Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you were led to the Sleepthief project.
Caroline Lavelle: My musical life began before I can remember, because my maternal grandfather was a conductor and originally flautist. My greatest pleasure in childhood--apart from horses and other animals--was music and my little reel to reel tape recorder that I appropriated from my Dad. I worked out very early how to put tape over the erase heads so I could lay tracks over each other and build them up--only a few, but it was great to be able to play duets or trios.
I started playing the cello at around age six. I had wanted to play the violin but the school didn't have any left and I was last in the queue so there was only a cello--how lucky was that! I left home and school at age fifteen and went to London to go to the Royal College of Music where among other things I became the college pint-in-one champion. I won many bets against brass players and supplemented my meagre income with that and busking which was a great education.
I've been lucky enough to collaborate with some of my heros like Peter Gabriel, Radiohead and Massive Attack whilst pursuing my own solo career. Other people I've had a ball singing and writing with are Vangelis, Nigel Kennedy and the Chieftains.
I've been corresponding with Justin for some years now by email; he seems to have so full a life, so full of different disciplines that I wonder he has time for emails! But, he asked me sometime last year if I would like to contribute and I am really glad I did. I think Justin came across my first album which I made with William Orbit called Spirit.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musical artist?
Yes, ever since I could think. There was never any question--mind you I wanted to be a vet at the same time. I never imagined that I would write and produce my own CDs though, I always imagined just live work--it was a big shift going from classical cello into the world I inhabit now, but it is more rewarding for me although I love classical music. Being able to express yourself lyrically as well as musically is wonderful. Let's face it, it's not really a job is it? We're just incredibly lucky people playing hard at what we enjoy. The nearest it gets to a job is all the packing/unpacking of bags and catching planes on tour.
And what can you tell us about your musical and vocal training?
After college my vocal training started in Ireland with listening to and accompanying very closely Mary Black and Dolores Keane when we were all in De Dannan. My first singing performances were to one person at a time into their ear and for no-one else--the very smallest concert-hall I could find!
My voice was so quiet cos I had no lungs. I smoked a lot and had had pleurisy and pneumonia so it took many years to get them back. I haven't smoked for thirteen years now. Oddly, I still like the smell of smoke though. It's better than most perfume, which I'm allergic to!
How would you characterise the song that you have done on the Sleepthief album?
It's a little bit of a departure for me. I'm trying a new side of my character in it, singing more strongly and directly. This is the direction of my new album writing wise at the moment.
Did you share any of the writing duties?
I wrote the song and Justin worked his magic on it.
Please compare the material to any that you have done on your own or with others.
I suppose the nearest style of song for me is the song I did with BT, "The Great Escape," where I wrote the tune and lyrics over the top of his looped chords.
And how was the project put together?
I wrote and recorded the song with piano, strings and vocal and sent those to Justin and Israel who worked on it, adding among other things some gorgeous guitar parts which I love. Then I re-sang the vocal and put some cello on it and they completed their magic.
What kind of music do you find yourself listening to all the time?
So many different things--I get cravings for a particular piece of music, artist or composer. I'm finding some really interesting people on myspace.com who I would never have heard normally; my favourites at the moment are The Pierces and Feist. On my iPod at the moment is Cameron de la Isla (flamenco), John Martyn, Black Eyed Peas, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Maria Callas, Louis Armstrong, Fiona Apple, etc, etc, could give you indigestion that lot, eh?!
Do you have a career outside of music?
I am very concerned with the plight of greyhounds who are subject to cruelty beyond belief. I was trying to start a kennels but unfortunately, the planning people turned it down cos it was too far from people and the roads weren't good enough apparently. Shame on them. So now, I want to find some other way to publicise what is going on both in the US, Europe and the Far East. Have a look at this website if you're at all interested.
What are your future plans as a musical artist?
Making a new record and possibly learning the tenor violin.
What has it been like working the rest of the creative team on the Sleeptheif project?
Exciting and friendly. A real breeze. Why don't we all go on tour?!
How does it feel to share vocal work with the other artists on the album?
Rather daunting! They all seem to be faultless.
Do you think "image" has a role in promoting your music these days?
I suppose it plays a part even though I hate that. I really respect animals for loving/hating you for real reasons rather than phoney ones. They don't care what goes on in photoshop!
Has the internet brought you many new listeners, expanded your audience and improved your connection to the fans?
Definitely. I've met up with some people that originally emailed me about a song or something and they've since become friends.
More Caroline Lavelle: