethos that we’re all in it together. The music industry is hard, it really is for everyone. I think it’s especially discriminatory against women. I was on Clubhouse yesterday where this music exec – female – asked this girl her age. Firstly, she didn’t ask any of the men. The girl said she was thirty-three. She has a stunning voice, amazing. But the music exec was like, ‘Lie about your age, honey, say you’re twenty-five, sex sells.’ This exec was like a fifty-five year old woman! This is such an unhealthy narrative to be feeding younger generations. We’ve got a responsibility to protect these children that are finding it more easy on Tik-Tok. Labels are just signing them for insurance purposes, in case they get big. They’re given deals but there’s no kind of mental health care, to say ok, this is what you’re stepping into, this is what you can expect, what you need to be careful of. There’s none of that. I really feel like now is the time for change. Nashville has a great community, and I’m trying to pick up that community and place it in other territories for ‘I Know A Woman’ writers’-rounds, like the UK, Sweden, Australia, Berlin, everywhere, to give women a safe place to come to to be supported. No age-limit, no genre, people can just come and play and listen. I’m really passionate about creating a much safer, encouraging environment within the music industry. We have to hold these people accountable; labels, publishers, managers, agents. These are lives that some people are destroying, and it needs to stop.“
“As an artist, and hopefully in a few years I’m gonna become a mum, I want to feel that if my kid wanted to be in music that they’d be safe and protected. I’ve been in so many situations that have been uncomfortable. I was once told to ‘shut the f*&k up in front of the head of my label, in front of three men. And nobody stuck up for me. If my mum was in there, she would have decked him! I don’t tell her this stuff because it would be so upsetting for her. But I have to deal with that sometimes on a daily basis. And I’m quite an alpha-female, I can handle myself, nobody really speaks to me like that. So I did say something. But I thought, what if you’ve got a sixteen year old girl that is timid and is meek, yet is so talented, but she gets her dreams crushed? I just want to take that experience and make sure no-one has to deal with that. There should be no assholes, but there are, there are ones that we have to deal with every day. But it’s nice to be nice! It really is. And I’m a full believer that the more you give, the more you receive. I’m not doing this for money. I’ve set up a label, but I have no interest in running a label! But I want to create an infrastructure that just runs itself. So up-and-coming A&Rs that actually want to do that, they have a place to come and work. Also, the label is giving songwriters points on the record, which is a massive point of difference to what’s going on at the minute. We’re even in chats with big fashion designers at the minute because we want to reach out to other creative sectors about them creating the merch, with 100% of the proceeds going to global womens’ charities.”
“I’m sorry, I just went on a tirade about something else other than my EP [laughs]. This is happening tomorrow, that’s why it’s on my brain!”
Twinnie has tour dates back home in the UK in September…
“Yeah, and I keep getting asked to go to Ireland, but there are no plans yet. But I should go. But the UK dates going ahead, I mean, I hope so! That would be horrendous to have to cancel it for a THIRD time! I’m sure it will be fine. They’re on about no more restrictions by June 21st. I don’t think they’re going to be able to hold people down any longer.”
Twinnie has mentioned her Breaking Through podcast a little earlier in our chat, something else that she’s clearly very passionate about…
“Yeah, and it all stems from just trying to inspire people in a pandemic, and this is where the ‘I Know A Woman’ idea came from, because we interviewed a lady called Heidi Rose Robbins that has an amazing TedX talk about amazing women that she knew. We interview people from all industries, from the top of their field. We’ve got people like Dave Stewart on it, and Mimi D who does nails for Beyonce. Music is music, and I’m a part of that world, but I understand the creative brain, and all these people – whether they’re poets or astrologers – they all use the same part of the brain. We’ve even interviewed a top scientist because I’m so intrigued by how the body works. I think it’s cool to have a podcast that’s not just the glamour-side of peoples’ jobs. Although peoples’ stories are uniquely different, they all have the same common thread of persistence beats resistance. And truly, doing it during the pandemic really gave me a lot of hope because I was in a pretty dark place when the album came out. I was super-sad about everything. You’re just like, ‘I spent the last ten years getting here…!’ And then…! So yeah, it helped me, it was like therapy for me, and I’m hoping a lot of other people will feel that it’s inspiring. We’ve had great feedback, even though it only launched a couple of weeks ago.”
Speaking of inspirational people, Twinnie was on a podcast with American country singer Mickey Guyton back in February. And Mickey, as one of the most visible black female artists in American country music, has emerged as a formidable voice and spirit of note this past year…
“We did it for the BBC, it was me, Mickey, Abby Anderson, and Jimmie Allen. It’s really interesting speaking to other artists because I find that most of the time, unless we’re like really good friends, we just kind of keep quiet about our struggles. I don’t know if that’s just ingrained in us. So I think opening up that conversation to the public and to fans, letting them know that it’s really f*&king hard guys! Like, the music bit is easy. The f*&king music industry is a sh*tshow to navigate, especially as a woman. I never want to be played just because I’m a woman. I want to be played because my music is undeniable. Unfortunately, in some rooms, it doesn’t matter how undeniable you are. They would just prefer to play men. It’s really sad. And Mickey, I don’t know if she’s even getting played on country radio, but I hope she is. And I think she’s inspiring regardless, just to those black women in country music who are up-and-coming. It doesn’t always have to be a white face, or a male, or a cowboy hat, ya know. That’s why I love country music, because it’s very diverse, it represents different layers of people. Mickey was just really inspiring to listen to, because we both have the same kinds of struggles, but in a different way. It’s funny to me how they sign you, you have to fit in their box, but even though they loved you in the first place for what you were – Twinnie – they try to make you fit into this market, when sometimes they don’t know where to place you. Especially for me, because I think my stuff is more pop than anything in the UK. Trying to put me in a country that doesn’t really celebrate country music was a really bad, poor decision. They didn’t really listen to me.“
“It’s fine to be country/pop here [in Nashville] because there’s a market for it. So I had a very turbulent time of protesting who I was as an artist. I was like, hey, this is my music. You signed me as something you considered country, but you don’t even know what country is. Like, have you listened to the Spotify playlists? Dan and Shay and Justin Bieber are doing something together. It’s palatable pop. It’s storytelling pop. Look at Shania Twain and Taylor Swift. So that was so frustrating for me. Having somebody else who has been through those same struggles and for her to go, ‘Stick to being yourself, that’s why people love you, don’t change!’ And it’s so funny, they [record labels] say once you have a hit you can do anything, but no, that’s not true. I would rather die on the hill, die by the sword that says I’m Twinnie, this is what I do. If you like it, great. If you don’t, fine. It doesn’t matter. But I’m not gonna spend my first album, my first look to the world, being something that I’m not proud of, that I don’t think represents me.”
“Saying do something else and if it’s a hit then we’ll go back to what you want to do, screw that. That doesn’t work anyway. We saw that multiple times with artists who wanted to be a bit left-field but were turned into mainstream. Look at James Bay. My best friend produced that record, it didn’t go down well in the charts but I think it’s a great album. Your fans evolve with you, and I just didn’t want to not be myself for the first one. I struggled with that. I struggled with that with management, I struggled with that with my label, with press, I struggled with that across the board. Again, going back to the music, the music is easy for me. But when you feel like you’re a part of something that doesn’t quite get it, the emotional effect that has, and the mental damage that can do to a person, is really s*&t. So to have another artist say, ‘Hey girl, I’ve been through the same thing…’ – and Abby was the same, and Jimmie was the same. I’m like, oh my gosh! WHY do they sign people and not let them just create?! It’s just boring to me otherwise. Do you want me to just sound the same as everybody else? No. You want people to be creative because once you are creative and out of your comfort-zone, that’s when you get magic. So that’s what I endeavour, all the time, to do. Because I’d rather be different and have people hate my sound, rather than just think yeah, that’s cool…it sounds like this…! So yeah, talking to Mickey was awesome. And I know that was very long-winded! [Laughs]. I’ve had a coffee! [Laughs].”
~ The HOLLYWOOD GYPSY (Reimagined) EP from TWINNIE, is now available to pre-order on BANDCAMP, and will be released on April 17th.
BRENDAN GRAHAM PENNED SINGLE SEES MAHERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
THE MAHERS are a Newbridge family with a musical pedigree which stretches back over three generations now, are building further on that legacy with the release of their brand new single which already has the top of the charts well within its sights. LULLABY FOR THE WORLD, from the pen of one of Ireland’s foremost crafters of song, BRENDAN GRAHAM (c0-written with James McMillan), climbed all the way to #2 in the Irish download charts in the days after its release on January 8th.
The Mahers are dad Dave, and his three daughters; eighteen year old Stacy, Robyn who is seventeen, and Ruby who is still only eleven. And while she may well be the youngest of the Maher girls, Ruby is no stranger to the spotlight. Auditioning as Ruby M on the show, she wowed the audience of The Voice Kids UK last year, with a show-stealing performance of the Walk The Moon hit Shut Up And Dance. But it wasn’t just the audience who were blown away by Ruby’s talent and confidence, as judge Will.I.Am spun his seat around to offer Ruby a place on his team. In 2019, alongside her dad and sisters, Ruby helped charm Ireland with the family’s version of a classic from the Olly Murs back-catalogue, Dance With Me Tonight, on the TG4 show Réalta Agus Gaolta.
On Lullaby For The World – the video for which topped the 50, 000 views mark on YouTube within just seven days of going ‘live’ – Ruby, essentially playing herself in the role of a little girl, becomes the voice of humanity in conversation with Mother Earth. As you’d expect from any Brendan Graham creation, given that the Tipperary man’s songwriting soul has also gifted our hearts moments of eternal beauty such as; Rock And Roll Kids; The Voice; You Raise Me Up; and Isle Of Hope, Isle Of Tears during his career, the lyrics to Lullaby For The World carry all his usual hallmarks. Each line encapsulates the perfectly measured simplicity, unbridled emotional empathy, and a sometimes searing truth which makes their creators name – as with Leonard Cohen – an obvious and immediate retort to any who claim a songwriter cannot be a poet in their work.
Speaking about the release of Lullaby For The World, Dave – who is now witnessing his children follow in his own path as a ‘child star’ – revealed his excitement about finally being able to share the track with everyone…
“We think people are really going to love this song. The fact that it comes from Brendan lends it a special aura to begin with anyway. But also because we’re coming out of what was such a terrible time for the whole world in 2020, a very dark time in many ways, this song counters that feeling, I think. It offers the same kind of light that we always hope a new year will bring with it. And that kind of light, that kind of hope, well, if ever there was a year that it was needed, then it’s now. You always have to believe that the future can be better than what’s come before, that it doesn’t have to be bound to the past. The verses of the song are quite dark, but then it counters that feeling when you hit the chorus. And that’s what gives us hope and tells us that tomorrow we’ll make a new world, and we’ll do it for you. Just like it says in the song.”
Dave continued, “We see young people like Greta Thunberg making us aware of how important it is to act now for the sake of tomorrow, and the reasons why we need to do that. I could see her adopting this song as an anthem for that cause. There are lines in this song that make it very clear how immediate the danger is, for example; ‘With eyes filled with weeping at what it did see/ The world told its sad, sad story.” But that’s wonderfully countered by lines like; ‘Now hush-a-bye-bye, world – hush don’t you cry!/ We’ll do what you need us to do/ No need to sing you a sad lullaby/ Tomorrow we’ll make a new world.’ Those are very powerful lines.”
As Dave returns to the public eye in the company of his talented daughters, he reflects on how lucky he has been to share the limelight in the music business with his family for a second time, having triumphed in the famous Opportunity Knocks TV show as a child star himself…
“There’s no doubt that I’m a lucky man, and I know it, too. I thank my lucky stars for it every day. Winning Opportunity Knocks when I was just a lad myself, with my own dad on lead guitar, my sister Linda also singing, and Eddie and Mick also in the band, that was just an amazing experience. That was watched by twenty-five million people at the time. I didn’t think anything would ever top that. But this little journey that I’m on with my girls now, well you’d never know, this might just top it yet!”
And top it, it just might. After all, Tik-Tok influencer Ryan Marc Payne has already shared Lullaby For The World with his twenty-three million followers as he created a look inspired by Mother Earth. So, who knows what’s coming next for The Mahers? One thing is certain, with talent like this, anything is possible.
~ LULLABY FOR THE WORLD, by THE MAHERS, written by BRENDAN GRAHAM (with James McMillan), is OUT NOW, available on all platforms, and to request from radio. You can follow the Mahers at The Mahers Music on Facebook and Instagram, and stay up to date with all their latest news at www.themahersmusic.com
If you were tuned into the Tommy Tiernan Show on RTE 1 last Saturday night, then you’re probably waking up this morning with a smile still on your face. Now, on any given week, Tommy himself – thanks to his wonderful way of both talking to people and just letting people talk – could well be reason enough for smiles that last for days. Last weekend, however, Tommy was almost a guest on his own show and an observer filled with wonder, just like the rest of us sitting at home, as the powerhouse pairing of Tullamore singer/songwriter TOLÜ MAKAY and her best friend, the Longford poet, FELISPEAKS took centre stage.
The love for each other, for life, for their respective art-forms, and for creativity, that sparked between the duo – and into the middle of which they welcomed Tommy as if he himself was a long-lost friend of theirs – was the kind of wild, pure energy that, if it could be harnessed and shared, would be a light bright enough to lead us all through however many dark days remain until the last year becomes, at last, a ‘remember when.’ But thank God we had them to enjoy last Saturday night, all three; Tolü, Felispeaks, and Tommy. And thank God we’ll have all three and their prodigious talents to look forward to enjoying ‘live’ and in-person when the sun rises once more on those days we so long for. And in the meantime, for the journey, we have Tolü’ to soundtrack our lives.
Born in Nigeria, raised in Ireland, and at home in Tullamore, it’s no exaggeration to say that Tolü is made for the world stage, and is already well on her way to a point in her career where recognition on that level begins to come her way. A nominee in the Hot Press Hottie Awards 2021; a landmark debut EP – Being – already in existence; a first long-player in the works; a place in the hearts of the nation courtesy of her tender treatment of N17; three sold-out shows in Dublin coming up between the end of May and early June; after last weekend’s stellar showing, it can surely only be a matter of time before Tolü becomes a regular sight on our tv screens; and not forgetting, of course, the beautiful balm for the soul that is her latest single, Used To Be, out now too…Tolü’s presence in the world is a force of nature and a blessing. And perhaps the most exciting part of it all is that her time in the limelight is just beginning…
In Part 2 of our recent chat with Tolü, and before we got onto some of the amazing things that have been happening for her – such as her by now famous, aforementioned, and oh so glorious version of N17, being part of Irish Women in Harmony, and the not so little matter of those several sold-out shows – I just wanted to ask Tolü a simple question: How was she doing? I’d seen her say about a week before our chat that it had been a year and a half since she’d seen some of her family. With the whole Covid situation being what it is, it’s difficult for all of us not being able to see people that we love and care deeply about. But in Tolü’s case, that also means not being able to share these magnificent moments in her life with her family…
“Thank you for asking. People don’t actually ask that. It’s been very tough. I’m actually going to start getting emotional now [laughs]. It’s been really hard, especially December, normally that’s when we go back home to see everyone; parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, all of that. Even though all of these amazing things are happening, it feels quite lonely at the same time. I have amazing friends, and I absolutely appreciate all the goodness and all the love that I’m receiving. But then, with family, you also want them to rejoice with you and see the magnitude of what you’re experiencing. I can’t send them every single newsletter that I’m in, I can’t send them every post that everyone sees, or every TV show that I’ve been on. So it’s just little scraps that they see, so it’s hard for them to kind of engage with it all. Some days are tougher than others, but honestly, the support I’ve been receiving has been keeping me very positive. And I’m so grateful for that, because if I didn’t have my amazing management Welcome To The New World, and my friends that are showing me love every moment and asking me how I am, and who are actually being there for me to be able to see them, I think it would have been a very, very, very, tough, tough, tough [laughs], and weird space to be in. Because from the outside it looks amazing, but then on the inside I’d be really sad. I’m really grateful that I have people around to share moments like this with even though my family aren’t with me.”
On then to Tolü’s magical version of the Saw Doctors hit, N17, which really did bring a tear to my eye when I first heard it. And I know a similar experience to that was shared by so many. It’s one of those moments where the listener can only sigh at the beauty of what they’ve just enjoyed when the song ends. But how did it all – Tolü, N17, and the RTE Concert Orchestra – come to be?
“Yeah, so it was Kite Entertainment, they were the ones who were recording – they picked the song – and they were the ones who put me forward. But a friend of mine called Susan Scannell, I think she works with them and she was also there on the day when we were shooting, she was the connecting factor really. Kite got me in contact with Gavin Murphy from the RTE Concert Orchestra, we had a conversation – and I don’t even think we had a phone conversation, this was all WhatsApp texts, and him sending the arrangements for the orchestra. This was all done on WhatsApp, it wasn’t even a proper file or anything [laughs]. Then I quickly sent a voice-note with me singing over the tracks, so he could get a sense of what I was planning to do with it, and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s perfect, yeah, that sounds beautiful already.’ And I was like OH GOD! [Laughs]. Then we went to shoot down in the Camden studio, and everything was obviously Covid friendly, and everyone was just lovely. It took a few hours to shoot, which was fine. They treated me really well. But even the night before, I was speaking to some of my family and stuff, and I think that kind of helped me to tap into the emotion that I needed for the next day. It was a long few hours!”
Tolü, of course, has also been one of the artists involved in the Irish Women in Harmony collective, sending their version of Dreams by the Cranberries, to the top of the Irish charts…
“Oh that was amazing! I need to say a massive thank-you to Erica Coady who hit me up first, and then I got in contact with RuthAnne who is…whoah!…such an amazing person! She has so many accolades, and has written for some of the biggest artists we know of (Britney Spears, Niall Horan, Westlife, One Direction, Bebe Rexha, and more), so to be in her presence with so many other amazing Irish women, I was just like YES! Absolutely! How could I say no to this?! [Laughs]. And obviously we all know how amazing the Cranberries are. I think the song ‘Dreams’ is what we needed in that moment, in 2020. No-one really expected it to just grip everyone’s heart like that. It was something I knew I needed anyway, because there were no gigs, no concerts, I wasn’t going anywhere! I was stuck in Tullamore doing live-streams! [Laughs]. And I really didn’t like the appeal of live-streams, especially the ones on my Instagram because it was really hard to get a response, except for ‘likes’, but those are silent. I’m trying to see if Instagram will pay me for a feature that I think would be really cool for them [laughs]. But yeah, ‘Dreams’ was such an amazing moment. I really needed that collaboration to keep me going, and to feel motivated, and to have that drive, and to feel important and be part of something. No kidding, I really believe that in the next maybe five, no, even less than five years, some of the biggest artists that we’re going to be getting in this world are going to come from Ireland, because there’s just so much talent that’s pouring into this country constantly, and genres as well. It’s exciting to be part of something bigger than you. And that’s what Irish Women in Harmony did for me.”
Looking forward instead of back next, Tolü has some big moments coming up in May and June – all going well – with a chance to get back in front of a ‘live’ audience again for her very own shows. How excited is Tolü for those shows to happen, and what does she want that experience to be like for her fans?
“Oh I’m really excited! We have three dates in Dublin, and dates in Galway and also Cork, so it’s kinda like a mini-tour. I had a dream about headlining [my own show] in 2018, and I was like I have to do it! I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve planned it out exactly how I want it to be; outfits, the entrance, how people are going to be seated, what people are going to see, and smell, it’s very detailed. It’s called an ‘experience’ for a reason. I want people to feel alive. I want people to be able to sink into every emotion that I’m portraying. I want it to be like a spiritual moment, but not like Godly or anything like that. I want people to tap into their emotions with every song that I sing. I want it to be world-class, but obviously you have to start somewhere, and this will be my first show. But I hope it will be the foundation for even greater shows. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to set a really good bar for myself so that I can develop the ideas that I really want to be able to manifest.”
I pointed out to Tolü how I loved that she’s even planning her entrance, because sometimes I hate it when people just walk on and begin, something Tolü’s response indicated she agreed with, and certainly won’t be happening with her!
In talking about how she was appointed as assistant to her choir’s head-mistress when she was just fifteen, Tolü once remarked, “It taught me how to performwithout knowing what performance was.” But I wondered what have all the things she’s experienced in the last year or so taught Tolü about who she is as an artist and as a person today?
“The past year has taught me that I can be very hard-working, I’m tough on myself, probably tougher on myself than anybody else that’s around me, to be honest. But it’s also taught me that I really do love myself. I’m trying to learn or navigate how to be a better person, and I think that’s a really cool aspect that I have of myself. Another thing that it’s taught me is that I’m not patient! [Laughs]. I am not patient! I want things now! [Laughs]. It’s also taught me that I’m loving, and that means I’m lovable as well. It’s taught me that my need to express my emotions is ok, and being emotional is fine. You don’t always have to be so tough or have a tough exterior all the time. It has taught me to trust people more, because trusting people more also means that you trust yourself with the decisions that you make. That was a really big one I learned. What else has it taught me? Oh, and also to do as much as I can, but to leave room for the universe to do whatever it needs to do.”
What does Tolü do to protect her energy? Parts of her job, such as speaking to me and those like me, obviously take up not just her time, but her energy as well. Any artist will have to put themselves in a certain frame of mind to spend so much time talking about themselves and their work to all kinds of different people. So how does Tolü make sure that she takes care of herself in that regard? I saw that she draws, for instance. Does that help?
“Yeah, I did a bit of drawing last year, just to kind of find something. But lately, because it’s just been a rush of amazing, new, exciting things, and I’m still trying to navigate this new space of like…media attention [laughs]…it’s been interesting! I suppose one thing that has really helped me is not being on social media as often. Knowing when to turn off my phone. And also scheduling my days. I’m still quite bad at saying ok, Sunday, I’m gonna not work. Because I do find that I’m constantly working, which is very weird but I think is just something that artists do all the time, without even noticing. You’re constantly working, that’s not normal. I’ve started to take acting classes, professional ones, so that I can actually get better at that skill and focus a little bit more of my time. I have other projects that I’m doing as well. That helps me to remove myself as this ‘artist’ persona, and also helps me to be really disciplined with my time. That way, if I have an interview, or a show or something, it’s all scheduled and aligned and I’ve prioritised what’s the most important to me. Choosing what’s most important to me makes me happier, because even though it may still be work, it still makes me feel a lot more fulfilled than drained, if that makes sense?”
And with that, unfortunately, we came to our last question. As regards Tolü’s vision for her debut album, which she hopes to release later this year, and taking into account the kind of person Tolü is – she had mentioned being an empath, being shy, and I know a teacher once called her an old soul, and also being a student of psychology and philosophy – I felt like she won’t be able to ignore everything that’s happening around her in the world, from the effects of Covid to the BLM movement, and such. Will her debut album, when it comes to us, touch on those issues in any way?
“At the moment, with the songs I’ve selected, no. I think with the way I write, I don’t like to be as direct with political issues. And not even political issues, just things that we cannot control. I’m still trying to understand or even put words into context to even make sense of things. It’s more so sounds that come out, and me shouting and roaring rather than it actually being a song. But with some of the songs, I think it will stand the test of time in the sense that the emotional cue is there. And I think that no matter what situation we’re in, there will be certain songs in there that you can still relate to if a really horrible situation happens. For example, there’s one of the songs in there, that I’m still writing, where it just kind of talks about – and this sounds really sad, but I actually wrote this last year in spite of all the positivity – I wrote about finding somewhere else to live. Not like locations, I meant it like I wanted to get out of Earth. Which is really depressing to hear, but I was just like, is there an alternative? Cos’ this sucks. I wrote that song in the heat of BLM, and the whole situation that was happening in Nigeria with the police brutality [SARS]. I just felt like this really sucked, and it seemed to be the same thing over and over again, with famine, and brutality, and all these horrible things that are happening globally, and seems to be never-ending. You know, what’s the point? And that’s really depressing, and I’m soooo sorry! [laughs]. When I write songs like that, I don’t want to pinpoint one specific issue, because the way I feel is like every [emotion] in one. And it’s a lot to navigate. It’s a weird thing. I feel like I just grasp more to the emotional element rather than the actual situations. But hopefully in time I’ll get better at using words to explain and be more concrete with topics.”
~ USED TO BE, the brand NEW single from TOLÜ MAKAY is OUT NOW. Her Dublin shows for THE TOLÜ MAKAY EXPERIENCE are now SOLD OUT, but some tickets remain for her Galway and Cork shows. For more information, visit Tolü’s official website, www.tolumakay.com You can also follow Tolü on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.