Cassadee Pope/MacKenzie Porter/ Olivia Lane

First Published September 2021

POPE LEADS TRIO TO WATCH

Grammy-nominated artist Cassadee Pope has confirmed the October 15th, 2021 release of her upcoming album, THRIVE, featuring latest single, Tomorrow Night, which is out now to stream and download.

The album, co-produced by Nick Wheeler (All-American Rejects) and Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town), also features previous singles What The Stars See and Say It First, both released earlier this year.

New song, Tomorrow Night, written by Pope, Dein Guisande and Aaron Chafin, is an upbeat track leaning further into Cassadee’s pop-punk sensibilities and describes a longing feeling that everyone can relate to – whether it is anxiously awaiting a well-earned holiday or anticipating the return of a loved one, we all understand wanting to push the clock forward. 

“I had a chorus idea before my session with Devin Guisande and Aaron Chafin that really excited me. As a big Weezer fan, I really wanted to lean into that influence for this track,” says Pope. “It’s a love song at its core, wrapped in walls of guitars and high energy percussion. I hope people relate to this lyric of just wanting to fast forward to the moment you get to be with the person you’re in love with.” 

Following a premiere last week with PEOPLE.com, Cassadee went on to share the music video for Tomorrow Night via YouTube. Directed by Kamren Kennedy, the quirky video calls back to the style and feel of the early 2000s as it takes us through all the fidgety ways in which we may try to busy ourselves while aching for the time to pass. The conclusion of the music video features someone near and dear to Cassadee’s heart and who she can’t wait to see every day – her beloved dog, Cuppy!

“I knew I wanted the music video for ‘Tomorrow Night’ to be fun, quirky and early 2000s nostalgic,” says Cassadee. “I wrote the treatment and was so happy that Kamren Kennedy was up for bringing it to life. I’ve never had so much fun shooting a video before. Getting to spend the day shooting with my dog, Cuppy, was such a blast. I hope this video makes people smile and feel like they’ve been transported to a time that was so influential for me.”

Cassadee is a Grammy-nominated, platinum-certified singer-songwriter, and Thrive will be her ninth album when it drops next month. The album’s first single, the aforementioned What The Stars See – featuring Karen Fairchild and Lindsay Ell – is a raucous anthem about longing to see what a past partner is doing since going separate ways. Pope performed the track on The Kelly Clarkson Show where she also revealed  what the title of her latest collection would be. The project is special to Pope – blending her influences from her pop-punk days fronting the band Hey Monday, and the country music storytelling and songwriting that she now calls home.

Last year, Cassadee released her first acoustic solo album co-produced by Pope alongside Todd Lombardo. The project followed her album, Stages, featuring hit singles Take You HomeOne More Red Light, and If My Heart Had a Heart.

From fronting rock band Hey Monday, to winning Season Three of The Voice and releasing her #1 debut album Frame by Frame, Cassadee has effortlessly re-arranged the lines of country and pop. She has already experienced tremendous success throughout her career, with Platinum-selling single, Wasting All These Tears being awarded with Breakthrough Video of the Year at the 2014 CMT Music Awards, and her #1 hit Think of You with Chris Young receiving a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group.

Cassadee has toured extensively, joining legendary artists Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley, playing London’s iconic O2 Arena during C2C: Country to Country Festival, and earning the distinction of the only country artist to perform at 2018’s Warped Tour. Cassadee performed If My Heart Had a Heart on the TODAY show and toured with Maren Morris on her Girl: The World Tour. Cassadee continued to tour throughout the spring of 2019 as the headliner of the 2019 CMT Next Women of Country Tour, which brought the franchise outside of the U.S. for the first time ever.

Put October 15th in your diaries now, because as far as contemporary country music goes, you’ll make few better moves this year. 

Rising singer-songwriter OLIVIA LANE is another name to watch out for, and she’s just released her new full-length album HEART CHANGE, whichisalsonowavailable to stream and download also. The album features eleven songs, all of which are written or co-written by Lane, along with well-acclaimed songwriters including Matt Nolen (Eric Paslay, Trace Atkins, Lindi Ortega) and Skip Black (Craig Morgan, Jana Kramer, LOCASH), among others.

“When thinking of what to name this body of work, I had to reflect on what I had experienced in my life over the last few years,” says Lane. “I’m learning heart changes lead to growth, maturity, heartbreak, heart mending and new ways to look at life. They are necessary in becoming our truest selves.”

Olivia’s new collection features the brand new song BREAK, as well as recently released Lois Lane, Woman At The Well, and I Let The Devil In which has received airplay across the UK and Europe following its exclusive first play on BBC Radio 2 in February. Streams for the album tracks released to date have already totalled over 3.9 million, with 2.4million+ views for the official music videos, and features on high profile playlists including Wild Country and PopCo (Spotify), New In Country (Apple Music) and Country Waves (TIDAL).

Most people would probably know Olivia Lane from her appearance on NBC’s Songland, as host of her Living Instead podcast, by the songs that have earned her recognition as one of country music’s new top female artists, or from the highly lauded entrepreneurial spirit that led to the launch of her own publishing venture, Liv Write Play Music. 

But, this new album, Heart Change, heralds the arrival of an Olivia Lane her fans have yet to experience. A Houston native, Lane spent time in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California before settling in Nashville in 2013. Her sweet, soulful voice and insightful songwriting helped Lane earn an enthusiastic following and she continues to grow her audience on her socials and her consistent headlining UK tours. She’s a savvy businesswoman who enjoys being a publisher and mentor. 

At her essence, Lane is a singer/songwriter, and entertainer, and she’s excited for her audience to experience the songs on her new album.

Add Heart Change to your music library and you’ll find that it’s a long-player you keep coming back to. 

And finally for now, we come to Big Loud Records’ Country riser MACKENZIE PORTER who has released track-one in a series of new songs to come with UNLONELY ME. 

Penned by Porter herself, along with Nick Bailey and Craig Wiseman, the song is a light and sunny ode to wanting to rekindle a former flame, and is an infectious country track.   “I wrote ‘Unlonely Me’ at the very start of quarantine in 2020,” explains Porter. “I was super resistant to write over Zoom because I’m very much an ‘energy in the writing room’ person, but when I jumped online with Craig Wiseman and Nick Bailey, I started playing those chords and this song just kind of fell out. We wrote it about the beginning of a relationship, but for me personally, it was about feeling pretty lonely at that time. I can’t wait for y’all to hear it.”


This song comes on the heels of the launch of the Buy Dirt Tour withJordan Davisat The Fillmore in Minneapolis, MN. Porter is tapped as support for the tour this fall. From Minneapolis, she will start the three-month club run across the country, stopping at legendary rooms such as Webster Hall in New York City and Joe’s Live in Rosemont, IL. Porter also recently released a new Amazon Original cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. Featured on the playlist cover, Amazon Music listeners could find Porter’s cover of Torn on the highly coveted Breakthrough Country playlist. They could also find her on Canada Now, Amazon Music’s playlist celebrating the best new Canadian music. 

The 2021 JUNO Award nominee for Country Album of the Year is also featured on hitmaker Dustin Lynch’s current single Thinking ‘Bout You that is quickly climbing up the U.S. Country radio charts. About to knock on the doors of the 20s, this song has shown itself to be a massive hit. Selected by Lynch during a blind audition, Porter delivers her signature “girl-next-door vocals” that, according to Billboard, “cut like a blade.” 

Recently wrapping her 2021 extension of The Loft Sessions, directed by Caleb Donato and shot at the iconic Bluebird Caféin Nashville, the series originally launched in 2019 with These Days and continued in January of 2020 with a cover of Alanis Morissette’s Hand In My Pocket. With Nashville taking notice of what American Songwriter magazine has called her “authentic heart”, and Billboard paying attention to “her mesmerizing vocals and hook-driven songs”, Porter was also inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2021, joining an elite sisterhood of trailblazers and tastemakers.


Signed to Big Loud Records, Porter is currently enjoying the spotlight thanks to her headline-making Thinking ‘Bout You collaboration with Dustin Lynch at Country radio, plus her own Drinkin’ Songs: The Collection, an arsenal of two years’ worth of new music produced by Joey Moi.

Since moving to Nashville in 2014 from her native Canada, MacKenzie has developed a radiant country style which threads the needle between traditional heart and modern energy, often collaborating with songwriting mainstays like Nicolle Galyon, Craig Wiseman, Natalie Hemby, and Tommy English. Her songs have sparked a list of headline-worthy accolades, including multiple Canadian Country Music Award nominations – four times for Female Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Fans’ Choice – as well as 2021 and 2015 JUNO Award nominations, both for Country Album of the Year


In really making her mark, Porter became the first female artist to have three back-to-back #1 singles at Canadian Country radio in twenty-two years with About YouThese Days and Seeing Other People in early 2020, following Shania Twain who last achieved that feat back in 1998. Porter also earned her first crossover Top 10 at Canadian Pop radio – a first since 2003 for a Canadian Country artist – with These Days (Remix), and joined CMT’s elite sisterhood of tastemakers and trailblazers as one of their Next Women of Country class of 2021.

The Pandora 2021 Country Artist to Watch has toured extensively on her own, also sharing stages with Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Chris Lane, Blake Shelton and Dallas Smith, and co-starred in the Netflix series, Travelers. Her newest release Unlonely Me is part of a series of new music to come.


THRIVE, the brand NEW album from CASSADEE POPE, will be available on all platforms from October 15th. HEART CHANGE, the NEW and full-length collection from OLIVIA LANE is OUT NOW, available on all platforms, as is the latest single from MACKENZIE PORTER, titled UNLONELY ME. 

ENDS

Mark Caplice

First Published June 2021

“FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE”

Part 2

Towards the end of last month, Wicklow singer, songwriter, and producer MARK CAPLICE released his much anticipated single, CATCH A TEAR. In Part 1 of our chat with Mark, we got the lowdown on how Catch A Tear came to be, and why now was the right time to share it with the world, as well as taking a deep-dive into Mark’s songwriting process. This single, however, was far from being Mark’s first foray into the spotlight in the music-world, as the Baltinglass man has also had the honour of seeing his song, Dirty Secret (co-written with Cian Sweeney and Briony O’ Toole) being named Song of the Year in ALL of Russia earlier this year. 


Today, Part 2 of our chat gets underway by sticking to that international theme. It was Eurovision time of the year again when Mark and I spoke, and while Ireland didn’t make it to the Grand Final…again…this year, being in that coveted and once very much taken for granted position is something that Mark does have experience of. Back in 2018, he co-wrote the Irish entry, Together, with its performer Ryan O’ Shaughnessy, and Laura Hughes. Ireland has a great history in Eurovision, but over the last twenty years or so it’s become a subject of division in so many ways. I wondered if, for Mark, being involved was something that was always an ambition, or did the opportunity just happen to come along and prove too good to turn down? 


“Genuinely, it’s something I always wanted. Actually, I remember when I was a kid thinking that surely I’m not allowed to write a song for Eurovision?! That was something far beyond my reach, I couldn’t even contemplate this [laughs]. But the further and further I grew into my career, I stumbled into a few friends who had had similar experiences. They had written a song or two that they had entered. So slowly but surely the belief started to grow [in me]. And honestly, the day that we found out, I just started shouting my head off [laughs]. My housemate was upstairs, and he ran down thinking someone was after dying! Cos’ I was just shouting, like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’ [laughs]. He was like what’s wrong, what’s wrong, and I told him to read it, and it was the confirmation letter from RTE that our song had been accepted. And I can’t even describe that feeling. So yeah, it was definitely something that I always wanted to do. And the experience itself was just…out…of…this…world! Going from living in a small town in Baltinglass in Wicklow, to a police-escort into stadiums of thousands…it’s a bit of a juxtaposition! Like, holy God, what’s goin’ on here?! [Laughs]. It was a beautiful experience. And funny enough, I’ve had a couple of close encounters since. And I’d love to do it again. It was just so much fun. But I don’t think anything will ever match that first experience when we were sitting on the couch waiting to hear who was going through [to the final]. And we could see before everybody else could because the camera crew had to get into position to be on the country that was going through. I happened to catch the event-controller’s eye as he was coming up with the camera, and he smirked and he looked away from me! And as soon as he did that, I was like, oh my God, it’s us! [Laughs]. Good times!” 

I mentioned to Mark that I’d recently heard about an actual Irish Eurovision winner that didn’t even make it out of Ireland the first time it was submitted for consideration to be our entry, and yet, it went on to win Eurovision a couple of years later…


“That’s a funny one, because ‘Together’ was entered twice, and it was the second highest song – so very close to being picked – the year before. So there ya go. But I LOVE that! I love that as a message and as an absolute life-hack. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t go anywhere! Pitch a tent! And keep knockin’!” 

Outside of the pop field, Mark has also worked with two of the biggest names in Irish country, Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan. Derek, of course, is a natural songwriter, already well-known for his talent in that area, while it’s fair to say that Nathan would write a little less. What was Mark’s experience of working with both men? 


“That’s one of the things I just adore about songwriting, different people have different perspectives, different approaches. It’s funny, Nathan probably wouldn’t be as well-known for writing, but I’ve written a good bit with him and he’s no stranger to it, he’s great. You can’t climb to the position he’s in without songs being your life. Same for Derek. They’re different in a lot of ways, but they’re similar in many too. They’re both really good people to write with, and especially in Ireland and the UK they’ve got great careers. Who knows what the next couple of years have in store for them. I won’t give away any trade secrets [laughs].” 

When writing with artists like Nathan or Derek, where the song is aimed at the Irish country scene, does that make it a very different kind of song than if he was writing with an artist from the pop field, for example? 


“Genres differ. And genres tend to have a certain language, a certain melody. That’s why I adore writing with different genres and different people, you just learn so much about what works in each genre. The dialogue, and where you even place the message of a song. Pop, it can be a little bit more right in your face. I am sad today because the rain is falling down. Country, it can be quite literal as well. That’s why I quite like writing my own stuff as well. You can use metaphors to share the message you’re trying to communicate. Language works differently in each genre. You learn as you go. The more people you write with, the more little tips and tricks you pick up. Then you learn about different structures, and how you can create dissonance even with a structure. Depending on your story, there’s different ways to tell it to make sure the listener feels what you’re trying to tell them.” 

We’d done a lot of talking about Mark as a songwriter, but we couldn’t overlook the question of how exactly he became one. When did he know that he wanted to be a songwriter? 


“I was in a band for six or seven years and we did a lot of collaborating [within the band]. There were two main co-writers in the band, we’d write the core of the song, and bring it to the band, and we’d all work on it. It was a very collaborative experience. That’s when I was nudged into the slightly more commercial side of it. As a band, we were discussing what we wanted to do, and world takeover was the plan [laughs], all this kinda stuff! As it happened, we signed a deal, went to America, recorded an album, everything was looking amazing. Then, a couple of things happened here and there, probably a miscommunication, and there was a bit of legal argy-bargy. It ended up that the album couldn’t get released, and it’s now in limbo forever. It won’t see the light of day. When that finished, I was very nearly going to give up music. And as odd as this will sound, I was sitting in my grandparents living-room, and I was thinking to myself, right…if I died and went to heaven, what would God say to me? I walked up to God, and I said to God, howya God [laughs], I did music for a while, then I became a marketeer. And his response was, ‘Ya big eejit! I gave you perfect pitch!’ And that’s really rare, and super-handy when you’re writing songs! [Laughs]. So, because I have this super-unique thing that lots of people don’t have, his response to me was, ‘Ya big eejit, I gave you perfect pitch and ya wasted it!’ [Laughs].”

That conversation”, explained Mark, “as silly as it may sound – a hypothetical conversation with God – was the kick in the backside I needed to jump back into music. So I said ok, now that I’m certain I’m 100% invested, I’m going to make a living from music, and that’s that. So I started thinking about what avenues were there, and what I wanted to be. I was a little bit wounded by the band experience, so I didn’t want to jump back into being in a band. But I knew I could write songs. So I started writing songs with people. There’s a friend of mine, Josh Gray, who had left Louis Walsh’s band, Hometown, and he was kind of in a small bit of limbo as well. So we started writing together, and he has grown exponentially from it, it’s been amazing to see. Some of the songs we wrote together kicked him back into the spotlight, and since then he’s signed a publishing deal as well. Things are going really well for him. He’s on the slightly poppier side of things, which was a new experience for me, but I really enjoyed it.”

Mark continued, “When I was in a band, there’d be this country song writing itself in my head, and I’d be wondering, what do I do with this?! Then I could have a more rocky song, or a folky song, because I definitely come from a more folk background, I’d be into Glen Hansard, Elbow, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac, and Jackson Browne, where the stories are really at the core of the music. In pop, it’s more about how it sounds, rather than what it’s saying. And that’s a huge, huge thing for a songwriter. Especially me, coming from guitar-land! [Laughs]. Never going anywhere without a guitar, and wanting to tell stories. It was such a different experience, having to push myself out of my comfort-zone. But it was really interesting to see, and to learn about, and ultimately, it’s helped me to grow a lot as a songwriter.” 

To finish up our chat, I had three quick-fire questions to put to Mark. The first one was what would be the proudest moment of his career so far? 


“I find it hard to overlook that Eurovision moment when we were sitting on the couch, waiting to hear if we’d made it through. Nine countries had already been called out. I knew how crazy it was at home. When I was chatting to my parents, they were saying it was like Italia ’90, everybody was going crazy. And I just knew, as soon as our names were called, that this was such a win for absolutely everyone involved. Our families, our friends, our country. Just getting us back in the Final again. That was a beautiful, beautiful experience.” 

And his biggest disappointment? 


“Oh wow! [Laughs]. Biggest disappointment? Probably…let me just think. There’s two in my mind. One, is when my first band broke up. Because we were brothers, and we were all fighting for the one cause, but it just wasn’t working. And it wasn’t helping our mental health either. So it was literally for the best that we walked away. But crazily enough, as one of the most difficult experiences of my life, I think it was also the most forming. It really, really taught me a lot about who I am. It made me self-reflect. I feel I grew as a human, massively, from that experience. Yes, it was the biggest disappointment, and a tough experience, but…that could very easily have been my best experience either.” 

And finally, what’s the greatest lesson Mark has ever learned as a writer, and also about the music business in general? 


“As a writer? For me, I always feel the best songs are songs that will resonate with people. You’re supposed to feel music. Music is a feeling. Not a building, ya know. For me, music is pure magic. And for me, the real music comes when you’re in a discussion with somebody, or you’re in a room alone with a guitar or a piano, and you’re diving deeper and deeper into a thought…I feel as though the songs that will resonate most, will come from a real place. For the music business, I think it’s just super-important to know what you enjoy, but equally – if not more important – to know what you don’t enjoy, what you’re not mad about. If there was a way of explaining it all, it’s stay true to yourself. Figure out what you love. Figure out what you don’t love. And stay closer to the former.” 


CATCH A TEAR, the brand NEW single from MARK CAPLICE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

ENDS

Niall McNamee

First Published June 2021

‘STEP BY STEP’ TO FIGHTING JACKIE CHAN

Part 2

Last month saw Dundalk’s NIALL McNAMEE release his long-awaited debut EP, STEP BY STEP. The five-track collection showcases the singer/songwriter’s finely honed skill for carving out of his own life, moments in time that – in their essence  – could just as easily have been lifted from yours or mine. In any writer, such ability is the mark of a master of his craft. Niall’s natural humility reveals itself at regular intervals through his good humour and his willingness to see, and share, the humour in his own life. That same humility would have him wince at any notion of being known as anything more than a storyteller. Well, he may wince a little bit for a little while anyway, because Step By Step is a debut that pushes him well ahead of the ordinary in every sense. 


We had the pleasure of catching up with Niall on the phone from his London home early last month as he looked ahead to the EP’s launch. If you happened to miss that chat, it’s well worth checking out and can be found elsewhere on this site simply by searching Niall’s name. Today, we begin Part 2 of our time in conversation with Niall by taking a look at the final track on the collection. 


Step By Step closes with the song When She Goes, another great title, and a song that has echoes of Damien Dempsey about it. It also, and I think this thought was sparked by hearing the strings in there, got me thinking about how wonderful it would also sound if slowed right down, and perhaps performed with just a string quartet. The lyric has the line, ‘It would appear there’s been deep harm in trying’, a clever reversal on the more common usage of that particular phrase. I asked Niall to take me back to the inspiration behind this one, and into the crafting of lines like the one just mentioned…


“Well, that’s about being in a relationship, and sometimes things just feel like they’re not working. It’s that mixture of feelings, that of, oh my God, this isn’t working, but also…the fear of IF it doesn’t work, what happens then, when she goes? Or when I have to leave? That song changed around a lot. I originally wrote that on piano, sometimes it’s easier to write a song on piano than on guitar. Then when we went to do our first gig as a full band – which was in the middle of lockdown – I was practising with the lads and I realised that it would work so much better on guitar. Again, I couldn’t be happier with Damien Dempsey as a reference there! I love playin’ that song ‘live’, it’s got a real energy to it. It was a real challenge – a new challenge for me, actually – of making these songs come to life with more instruments, and knowing what to have and what not to. I had people willing to play on my album, and I was like, cool! Let’s get trumpets! And an orchestra! And everything! [Laughs] I had to learn not to put something in for the sake of it. We’ve done a great little music video for this song as well, which will be out in a few weeks, probably a good few weeks, we’re keeping it as a little bonus. We did a music video for each song on the EP, which was a bit insane, but I had the time during lockdown.” 

While Step By Step has offered fans a whole EP’s worth of Niall’s talent to enjoy, that feast was preceded by a glimpse of it on Imelda’s new long-player, 11Past The Hour, courtesy of the song, Don’t Let Me Stand On My Own. Generally, duets fascinate me anyway, wondering who might first realise or suggest that a particular song would suit and work with more than one voice to the fore, and what exactly it might be about a song that would make it work like that. But in this instance, of course, Niall and Imelda co-wrote Don’t Let Me Stand On My Own together. So, was it always going to be a duet from the get-go? 


“Well, first of all, I’ve never, ever before written with anyone, never. And probably in a kinda youthful, arrogant way, didn’t see the point. Me and Imelda are very proud, ya know [laughs]. So there wasn’t going to be a song on her album that she wasn’t involved in writing, and vice-versa. I don’t know where I was going, or where I was coming back from, and this was long before the lockdown, but I’d been back in the house for about thirty-minutes, and for some reason I was just messing around on the guitar. I had this tune. And I had it in open-tuning, which is my favourite, and has been since I got really into Paul Brady. I had a few lyrics as well, some of them that are in there now. When I start writing a song, I like to keep playing it over and over again, then eventually some words stick, lyrics like ‘Don’t let me stand on my own’ as the chorus. For some reason I recorded this on my phone and I sent it to Imelda, and I said what do you think of this? She said it was lovely, it was good. Then we were around the house and she said play that to me ‘live.’ I think I was trying to go off the romantic thing, thinking I’d written too many love songs, so there were a few verses in there about anti oil-rigs in Iraq! [Laughs]. Imelda was like, ‘Yeaaah…it’s a lovely sentiment, but…I’m not sure for this song!’ [Laughs].””So she started writing a few lyrics down and singing along one day, and it sort of became that [song]. There was a bit of push-and-pull from the two of us, a fear – if I’m honest, between the two of us – of is it a good idea that we’re doing this together. Because we hadn’t been together that long at the time. And Imelda’s been in the industry long enough to know that’s not always a good thing, working with your friends, or your partner, or your family. But we pushed on with it anyway, and Imelda sent it off to her people and they liked it. Then, every now and again, we’d be at a gig or an after-party, and out would come the guitar and we’d play that song. And it would always get a reaction. I certainly didn’t want to have a song on Imelda’s album just for the sake of it. I was thinking too, hang on here a second, I haven’t released anything myself yet. I didn’t want to be her Jordan to her Peter Andre! [Laughs]. That’s what I was kinda terrified about! But then as time went on, I thought it would be good, and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have that song together, and to play it, and to have it be one that people ask for.” 

As we touched on briefly in Part 1 of our chat, there are more elements to Niall’s talents than just that of being a singer/songwriter. He also knows what it takes to be creative in front of the cameras as an actor. And he’s got an exciting project coming up soon, a movie called Love Without Walls. I asked Niall how much could he share with us about that? 


“About this time last year in the UK, it might have been later, maybe July or August, but there was a little gap where you could do gigs in pubs, with social-distancing, table service, but they had music back. For years, if I wasn’t acting, I spent my weekends – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – playing in the Irish pubs around London. My mam decided that it was time for me to do that because the building sites were killin’ me! [Laughs]. It felt sometimes like the more you worked, the less you made. So I was doing this gig back during lockdown, not my own gig, just in the corner of a pub. It had been so long since I’d played any ‘live’ music, I said to some people, listen, I’m back in London, come and have a look. And about sixty or seventy people turned up, which was awesome, and we had this amazing night. Then this lady approached me, and I kinda thought, is she a police officer? Am I doing something wrong here? But she said, ‘My name is Jane’ – Jane Gull, she’s the director of ‘Love Without Walls’ – ‘I’ve written a script about a young, married couple who fall on hard times, and the leading role for the male is a singer/songwriter.’ She said, ‘I was going to talk to your agent, but I saw you had a gig on. If you’re interested, we’d love to chat with you about it. But there’s one thing we really need, that’s a singer/songwriter who has his own songs. Because we’d like him to do the soundtrack.’ I was just like, YES, Please! [Laughs]. I think she thought I’d be a bit more coy about it, a bit more like, ‘well have your people talk to my people’, or whatever! But I was just like, oh my God, that sounds incredible!” “So we met up and had a chat about it, and I read with Shana who is the leading lady, and there was a chemistry. So we went ahead with it. The movie kept getting put back because of lockdown, and I kept getting fat and slim, and shaved and bearded! [Laughs]. So ‘China In A Box’ is the main track. In fact, ‘China In A Box’ wasn’t going to be on the EP, I was saving it. But then they said, look, it’s going to cost us a whole load of money to shut down the whole production, but we can do a day of it and we need to get a few shots of when you first met, and your relationship before it all goes wrong. So why don’t we do that, and film a musical video for ‘China In A Box’ as a little teaser, so that was that. On the same day the EP comes out, I’m going into London to quarantine for a bit, and then we’ll get to filming. I can’t wait to get started. I’m absolutely terrified [laughs], because I’ve never really played myself in anything. I mean, I’m not playing ‘Niall McNamee’, I’ve got a part to play [laughs]. But they are my songs and there are elements of me in there.” 

It had been Bono’s 60th birthday the day before we spoke. And Niall, I can absolutely guarantee you, is the only person I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with who has the coolest of stories involving Bono (to an extent), one of the best Bonds ever in the shape of Pierce Brosnan, AND…and with Jackie Chan! And a story of fighting Jackie Chan, at that! Talk about literally having one story cooler than another…


“Well I was playing Neil McCormick in ‘Chasing Bono.’ He, by all accounts, set up a band at the same time and they both thought they were going to be the main hitters in the music world. The story is about how it didn’t really quite happen for Neil, who’s a really good friend of mine now, and a great journalist. But it didn’t go the way he wanted it, while Bono obviously went off and became…Bono! [Laughs]. That was an incredible time, to get that opportunity on stage for all that time. And to have so many lines, to be given that responsibility. Sally Woods, Ronnie Woods’ wife, was producing it, she was amazing. And Ronnie came down loads of times, he’s a good bloke, and they’re a lovely couple. Then press-night came, and they invited their friends…and one of their friends was Imelda, and that’s where we met. Yeah, she came to watch ‘Chasing Bono’ and we swapped numbers. I don’t think we knew what for, but we obviously liked each other. And then the rest is kinda history! ‘Chasing Bono’, and the friends I made on that, that was such an important time. It felt like my ‘moment’, in many ways, and I’d really worked hard for it.”


“And as for ‘The Foreigner'”, continued Niall, “that was mental! [Laughs]. That was the first film role I ever did, which was crazy. I was still working on the building sites and I remember going to the audition, without knowing what it was for. Because you don’t go into an audition knowing that you’re auditioning for a Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan film! But I knew I was sort of in the ‘RA or something like that [laughs]. I had five lines in the audition. I don’t know what they can take from five lines, but it can’t be much. But I was the last person of the day. It was five o’ clock, I came in, and they were like, ‘Oh hi ya, look, don’t want to put ya off, but because we’re running really late, we’re going to be packing up during your audition.’ So I thought fair enough [laughs]. But I did these five lines, and I got the part. Then my agent rang me up – to tell me that – but without saying hello or anything, just started reading the script, and reading this fight scene between me and Jackie Chan! Within the next few days, I’d quit the building site and I was getting collected in this fancy car and taken to my trailer. For the first three weeks, solidly, we were choreographing a fight with Jackie Chan. It was mental! And there was a part of me thinking at the time, do ya know what, if things go tits-up and I don’t make it as an actor, I’ll always have this! It would be an interesting one for the ‘office news’ of what people used to do, ya know! So we spent three weeks learning the fight, and I’d never done any combat training or anything like that, I’m not a fighter really. Especially not on stage or on screen. So I worked so hard to get it right, because I really wanted to do it well. And I got it bang on! I was like, this is it! I’m smashing this, I’m ready.”

But then,” recalled Niall, “I remember like ten minutes before we started filming, on the first day, someone came up to me and said, ‘Ahh, Jackie’s not actually happy with your fight, some of the moves and stuff. So he wants to change it.’ And I’m going, oh my God, no, no, no! [Laughs]. So I said right, show me. And they showed me the first bit, and I kinda got that. Then they showed me the second bit, and I was like, here, look, I am never gonna get that! And I asked what could I do. So, I went up to Jackie Chan… [laughs]…and I said, ‘Listen…Jackie…’, [laughs], ‘I’m lost here. I don’t know what I’m doing. They’ve changed it.’ I had to. And it was grand, it worked out great. Even though you shouldn’t be, I was constantly just worried that they would sack me! [Laughs]. A lot of us there, we didn’t really know what we were doing there. I don’t really know what the casting process was. Maybe they just found all the right people, but that’s rare. So Jackie said, ‘Oh, right.’ And I had this fake knife. So he said, ‘Well, when they say action, just try and stab me, and I’ll do the rest.’ And there was me worrying, like, ‘Oh no, what if I kill Jackie Chan?!’ [Laughs]. How arrogant, to worry that on my first day of filming I might be too good! [Laughs]. So I went to stab him when they said action, and he grabbed onto the end of the knife, kinda pulled it back and forth, and I was following the knife, then he just flipped me over his shoulder and smashed me through a glass table! I was lying there winded going, oh my God, what was that?! And at the same time, the crew are like, ‘Right, let’s get in the next fake glass table.’ And I’m thinking, fake glass table?! I didn’t know anything about this! [Laughs]. And if you watch it back, it looks like I’m going for him. But I promise ya, it was all him! He took my knife, made me fight him, and then beat the sh*t outta me! [Laughs]. And it was incredible, it was amazing!” 

“And then obviously Pierce Brosnan was a lovely man. I actually remember the lads taking the mick out of me because of the wrap-party, which everyone was fairly excited for. I thought I’d show where my loyalties lie, and I said I don’t know if I can make the wrap-party because Ireland were playing England at Twickenham and I had tickets. So, I turn up at this wrap-party, half-cut, with my Ireland scarf around me, and the lads are goin’, ‘Ah Jeeesus, what are ya doin’?’ Then Pierce Brosnan turns up ten minutes later with a scarf around him, after being at the same game. And I remember saying to him, ‘You could have given me a fu*king lift!’ [Laughs]. That whole experience of that movie was definitely one of the cooler moments of my life!”

STEP BY STEP, the new EP from NIALL McNAMEE, is OUT NOW, available on all platforms. 

ENDS

Larissa Tormey

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, April 2021

LARISSA’S NEW PROJECT IS ‘SLIGHTLY MAD’

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. 

ENDS

Zoee

Part 2

First Published September 2020

LOVE LETTERS TO NASHVILLE

Just a few weeks back we had the pleasure of introducing readers to the fabulous singer/songwriter ZOEE. We caught up with the Australian native not too long after the release of her most recent singles, Break My Heart and The Song We Sing. In Part 1 of that chat with Zoee – a weaver of dreams through the beautiful magic of her songs, but also very much a dreamer herself, and chaser of those dreams  – we took a bit of a deep dive into the story behind Break My Heart, as well as into Zoee’s songwriting in a more general sense. 

And, believe it or not, we also got to hear the story behind how this Aussie songstress who’s now based in Scotland, managed to end up smack bang in the middle of Sean’s Bar in Athlone, in a session and carrying out an interview for her role as a presenter on the tv show ‘Nashville Meets World.’ Sean’s Bar, by the way, for those of you not in the know on these matters, is the oldest bar in the world. 


Zoee and her family now live about two hours out of Glasgow, “way out on the coast”, having also lived in Edinburgh. As she says herself, “we’ve lived in a little bit of everywhere!” But how exactly did Zoee end up in Scotland? 


“Long story to that one! I went out to the States a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it out there. Did my first show in Nashville, and decided pretty much from there on out that I wanted to do music. The family said to me when I got back to Australia, ‘You’re really good at this, why don’t you think about doing it?’ I was already leaning on that idea anyway, so I said alright, let’s do it! And they were like,’Well how can we help? What can we do to get behind you?’ And I was kinda blown away at that point. But I thought, well, we always have loved travelling, and we’ve never been to the homelands, we’ve never been to Scotland and Ireland and England, where it all kind of started for our family, so I said well, how about we go there? We’d been to Canada, we’d been to Mexico, all around Australia, so let’s go there and see how it is with music. Lo and behold, after that conversation we bought our one-way tickets and boarded a flight to London, Heathrow. That was four and a half years ago, and we haven’t been back to Australia since. It’s kinda crazy. We started initially in London, and that was super-expensive and very, very competitive for an artist very new to the scene here. So we ended up saying well let’s head further north, let’s go to Scotland and see what the scenery is like up there [laughs]. And it’s been lovely ever since, we haven’t looked back.” 

Zoee’s dad’s name is actually Dundee…well…kind of! I wondered if that fact harked back to her family’s Scottish heritage? 


“Absolutely! And that tied in with the Australian heritage obviously, because he’s got a super, super Australian accent. My dad is my lead-guitar player, by the way, for anybody who doesn’t know. So whenever we’re in the States, whenever he starts talking over there, he’s got a very, very thick accent – and his first name is actually Mick – so everyone’s calling him Mick Dundee! [laughs]. And obviously with all of the family coming from Dundee and Scotland and everything else, it stuck! And now it’s his stage-name. Everybody just knows him now as Dundee! [laugh].” 

Zoee would have been writing in Australia before moving to Scotland, where she’s lived now for four years. I wondered if there was anything about the way she writes, or how she approaches songwriting, that has changed from living in Scotland? 


“That’s a great question, I like that. I think yeah, I definitely think it has. I wrote a lot more folky stuff when I was in Australia. And I think that was because I wasn’t playing shows like I have been while I’ve been living in the U.K. So the ‘live’ scene has definitely influenced my writing style. I tend to write songs now that are crowd-starters. I always try to write stuff that’s going to be fun to play on stage. When I was back in Australia, I was writing stuff that was more or less for myself, just sitting around quietly to just play. And they were the sort of songs that you sit by the camp-fire and play, they’re the real stories. And they’re the ones that you wouldn’t necessarily get away with playing at a festival so easily! The audience might think, ‘What’s goin; on here?!’, ya know [laughs]. So, there is a bit of contrast. And obviously as a person, I’ve grown. I’m four and a half years older. I’ve been getting to see the world through different cultures and places, that definitely helps you grow and helps you see things differently. The music [you write] is so in touch with you as a person, there’s no real separation between the music and the actual person behind the music. So yeah, to answer that honestly, I would say that there’s been a lot of change in me personally, and musically. And vocally, quite a lot of change! [laughs]. I was listening back to some stuff from a couple of years ago only a few weeks back, and I thought, wow! It’s amazing how some changes happen and you don’t even notice. I’m always striving to grow every day, to always do something a little bit better, change this or change that. It’s just about constantly trying to make yourself the best version of yourself.” 

Speaking of festivals, and indeed, speaking of Nashville which Zoee had already mentioned, I wanted to talk about another amazing song of Zoee’s called Nashville. She had been in Nashville last year for CMA Fest, so I was wondering if the song came before the visit – from wanting to get there – or from the experience of having been in Music City? 


“Well I’d been to Nashville once before I got to play CMA Fest. I grew up listening to country music, and songs from the seventies and eighties especially. And not even so much country, rock ‘n’ roll, AC/DC, Meat Loaf, so many different sounds, Paul Simon as well. So there was a lot of variety. But whenever I heard something that was country, I’ve always had this warm feeling, and just connected with it. And I can remember vividly watching a documentary on Neil Young when he was talking about going to Nashville, and that just stuck with me as a kid growing up. I was like, gosh, I want to go to Nashville someday, that sounds amazing there! And when I finally got there, I underestimated the power of the southern culture! [laughs]. And the warmth of everybody there, I didn’t expect it to be quite as lovely as it is. I got there and I was just completely overwhelmed by it, I just fell in love with the place. The fact that everybody’s just so supportive of each other too, ya know. You would think that an industry that’s so driven on competing against each other, and climbing on top of each other to get where essentially you’ve got to go – and I mean, that’s such an awful mindset to have, by the way – but you would expect a city that’s full of musicians to be very driven by that attitude. But they’re not. It’s the complete opposite. From my experience, it’s been warm and welcoming, and everyone’s like, ‘Well I’ve got a show, come and join me, I’ll get you up with me, we can play some songs. We should write a song!’ [laughs]. There’s this energy, and this loving, embracing feeling, and I just fell in love with it.”

Zoee continued, “So the song ‘Nashville’ came about when I was flying to Nashville to go play CMA Fest, and it had come to me a little bit before. I was thinking, yeah, I ‘m going to Nashville, and thinking about how it’s always felt like home, and I was thinking about it and thinking about it, and by the time I actually got to Nashville, the song was finished! So I actually played the song in Nashville before it was even recorded. And the reaction was…crazy! And wonderful. So I recorded it when we got back to England. I was going to do it while I was there in Nashville – we did record a little bit there – but time-wise, I just didn’t have enough. I was on tour in the U.K. at the time and I had a three week gap, so we went to the States and we did CMA Fest and the Bluebird Cafe and a bunch of other places. I had three weeks there, but I just didn’t have enough time to record everything. It’s kind of like my love-letter to the city, and the adventure of getting there, ya know.” 

Zoee had mentioned earlier in our chat that she’d been doing a lot of songwriting during lockdown, and I’d heard that she also had plans to release a new single each month between now and the end of the year. True? 


“True! Yeah [laughs]. I mean, this is the thing. I had planned for 2020 to be on the road most of this year. We were going back to Sweden, we were doing another U.K. tour, we were going to Ireland, back to the States, to Nashville, Germany and a few other European countries. But obviously with everything that all got wiped out pretty quick. So plans had to change pretty quick as well. So instead of focusing on touring this year, I focused on recording and shooting, and doing a whole bunch of other stuff to get new music out. Prior to this year, I’ve only had officially three songs released, three singles. One was for a film soundtrack for a feature film called 19 Willock Place, that was called ‘Town.’ I had an acoustic folk song out called ‘This Time’, and I had one very early song I wrote called ‘It’s The Weekend.’ But my style has changed so much from when I recorded that. So I was kind of edging at the bit to release new stuff. So this year I decided to focus on getting in the studio, and getting some stuff recorded. And by the studio, I mean at home recording, working with a producer closely, and getting a whole bunch of new stuff ready to release. So yeah, I can officially say that I have a single coming out now every month until the end of the year, and then maybe a few surprises at the beginning of the year as well.” 


Given that Zoee and her band are so accustomed to being on the road, what has 2020 been like for her in that regard, having to put a full-stop on ‘live’ music? 


“For the first months, it was awful. I had C2C that I would have been playing, and other festivals lined up as well this year. This year, for me personally, would have been a real jump-ahead in my career, because I’d worked so hard the year before. So this was going to be the next step, if that makes sense? Because I’m independent, you’re essentially your own record label, you’re taking care of all the bookings, and the social media, the visuals, the editing, the content, the creation…there’s so much stuff you have to take into consideration. So this year, 2020, was a big one. And the team and I had a lot on the agenda. The team is obviously my family. My mum’s my manager and my booker. And my dad and my brothers. they’re my band. This year, we had a lot on the table, and we had worked hard last year for it. To see it all kind of vanish into thin air was really heartbreaking for the first months. But after that, it almost became this sigh of relief in a way, to almost say wow, this is all that we’ve achieved in the last few years. And it was nice to take a break and just re-evaluate things, I guess. To help take more precise and accurate decision making going forward. And that next step has been to record and get more stuff out, and get more stuff ready. And also giving people a chance to listen to some of the music that you wouldn’t have heard unless you’d come to a show. With everybody being at home and locked up [laughs], and nobody able to go to concerts and things, it’s been really nice to be able to connect with people online as well, and share some of the stuff that I’ve been playing and working on for years. I mean, ‘Break My Heart’, for example, I’ve only just brought that out…what was it… a month ago? But I wrote that three and a half years ago. And unless you’ve come to a show, you wouldn’t have heard it. And I’ve got so many more songs like that. Plans for touring are out of my control, they’ve been taken from underneath me, so now it’s time to turn my attention to focusing on giving everybody some music.” 

C2C is obviously a huge event on the country music calendar. So as an independent artist, how did Zoee make that happen? 


“Actually, funny enough, they reached out to me about playing! And I was blown away. It came through Live Nation, I’ve worked with them a few times. We’ve done quite a few things in Glasgow together. Yeah, they reached out to me. They said, ‘We know your stuff really well, and would you be interested in playing C2C?’ And I was like, would I?! OF COURSE! [laughs]. And it was the week of C2C, when it was meant to be happening, that everything got cancelled and the official lockdown happened, and I was so heartbroken, ya know. It was this close, this close…[laughs]. But ya know, I think everything happens for a reason, and it has given me a chance to just sit back and take a look at everything, and plan for 2021. My plan is to come back stronger than ever in 2021.”In keeping with her plan to release a new single every month for the rest of the year, Zoee dropped the beautiful Take Me Away on Friday last…

“The song ‘Take Me Away’ is an empowering song about the process of finding yourself. I’ve learned in order to move forward in life, you have to let go of the naysayers, the negative, and begin doing whatever it is that gets you leaping out of bed in the morning. So this is one of those songs that no matter what mood you’re in, as soon as you start playing it, your energy shifts. It’s such an uplifting song and I’m excited to be able to bring that kind of energy to everyone. The world seems to be a bit of a madhouse lately and I think we all need a balance-shift right about now. As a songwriter, I try to write from a personal place of experience.”

Earlier this month, on September 6th, Zoee also released an acoustic song I Am Your Friend, to Facebook and Instagram, a song she wrote for a friend who was suffering with suicidal thoughts. “I know the magic of music and how it’s helped me through tough times in my own life. I can only hope that my stories and songs can help lift someone somewhere through their dark times. After all, we need to be smiling and happy. It’s a short life.”  

Zoee is also nominated for 12 Awards at the Fair Play Country Music Awards in Holland, with the winners being announced in November.

TAKE ME AWAY is out now, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

ENDS