Twinnie

First Published April 2021

REIMAGINING THE WORLD

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. 

ENDS

Megan O’ Neill

First Published March 2021

GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY

Earlier this month, Kildare singer/songwriter MEGAN O’ NEILL celebrated – in as much as one can celebrate anything right now – what is always one of the biggest days in the career of any artist…album release day! Her latest collection, and her sophomore long-player, is called GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY. I doubt there has been a more sage piece of advice encapsulated in an album title anywhere this past year! But now that her new album is out in the world, is Megan getting comfortable with the fact that – after two years of putting everything together, and a full year of working on the recording process – her baby has officially flown the nest at last? 

“[Laughs] It’s always a weird one when you release an album, especially for this one, because I’d worked on it for soooo long! And then I sat on it for sooo long as well because of Covid. When I was approaching the release date I was almost like, ‘Oh my God, I hope it’s still as good as I thought it was when I was in the studio?!’ [Laughs]. But yeah, I’m so thrilled it’s out, and with how it’s been received. It’s been amazing.” 

When Megan released her debut album, Ghost Of You in 2018, the world was still a normal place. Now, of course, normal has taken on all kinds of new definitions, very few of which resemble that old world in any way. How different have those two experiences been? 


“To be honest, there’s been pluses and minuses to it. When you’re bringing out an album, you’re usually on tour when the album comes out. Therefore, you’re just completely overwhelmed, because you’re playing gigs but you’re also doing radio stuff during the day, you’re doing press during the day. There’s an awful lot of stuff around the release of an album in a normal world when you’re able to tour. In this scenario it was actually nice because I was able to give a lot more time to long-form interviews, to doing long podcasts, and chatting to so many different people about the album. Because you had the time to sit and do it from home. And you weren’t driving to Manchester to appear on the radio, ya know! There were a lot of elements like that that I really enjoyed. But I suppose the weird thing with Covid for everybody is that you can’t mark things with celebrations. So sometimes it feels like they don’t happen. I was like that after The Late Late Show. I just came home and had a glass of wine and was sitting on the couch, and I was like, ‘Did any of that happen?!’ [Laughs].” 

Does Megan think that when things come back to some kind of normal, because people have now had these new experiences of how things can be done, that there’ll be a shift in how the music industry operates? Or will everything snap back into the way it used to be? 


“No, there’ll be a huge shift. Even for me, I work regularly – like two or three times a week – I would be in a songwriting session with somebody in Dublin, or Mayo, or Cork, or Belfast, or London, or Nashville, wherever. And that’s all made possible actually, because of the pandemic, and do we all do those over Zoom. In the past, I would have flown to Nashville for two weeks to write with people. I think that’s gonna be gone. I think Zoom songwriting, it’s become the norm. People have gotten really used to it. In a way, it’s really nice because you have all of your gear, like for me, I’m in my home studio and my set-up is how I like it. I’m not having to go abroad or hop in my car and drive for two hours to go work with somebody. I don’t think that change is gonna change [back], I think that’s here to stay. I think live-stream, to a certain extent, are here to stay, but will be coupled with actual real-life gigs as well. I think the way that fans probably now expect to be welcomed into your home [laughs], the way they have been for the last year, that will stay.”

Megan has described these thirteen songs as being her “most personal work so far.” For her, as a writer, I wondered if that was because of the subject matter of the songs themselves, or perhaps more so how, as a songwriter, Megan has learned how better to shape and share her experiences with the passing of time? 


“I think it’s a bit of both, probably. Between ‘Ghost Of You’ and ‘Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty’ there was an awful lot of growth for me, as a songwriter, as an artist, and as a person. Growth as a person changes how you are as a writer, and as an artist. And probably what you’re open enough to talk about. Maybe for me, in the past, I was a little afraid to be that open. Or a little nervous about being that open. I think now, I’m like, screw it! [Laughs]. We’re all humans. We’re all having a shared human experience, we’ve all felt a lot of the same things, so why am I afraid to talk about it, ya know? And that will be the case even with the stuff I’m writing now, it’s even more in-line with that. I’ve invested a huge amount of my life into my songwriting, so you do get better at knowing how to portray that, I guess.” 

Like so many more, I’ve known of and been a fan of Megan’s for years already at this stage. But the entire nation got to meet her and enjoy her spectacular talent when she performed on The Late Late Show recently. As a platform, the show remains the biggest in the country, and because of its long and illustrious history, it’s a landmark moment for any artist to perform on it. I asked Megan to tell me how that experience was for her…


“Yeah, The Late Late is an institution, so it’s a career milestone for a lot of Irish artists, and it certainly was for me. ‘Time In A Bottle’, the cover that Mark and I did, was on Firefly Lane (the Netflix series) and had attracted a lot of attention. So I got the call to go up to The Late Late. In one way, I was upset that it wasn’t non-pandemic times because I would have loved a ‘live’ audience there, and I would have loved my family to be in that audience. Because this was huge for them as well, having supported me so much in my career. But in another way, because of Covid, so many more people tune into The Late Late. So again, two sides to the same coin, pros and cons. But I was so thrilled to showcase that song. Ryan Tubridy was amazing, and so full of the most lovely things to say, both on-screen and backstage. The actual recording of it was a bit mad, because everyone was in masks and socially-distanced. It feels a bit abnormal. But just like anything, when the lights go down and the performance starts, you get in the zone. It was amazing, and I’m so happy to have done it.” 

Before going on to talk a little bit more about some of Megan’s own songs on Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty, I wanted to ask her about the approach she and Mark ‘Cappy’ Caplice took to recording Time In A Bottle. It’s such a gorgeous song even to begin with, and obviously such a well-known song to those of us who would be big fans of the late singer/songwriter Jim Croce. So how did Megan and Cappy take on the challenge of a song like that, respecting the original, but also, I was sure, wanting to be original in what they did with it? 


“Hmm, yeah. Mark and I recorded and produced that song for the Netflix series, Firefly Lane. And we chose to do that one because they were looking for a female version of that song. That was the motivation behind going into the studio to do it. We had a lot of conversations about the song, because yeah, that song is so precious to so many people, myself included. I grew up listening to that song, it’s one of my mam’s favourites. With songs like that, that you know are so loved, you’re like, ‘Ok, how am I going to do this?’ You don’t want to get too close to the original because you don’t want people to listen to it and be like, oh she never should have touched that! Yeah, we had a lot of discussions about making it uniquely our own, and we came up with this version which would be very haunting and very ethereal. The day it came to recording it – well, it was all in the one day, the discussions and the recording – we just turned off all the lights in the studio, lit a candle, and just went for a take. And that’s actually the take that you hear. And we didn’t even do it to a ‘click’, the timing of the track is not as we would usually do it, we just wanted it to be free-flowing. It was one of those performances where it was so important to capture the energy, not a note-perfect, metronome-perfect, timing-perfect track. It was more so capturing the emotion of the song. I think that’s what worked so well in it.” 

Megan has described the track London City as being the hardest song to write on Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty. But did that then make it the hardest song to record as well? Was it just in that first fire of creation – the actual writing of the song – that she had to battle through the emotions or memories that gave life to it in the first place, and are still wrapped up in it? Or do you have to go through those all over again when you record the song?


“So, I didn’t think I’d have to! [Laughs]. But I did. I thought I’d be fine. I wrote that song with The Dunwells, maybe in the summer of 2018 when I knew I was going to be leaving London in the October time. So I was feeling all those things, grieving a place before you have to leave. And it was really difficult to write, yeah. It was very emotional to write. And then, when it came to actually recording the vocals of it – because we’d built the track around it first, and we were doing the vocals probably six months later – I thought I was fine! I was like, ‘I’m grand!’ [Laughs]. I can get through this! But I just balled, the whole day we were recording that song. Poor Dave Dunwell, he was the one at the keypad, torn between oh no, I really want to capture this emotion, so maybe I’ll just get her to push through? But also, maybe she just needs some fresh air?! [Laughs]. I left London because my dad’s not well. And at the same time, I don’t know if you’re ever really ready to leave London. It was a real push-and-pull for me for a long time.”

Megan spoke recently about how she had invested a huge amount of time into her songwriting in the past few years. Did that investment take the form of more time simply spent writing? Was it time spent studying the art and the craft of songwriting? More time co-writing, perhaps? I asked Megan to expand…


“I think songwriting is a life-long education. It’s always gonna require the investment of your time. And again, as I said, because you’re growing as an individual, your needs with your songwriting – whether it’s to write in different genres, whether it’s to write with different influences, whether it’s to write about different topics – all of that requires more work. And that’s more investment of your time. So for me, throughout the last year, I’ve done a lot of solo songwriting which has been really enjoyable because I would have been more focused on the co-writing element in the past. And solo stuff usually takes on a different angle for me when I write by myself. I’m exploring that and finding it really interesting. then a lot of co-writing is writing for other artists, which is a new-ish thing for me. I’ve always done that, but in the last few years I suppose, that’s been more prevalent, and I’ve been writing other peoples’ stories. That’s been really exciting. I’ve got some songs coming out with other artists in the next year which I’m incredibly excited about! So yeah, it’s more time invested in co-writing, it’s more time writing in certain directions – whether that’s for another artist or for synch, or a brief – and it’s also been more time invested for me in learning production. I’ve been doing a production course since the beginning of this year. So it’s a lot of time staring at Logic and pulling my hair out [Laughs].” 

While there are very few artists in a position to see any light at the end of the tunnel as far as ‘live’ shows go just yet,  Megan is one of those who can, with dates in the diary for Ireland and the UK in October. As far as those dates go, is the hope that by the time October gets here they’ll be able to take place in conditions as close as possible to how they would have done pre-Covid, or are they being planned with a new set of logistics that now, and possibly for the foreseeable future, will include Covid considerations? 


“They’re basically being planned both ways, a Plan A and a Plan B. Ideally, Plan A is everything goes ahead as normal if everybody is vaccinated. Plan B is hey, here’s what we have to do if we social-distance. I’m very optimistic that they can go ahead, even if they have to go ahead under certain restrictions. Ideally, if they can go ahead without social-distancing, it will be a full-band situation. But if they have to go ahead with social-distancing, and you can only fill half the room, it would be really hard for me to bring a full-band, obviously. But to be honest with you, I’m just playing it by ear. I’m not stressing about the outcome. It’s just, look, those are in the diary, and I’m really hopeful that we can do them. But these are my third rescheduling of these dates. So…[laughs]…I’ve kind of gotten used to the push-and-pull of that for now [laughs].” 

Many artists are now of the opinion that if something seems possible to try, then let’s do it and see how we can make it work. Because once things begin to happen, and people can better judge what is possible and isn’t, what does work, and doesn’t, that in itself will create a sense of confidence that can be built upon further. Would Megan be of the same opinion? 


“Yeah. And I’ve got more shows to be announced abroad, as well as these ones. And if it’s the case that it’s going to be building a new method of doing events, I want to be a part of that. I don’t want to be waiting, just sitting waiting until everything is back full-tilt. That could be…2023! And then I’m like, great, I haven’t played a show in three years! [Laughs]. I’d much rather be in with the movement and seeing what’s possible.” 

When Megan and I last spoke in July of 2020, it had, at that stage, been only a few months since Megan had last been on stage. The 9th of March this year, however, marked a full year since her last ‘real-life’ show. Mind you, that was in support of Jamie Cullum at the Bord Gais in Dublin, so as far as last shows to look back on go, that’s not too shabby! Throughout her career, Megan’s ‘live’ shows have been an intrinsic element of who she is as an artist, and how she connects with her fans. And over the past few years, as well as her own full diary, Megan has ticked off some seriously high-profile gigs, opening not just for the aforementioned Mr. Cullum, but also Sir Tom Jones, the Lighthouse Family, and alongside Gavin James at some private Oscars’ parties in L.A.  


Now, when some of the shows you’ve been missing out on over the past year are ones like that, I can only imagine the chasm it leaves in an artist’s world. But, what I wanted to know was this. When the moment finally comes around that Megan can walk back out under the spotlight, in front of a venue full of people again (at whatever capacity), for one of her own shows or to open for someone else…what’s that moment going to feel like? Is that the kind of moment that Megan sometimes day-dreams about?


“Oh my gosh! All the time! ALL the time! It’s been such a huge part of my life that, through no fault of mine or of anyone else, it’s just been wiped from underneath me. And I know that’s the case with everybody. 2020, for me, was my biggest year to date. It was two albums. One with a label – a compilation album – and then my own album was coming out. A hundred-plus shows all over the world. I was geared up for an incredible year. And there’s certainly an element for artists now, that feels almost like you’re starting from scratch again. On the one hand, the thoughts of a ‘live’ gig are so exciting, like, I’m jumping out of my skin and I’m like, ‘OH MY GOD!’ [Laughs]. But, on the other hand, I’m anxious about it. By the time these gigs come around [in October], it will have been eighteen months. Playing ‘live’ again will definitely be a little bit scary. And playing with a full-band again. I’ve gotten so used to just playing by myself! Playing with a full-band will be weird. But, the excitement part of it will be much stronger than the anxious part of it!”

As Megan had previously referred to the two years around the process of making Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty as being a period that left her feeling “pretty battered”, I wanted to end our chat with something a little more personal. So, as we sat there on the morning of Friday, March 26th, 2021…how was she feeling? In both a personal and a professional sense? 


“I’m great! Yeah, I’m in a really good place. And I’m so grateful for that! There’s been a lot of…yeah, s*it [laughs]…and a lot of stuff that’s been really hard to get through. But I firmly believe, I really strongly believe, that you don’t grow from a place of comfort. You just don’t. You grow – well, I certainly have grown – when you go through really tough stuff. And for me, I’m still dealing with my dad’s illness at home, which is really hard. And that’s a big part of my life right now. But I’m really grateful to be here to actually, ya know…be here! And that’s a benefit of the pandemic in a weird way, it’s allowed me more time with my family, where I’m not out touring and I’m not away. But yeah, both personally and professionally at the moment, I feel really happy where I am. I feel really excited about what’s coming in the next year or two. I work really hard at putting myself consistently in a good space. And I’m grateful for everything.” 

GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY, the brand NEW album from MEGAN O’ NEILL, is OUT NOW and available on all platforms. 

ENDS

Justin McGurk

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, December 2020

‘YOU ARE’ BRINGS POWERFUL NEW YEAR MESSAGE

YOU ARE is the brand new single from singer/songwriter JUSTIN McGURK and it will add all kinds of good-vibes and feelings of warmth to your world as we see out the final days of a crazy year. Released across all platforms on December 9th, You Are is a powerful song with an even more powerful music video accompanying it, and which stars model KATE GRANT.   

     

After twenty years in the music business, Tyrone man Justin had returned to University to become a mental health counsellor when he was inspired to write You Are. The song was co-written with Nashville based songwriter Cynthia Limbaugh Torres – who wrote In Lonesome Dove with Garth Brooks for his album, Ropin’ The Wind – when she visited Ireland a couple of years ago. You Are is filled with positive affirmations which teach us that by embracing our individuality and uniqueness, we are capable of achieving anything that we desire. 

          

And the star of the video for You Are is undoubtedly the brilliant and beautiful, Kate Grant, who also has Down Syndrome. The model, who, like Justin, is from Cookstown, is someone who perfectly personifies the affirmations in the video. Seeing Kate on the catwalk made a deep and lasting impression on Justin, who was greatly impressed by the radiant and resilient young woman that she is. Justin noted that while many see Down Syndrome as a disability, Kate herself on the other hand, sees it as her greatest asset.      

   

The fact that Kate has Down Syndrome isn’t completely revealed until near the video’s end, but when that reveal happens, it truly adds to the poignancy and importance of the affirmations we see throughout the video. In this cinematic music video, captured by 3FortyFive Films, Kate was styled by fashion and design house Blades & Beauty, and wears a stunning gown with a pair of superhero life-size angel wings.  

       

Kate is very much a star in her own right too, having already been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) from the Queen for “her services to the community in Cookstown.”


You Are was originally intended for an early 2021 release in order to coincide with the launch of Justin’s forthcoming book and new album, of which more details will soon be revealed. However, when Justin was shooting scenes for the video in an empty theatre, the sight of Kate just shining in her angel wings soon made him change his mind. Instead, Justin now feels that You Are is perfect for a Christmas release, and that this inspiring message of hope would be a great way to end what has been a very challenging 2020 for all of us. 


YOU ARE, the brand new single from JUSTIN McGURK, with a video starring KATE GRANT, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

ENDS

The Mahers

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, January 2021

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 

ENDS

Colin Kenny

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, February 2021

COLIN BACK ON SONG AND A PRAYER

Singer/songwriter COLIN KENNY is back on the Irish country charts with his latest original release, the sentimental GRANDMOTHER’S PRAYER, which is currently a Top Ten hit on the Irish Country Music Radio station airplay chart. 

          The Banagher native began his career as a seriously impressive vocal stylist, sharing stages with a host of legendary names in the world of entertainment, from Tony Christie, The Fureys, Mike Denver, and even the late Brendan Grace. The last few years, however, have seen him transformed into a recording artist to be reckoned with thanks to a succession of acclaimed singles, all of which were penned by the man himself. 

          Based in Borrisokane where he is a barber by trade, Kenny is certainly showing no sign of losing that creative spark any time soon if Grandmother’s Prayer is anything to go by. The single expertly taps into the kind of memories many country fans will recall with ease, that of softly imparted yet sage advice from a grandparent. And in keeping with all of his original material, there’s more than a little of his own life in this new tale from ‘the singing barber’…

          “It’s definitely a song that I was able to go back in time to my childhood to draw from alright. And I think it’s probably true to say that a lot of us, when we’re very young and spending time with our grandparents, we don’t fully grasp how much of a privilege and a blessing it actually is to be able to do that. But as you get a little bit older, you really start to appreciate time like that all the more. And when you look back on those younger days – as I do in this song – they take on a very sentimental hue.” 

           Colin, winner of the Gene Stuart Music Inspiration Award at the 2019 Hot Country TV Awards Concert, continued, “Thank God, a lot of the very wise words my own grandmother shared with me sank in somehow! [laughs]. And it was just one day when something she had said once happened to came back to me, that I started thinking about it more. And that was the start of the song really, just drifting back in time to what it was like to be sitting there at her side on a summer’s day after a morning or afternoon down by the river fishing. I think a lot of us, if we’re lucky, will be able to say that we learned a lot more than we ever thought when we were sitting at the kitchen table with people who knew a lot more about life than we did back then. And it was always all done in such a gentle way too, that’s where the idea of those messages from my grandmother being a prayer came from.” 

          Grandmother’s Prayer is the follow-up to Will You Dance With Me, Annie?, Kenny’s previous single and another from his own ever-growing songbook. Penned as a tribute to the love shared between his parents, Jack and Annie, the track gave country fans everywhere another taste of what they’re missing as a result of the ongoing Covid 19 restrictions which have silenced ‘live’ music for close on a year now. 

          Where there’s a will, though, there’s a way. And like so many more of his colleagues in the music industry, Colin has recently started taking to his Facebook music page on a regular basis. Every Wednesday and Sunday evening at 9pm since late September, early October of last year he’s been treating fans to songs like those already mentioned, plus The Best Song In The World, I’m A Country Singer, Head Over Heels In Love, and some of his own personal favourites, with requests from his ever-growing fanbase always catered to as well. 

         And the good news for those fans, is that Colin’s official debut album is on the way. With the plan being for that long-player to feature only his own original songs, there’s little doubt that we’ll be hearing plenty more from the Banagher man for a long time to come. And the Irish country scene will be a better place for it. 

GRANDMOTHER’S PRAYER, the brand NEW single from COLIN KENNY is OUT NOW, and available to request from radio. You can follow Colin on Facebook (Colin Kenny Music) where you can also tune into his regular Facebook ‘Live’ shows. 

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