Eyes Of Innocence
album review and artist reflections
review and interview © Russell W Elliot and Justin R Elswick 2005
photos: Cliona O'Flaherty | all images © MDM Records 2005
formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
last updated: 09 October 2005
Many might consider Bridin Brennan to be in an enviable position. As the younger sister of world renowned and multi-platinum singers Enya and Moya Brennan, it would seem inevitable that Bridin would likely have a massive "built-in" legion of potential fans eager to hear another beautiful Brennan voice. No doubt, expectations are high. We caught up with Bridin to discuss her musical background and the making of her first full length album. The results of our interview with this stunning artist are presented below.
Like the rest of her siblings, Bridin was influenced at an early age by her father and mother Leo and Baba, who were musicians and singers. Like Enya and Clannad, Bridin also had the opportunity to perform on stage at her father's tavern in Meenaleck, Donegal. Bridin also toured with Clannad in the 1990s as a backing vocalist and appeared with her other two sisters (Olive and Deidre) on Moya's first and second albums--Maire and Misty Eyed Adventures. With such a pedigree, it might seem obvious that Bridin would follow the path of her two older sisters. As fate would have it, though, Bridin decided to work as a receptionist for celebrity hairdresser Charles Worthington in London for several years as she took time to consider her path in life.
Eventually, Bridin's friend Ian Parker asked her to sing vocals for two tracks on his album. Almost simultaneously, Clannad's manager, Shane McDonnell, offered to manage her. After Shane introduced Bridin to Chris O'Brien and Graham Murphy, the three begin writing tracks for a new album. After several years and a well-received single "Hang On" (review), their efforts have come to fruition. The result is an eleven-track album steeped in electro-chill entitled Eyes of Innocence. Read our full album review below.
Musical Discoveries: Can you give us some insight into what musical training was like in the Brennan household?
Bridin Brennan: Well, my Mum (Baba) was my music teacher at school. She is also the church organist and head of the choir as is my Dad (Leo) at a different church. So we were always in the church choir, always learning new hymns and often putting our own harmonies to them. And at the family bar, LEO'S TAVERN, my Dad still entertains there regularly. He'd encourage us up on stage to do our party piece, and he still gets us up when we're at home!
It's quite funny really, but the bar staff at Leo's are expected to do some party piece, may it be singing, Irish dancing or story telling and it's not something that's asked of them in their interview, it's just that they're all so talented up in Donegal! A sing-song in Leo's is recommended, you just never know who can pop in? We've had Bono, Paul Brady, Mike Scott (Waterboys), Christy Moore, Deacon Blue and Ash pop in--not on the same night, of course!.
What led to your decision, at this stage in your life, to pursue singing and music?
I guess I've been involved in music most of my life but only decided to take the big step of going solo around 1999. It was a great experience touring with Clannad for a few years as a backing vocalist. I also did some backing vocals on three of their albums--Banba, Anam, and Lore. While touring, we performed in Ireland, UK, Europe and America. I also got the opportunity to appear on "Tonight with Jay Leno." Wow! Got a real buzz out of that!
I also did backing vocals on Moya's first and second album – Maire and Misty Eyed Adventures with two of my other sisters, Olive & Dee. Then I moved to London and took a step back from music. I knew I wanted to be involved but didn't know which direction.
I did the few backing vocals sessions, but it wasn't until Clannad's manager, Shane McDonnell, approached me and introduced me to producers Chris O'Brien and Graham Murphy and encouraged me to write my own material. We've been working on this album for five years. We took our time because we were trying different sounds. Even though we took a long time I'm happy with the result.
What influence has your husband had on your career and how has your marriage influenced your music?
He's always encouraged me to follow in the family business--music! Even though he's a commercial property broker and the stable earner in our relationship, he listens to quite a bit of music. He introduced me to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Midnight Oil, Hoodoo Guru's, Pearl Jam, and Radiohead to name but a few. Being married to Cameron has brought happiness and stability into my life which helps me concentrate on other things, but I haven't written a love song yet? Next album!
What were the factors that contributed to the time between your single "Hang On" and the album? Did it take a long time and a lot of extra effort to get the result you were after?
Yeah! I intended to bring out my album just shortly after the release of "Hang On." But we felt it wasn't quite ready and now I'm glad we waited. Cause I think it's definitely a stronger album than before. There are at least five tracks on Eye's of Innocence which wouldn't be on it if we came out with it in 2001.
The album is released by an independent label. Do you have any plans to pursue a deal with one of the majors?
It seems to be the way with quite a few artists lately. It is getting harder out there to get a break. So rather that waiting for them to realise how good this album is we decided to release it independently. Yeah! Certainly if any of the majors would like to put something on the table for me I would gladly listen!
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of the two alternatives--independent vs major?
There was no pressure of having this album finished which is an advantage with going independent. But now that I've found the right path and sound, I would hope that it wouldn't take me that long with the second album. I've already started writing for the second! The disadvantage is of course is not having the same financial backing to promote.
Do you expect to release and distribute the album outside Ireland?
Absolutely, we're just preparing to release in UK. We're in discussions on what date but after then we hope Europe, America, Asia and Australia to follow. This is only the beginning!
With The Corrs, Naimee Coleman, Tara Blaise and Méav Ni Mhaolchatha paving the way most recently, what is it like being a young and beautiful female singer in Ireland these days?
Oh! You're so kind. I'm flattered! I admire all of the above and find that each one has their own mark in the music industry. I just look at myself as an artist and that hopefully people will like my music. It's taken me a while to discover my sound but I hope to be around for a while!
How important would you say "image" is to artists' careers these days?
I believe it plays a big part in today's careers, which is sad in a way because you would have thought talent comes first?
How would you describe your music and what has influenced your style?
It's hard to categorize music these days but I would describe my sound as "Chilled Adult Pop." In growing up I listened to various types of music, from traditional, classical, jazz, pop and rock. But what influenced me the most was pop and rock like Madonna, U2, and Michael Jackson. But today's influences would be Coldplay, Natalie Imbruglia, Keane, & Dido. I feel that on my album you would hear a mixture of influences.
"You Can't Hurt Me" has a sample of Glen Campbell's "By The Time I Get to Phoenix"--just the strings part--and is one of my favourites and has been released to radio in Ireland and is getting a great response. "It's Too Late" is also a favourite. It's got a 60's feel to it. "Breakdown" is another fave--it's a bit rockier and is based on my teen years. Actually each song means something to me so I guess they're all faves!
We didn't layer much at all just bits in the choruses. Much as I love layering, we were conscious of wanting to be able to perform live!
Artists from Donegal often speak of how the stark but beautiful countryside and highly variable weather brings out a certain melancholy texture sound to their music that appears absent in yours. Where does the inspiration for your material come from?
I reckon being born and brought up in Donegal has given me the inspiration to write to begin with but other influences like moving to London and seeing life in a different light. Each song has got a topic in which I get deep about. From heartbreaks, being ambitious, innocent victims, bullying, angels and myths--it's all in this album.
What can you tell us about some of the people that worked with you on the album and the various venues where you wrote and recorded the material?
Firstly I started writing with Chris O'Brien and Graham Murphy. They are pure geniuses! I've learned a lot from them. They have their own studio and I would go to Dublin for spells of two weeks at a time and write with them and then I'd come back to my wee studio in my flat/apartment in London and continue writing on my own. Six of the tracks in which I co-wrote with them are on the album. Then I was introduced to Oisin Murray and Scott Maher, and we wrote a few tracks at their studio (also in Dublin), three of which are on the album. Another track was given to me by Donna Lewis--she had a hit with "I Love You Always Forever". I was absolutely thrilled when she gave me "Got What You Wanted."
How has your family, especially your sisters Enya and Moya, responded to your first album?
My whole family has been so supportive from the beginning. I think I surprised them when I first played them the Demo of "Hang On." I suppose they didn't know what sound to expect. But they often call me up saying they just heard me on radio and how proud they are of me. My Mum and Dad were nicely surprised to find just one more venturing out into the world of music. My Dad's words were, "there's no stopping us Brennans!"
Do you have any plans to tour with your solo work or would you say that your music is more of a studio project?
I'd like to get a few songs out there for people to get familiar with before I tour but yes I'd love to go on tour. I need to start getting my band together! We're hoping to do a video for the track "You Can't Hurt Me," that's in the pipeline. We did do a video for "Hang On" when it was released in Ireland.
What kind of aspirations do you have for your music career?
I'd love this album to do well. And it isn't a flash-in-the-pan, I plan to be around for a while! As I said before I'm already starting to write for the second album.
What can you tell us about the response to the album thusfar?
So far so good, it's getting a good response. It's getting good airplay in Ireland in which I'm thrilled. And also it's getting a good response on my website.
How has the internet influenced your career and the world's interest in your music?
I certainly think it helps, getting lovely e-mails and responses on my website. It's also given me a chance to put samples of my music up there so that people can get a taste of what my album is all about.
Do you think downloads have any chance of replacing the physical distribution of music in our lifetime?
I hope not because I do like having my CD collection!
As a musical artist, do you think that album packaging is worth the investment these days?
Yes I do. It is important from a point of making your record stand out in the shops and also that the buyer feels they are getting value for their money.
When you think about the year following the release of this album, what are your hopes and dreams?
That this release would be a success, that I'll be working on my next album and that I'll be touring all around the world.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers before we conclude the interview?
I'd like to thank everyone that likes my music!
Eyes Of Innocence (MDM Records (Ireland) MDMCD007, 2005) is a tremendous debut album. Listeners will instantly recognize that pristine, vibrato-less, and angelic tone that characterizes Enya's and Moya's voices in Bridin's singing. While similarities can be heard, Bridin also has a certain quality of vocal style that is all her own.
Importantly, Bridin's music draws from a somewhat different well of influences. Rather than focusing on a mystical / celtic / classical style, Bridin's songs might be more properly classified as adult contemporary electronica. More modern and beat-heavy than her sisters' work, the tracks on Eyes of Innocence provide a heavenly, chilled-out listening experience.
The premiere track "Face to Face" is a melodious and catchy mid-tempo pop number complete with strong electric guitar rifts and steady beat. "You Can't Hurt Me" finds Bridin's gorgeous voice accompanied by guitars in a folk/pop style reminiscent of the Corrs. The lullabye-ish "Hold On" is a sweet and positive gentle number that courses fluidly like a stream.
Vanessa Daou-like, the slightly funky "Where's Your Love" is a soulful and honey-rich song that demonstrates a more playful and laid-back Bridin while "Got What You Wanted" is a straightforward and pleasing pop number. Even the worse insomniac might be lulled into rest after listening to the ultra-chill "Deep Deep Sleep" which perfectly captures the feeling of an afternoon nap on a rainy day.
"It's Too Late" is an attention-grabbing track that relies upon lush vocal harmonies provided by Bridin--will we ever tire of hearing the Brennan women's glorious harmonies? "Breakdown" is a positive and charming song featuring unique chord-progression and strong instrumentation. Poetic and symbolic, "The Power of Three" allows Bridin to ruminate on the historical significance of triads and the importance of the number "3" in personal relationships. This song is particularly engaging and melodically clever.
The phenomenal track "Another Day" incorporates a trip-hop drum section with swelling pads. Bridin's clear and vibrant voice emerges like a wave over the grooving beats in a way that would make Dido envious. The dreamy and chilling closing track "Don't Go" is possibly the closest thing to a Moya or Enya song--with swelling strings, pulsing aquatic soundwaves, piano and a slow hearbeat-like kick. Again, Bridin's voice scintillates in a way that can only be described as spine-tingling.
With her debut release, Bridin has proved that she is a superbly gifted vocalist and songwriter in her own right. Whatever the future holds for her, it can no longer be doubted that Bridin is a talent of the same caliber as Enya and Moya. It looks like the world will need to make some room for another international star from the Brennan clan of Gweedore, Donegal.--Justin Elswick in Provo, Utah and Russ Elliot in New York
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