Congratulations on the release of “New Day”. The video is stunning, how did you come up with the concept for it?
During COVID I was putting up a cover song nearly every Saturday on my facebook page and I felt it was getting a little tired and thought what if I do a home video with my dog and just see what happens. So I called the guy who did the promo pics for my album and it turned out that he was shifting his business focus to doing more videos so we had our initial zoom meeting in July and Matthew was throwing out all sorts of ideas and then because I’d already picked which track I wanted, we had a lot to work with then.
As the song is about quiet resilience and fortitude, we wanted to capture the journey of taking our inner child with us and all the nostalgia of youth into the open as we climb through life and become integrated ultimately leading to us to our purpose. Also I really wanted to have the excuse to wear glitter fairy wings and run through a barley field with another little fairy. The final shot was really special to me.
You are a singer songwriter from the Republic of Ireland how did it all begin for you?
I grew up around constant music, my Mum was an opera singer, my Dad could play literally ten instruments but there’s such a tradition of relaxed music in the country, my favourite time as a kid was when we were on holidays on the Shannon and we’d all end up sitting around a bonfire singing until 2am. As a kid, that was the bees knees.
Your songs are a mix of folk, soulful vocals and lovely lyrics, how do you approach songwriting?
As if I’m thinking of writing a short story. I’ll be thinking of a theme whirling around for days or even weeks and I literally wait until I can hear the tune and then I’ll map it out and maybe some words will start popping into my head as I’m singing and I might have a verse then. After that I usually try and write out a story in my writing journal and pick key words from it so I can form a picture of the tone and feeling of the topic and then it’s just refining and playing it so you can mould and shape it into something more tangible.
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on creatives around the world, what have you been up to this year?
Thankfully my bread and butter is Suzuki piano teaching so I have the ability to nurture my songwriting as a purely creative entity. However the two completely link in with each other and I find the better my teaching gets, the more I enjoy it and see the kids growing, it falls into the artistic side of it, my writing gets better with it. Earlier this year I launched the album on Vinyl and gigs were steadily coming in so it was a massive shock to see everything close. I ended up in lieu of some of the gigs I was supposed to play, I did three online stream gigs and raised some money for the ISPCA which was kind of awesome sitting in my living room with my dog drinking wine and singing – pretty much what I do on the weekend anyhow.
What have you learned about yourself?
I learned I’m a deeply introverted individual, I knew it already but it was firmly confirmed. I learned that as a sole trader, single woman piano teacher/singer-songwriter I had to be resilient, creative & determined to survive. It’s one of the reasons I love to teach music to kids as it nurtures self-belief and creativity to solve life’s never-ending issues. I also learned that I enjoy letting dishes pile up for days in the sink remarkably without a shred of shame.
What have you been listening to?
I started my first vinyl collection over the past five years, it’s still pretty small but I’ve really taken to this one LP I got in Scotland of lute music and it’s ridiculous how calming it is.
“New Day” is the third single from your album “Russian Doll” what is the story behind the album?
It’s so lovely to be offered the opportunity to rant about this. I had planned to call it Russian Doll since about 2001 but one of my friends had suggested back then to research what the significance of it was and when I did I couldn’t believe how much the culture behind this old child’s toy linked into femininity, rebirth and the cycles of life.
It’s essentially a concept album so the album opens with ‘Tree of Doors’. This song was actually written for the opening of the ‘Sculpture in Context exhibition’ in the Botanical Gardens back in 2008, where I wrote a song and created a living sculpture on an old oak tree with a colleague in context with Irish culture. When I researched the oak tree in relation to the other themes we were exploring I found that the Oak tree was revered not only as the king of trees but the ‘tree of doors’, a tunnel into the underworld. I felt this was pretty apt as the opening song.
So if you listen to the album as the running order indicates, I’m opening up each layer of me to deeper and deeper levels. Each song is also recorded in a separate key and works through the entire circle of fifths as I wanted to create a flow of integrated sound that would bring the listener on a complete journey where nothing is quite the same but its somehow linked. The 13th song, which was originally meant to be a secret song I decided to keep it in the same key second last track and because its an instrumental that’s based on Irish traditional music I thought ‘The Homecoming’ is a nice way to gently sign off after opening with another traditionally styled song.
As a debut album I also wanted to explore as many genres as possible. I’ve performed for over 20 years across Ireland and various parts of europe in everything from folk, rock, blues-rock, blues, soul, funk, jazz and even ska, so I wanted the album to represent everything that I know. I also wanted to not completely box myself into one genre which is why I only wanted to self release so I could have a lot of control over where I wish to go next. Marie Keane as Russian Doll – my trademark – allows me to do that.
Who did you work with on it?
Basically my producer and sound engineer Alan Kelly (Lady Gaga, Jose Gonzales, Chieftains, U2 etc) took the project and wove his magic wand over the whole thing. I’d everything written, arranged and I had called all the guys I used to play with in soul/jazz ensembles for years and handed my baby over to Alan. It was honestly one the most life changing events for me, I never thought I’d ever get going as it took me nearly 12 years to get it together and Alan made it so much fun and relaxing, I literally never worried once and it was like a band reunion with the other guys.
Musicians: Jason Duffy (drums) , Alan Elliott (bass), Gavin Quinn (guitar), Courtney Cullen (violin/flute), Eoin Grace (trumpet), Claire Sherry (mandolin/banjo), Louise Kelly (backing vocals), Alan Kelly (acoustic guitar/vocals).
What artists are getting you excited at the moment?
I adore Emma Langford, her voice is just velvet and she is such a vibrant, fresh woman who’s a charm for the lyrics. Lankum are another savage band and obviously Mick Flannery. There’s actually too many awesome groups and artists coming out of the country at the moment, it’s dizzying but I’m so thrilled to see it. When I was originally in the music scene over ten years ago, it was tougher in ways, there wasn’t the same fertility. I took a break and holy god when I got back, I thought, well about bloody time 🙂
If you could collaborate with another artist who would you pick?
Joan as policewoman. I didn’t even have to think, she’s literally one of the biggest influences I ever had, rarely do I buy every single album of one band or artist and everytime she comes to Ireland I have to get my dose. I do think she is incredibly underrated, she’s multi faceted, hilarious and ferociously talented in crafting her music. Plus I’d say you would have so much fun with the lady 🙂
What are you looking forward to doing most next?
I’m currently writing my second album but it looks like I’ll be organising a mini project in between. It’s very much in the early stages so I won’t reveal just yet, but I’m hoping to get back into the studio in the new year, very excited.