Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a bit about your background.
Eimear: My musical background is that I was ALWAYS singing. My mother says that as soon as I figured out that I could make noise, I started to make music. She enrolled me in the local children's church choir and I was hooked. At fifteen, I went on to have my voice trained at the College of Music in Dublin.
I really enjoyed that experience as I got to do work both on my solo singing and on my ensemble singing. My favourite ensemble there was the Chamber Choir which I loved. I also did some work with the chamber choir for the National Broadcaster RTE and the choir at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. That's how I came to join Anúna.
Anúna had been a part of Riverdance, and were getting a lot of bookings as a result of the exposure, so the director of the group decided to expand the amount of singers so the could do other concerts apart from Riverdance. I was working with Anúna singers in these various ensembles and they recommended me. It was lucky as I have a very clear voice, and the main soloist with a similar type voice was involved full time in Riverdance. So I was thrown in at the deep end and I had to learn all of her solos! That was really good fun. I always enjoyed performing with Anúna.
Who are your favourite artists? Who else do you find yourself listening to all the time?
The interesting thing about this is that, from very early on, my interest was mostly in classical music. The big exception to this was Kate Bush who I find incredibly inspirational. Then, in the last 10 years the only other artist to match that for me has been Bjork.
As I started to write my own music, I realise that my attraction to them at the time was very easily explained, as they are far more that just 'song writers' they are contemporary composers, in the way that they stretch the boundaries, and recreate mythical ideas.
The days of me just listening to classical music are long gone now, and I listen to everyone form the Sterophonics, to John Martyn, to Ian Browne, to Jill Scott. The list is endless. I just love music.
How did you develop your vocal style? Please elaborate on your musical training and education.
As I mentioned my formal vocal training started when I was 15, in the College of Music (now the conservatoire) with Jody Beggan. I had a typical training through the various periods, form Baroque to contemporary, in various languages. I found that my voice was mostly suited to early music, like baroque for solo singing - and Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque for ensemble singing. I also took courses in French 'Melodie' and German 'Lieder' which I very much enjoyed. when I got the opportunity to sing music other that classical, I found that the training really stood to me, but I had to re-discover my voice in many ways, to allow it to be more honest and expressive. I no longer take lessons, but I always draw on the training.
Your material is somewhat varied. What artists do you feel have influenced the sound?
I know that my material is varied, but I think that this comes naturally as a result of my musical experience being varied. I think that many artists have moved me and inspired me. I think that all of our creative output is coloured by music and other arts such as poetry which move us.
There are so many and if they have a profound emotional effect on you, for better or worse, they become part of you and part of your creativity. Even if it means that you react against something, and decide never to sound like it, that is an influence. I am very fortunate in so far as I have had a very rich musical experience, both through performance and study, and just through life! I love melody, but I also love polyphony.
I have some friends and we formed a group a while back called Zefiro (which is now gone by the way-side) but we used to improvise in five parts in the style of Renaissance polyphony just for fun. This was before I started to compose, but it's just an example of something like that being part of me and coming out through my expression in contemporary song.
As far as my vocal sound is concerned, I am not conscious of any artist influencing it. I think that it is the voice I have physically and the experiences that I've had vocally that have brought me to this point.
Where did you find the inspiration for your latest project? And the lyrical content?
My latest project Through the Lens of a Tear lived inside me for a long time. In 1997 I was on a trip to the Arthurian forest of Broceliande in Brittany. There is a castle there where that have exhibitions and that summer, the subject was Tristan & Iseult. I knew that story well from Wagner, but until that moment did not know the Celtic connections, and, most importantly, did not know hat Iseult was an Irish Princess. I became fascinated by the story and when I got home, I read everything I could about it. A couple of years later, I was about to make an album for Decca records and we spoke about the idea of a concept album. I knew that the time had come to bring Tristan & Iseult to life.
I know that I work best when I collaborate, and my number one choice was Pól. We had worked together before and he is so experienced with writing music for legend. I knew he would understand it, and he did. As we began, we started from the point of Tristan and Iseult, but as time went on, I found that all of my lyrical inspiration was coming from Iseult. Pól nurtured this and we work on Iseult's story. All of the lyrics are her voice and her experience. It just made sense to do it that way. I felt as frightened or as elated as she did throughout he journey, so the story need to be told in the first person. Pól's experience at bringing a story to life through music (Robin of Sherwood, etc.) was wonderful. As a producer, sonically he made it almost like a soundtrack to the movie of Iseult and her story. It's very visual.
Please explain the various sequences you have gone through when writing your music and tell me a bit about the studios that you used in the different stages.
The writing, and most of the recording, took place in Pól's studio in Kilkenny. It's in the middle of the country and made out of old stone and it's a very creative space. Pól is an intensely creative man and I was very lucky to work with him on this, both in the composition and production. We wrote on and off from February until November, when the recording started, and we finished in March, just over one year later, although I had the project in development for much longer.
We recorded a little and mixed the album at Realworld studio in the UK. It's an incredible place which belongs to Peter Gabriel. The first night we arrived there, we recorded the acoustic version of White Sail. Pól used to work as a producer there and he had invited Peter's guitarist--David Rhodes--to work on the album. David brought such a wonderful sound to the recording. I really love the way he plays.
So what was it like working with the different artists?
We arrived on the first night and David was there, and also a wonderful Cellist called Caroline Dale. Pól asked Peter if he could use his piano upstairs, and this all led to something special. Pól and David were in Peter's room I was in the next room, and Caroline was in a huge wooden room downstairs. The only cues we had were that sound of each other inhaling before the beginning of a phrase. It was a gorgeous moment in one beautiful take. The rest of my experience in Realworld was coloured by that.
Pól brought some other amazing musicians to the project, such as John Giblin who is a really wonderful bass player, who has worked with some of my heroes such as Kate Bush and John Martyn. There was also Leo Pearson who is an incredible programmer from Dublin, who had just finished working on U2's latest record and went onto work with Elvis Costello after Through the Lens. Laoise Kelly also gives such a beautiful sound to the music on Irish harp. They all brought their own magic and creativity to the music--there are so many--of course the engineer, Ben Findlay, was really fantastic to work with. Apart from being such a talented engineer, he's a very peaceful person, and he looked after all of us very well. I was very lucky with the calibre of talent for a debut solo album.
What can you tell us about "The Voice"?
Well, as you know, "The Voice" was the song that I sang when I won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland in 1996. I really like the song--it has a special feel to it. It's very un-typical for the Eurovision, and it still seems to be a popular song. Brendan Graham wrote it and he asked me to sing it when he heard me singing with Anúna in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. I love to sing it at live concerts and the audience seem to really enjoy it.
Please tell us what you think about your live performances and the audience's reaction to your on stage persona.
I absolutely LOVE live performance. This is when I feel the most complete as an artist. It's a real privilege to get to sing your own music to a crowd of people and for them to appreciate it. The only live gigs with the new music to date have been in Belgium and I've really enjoyed them.
There isn't any video available so far. As the album gets more and more releases, I'll be planning more concerts. I'm also planning a series of Christmas concerts in Ireland. I'll let you know about various dates as they happen.
What's happened with the release of the album in other territories?
The territories so far have been Ireland, the UK, Belgium, Brazil, Finland and Norway. Norway has just released, so it's early days there yet. The best places so far have been Ireland and Belgium. There was so much media reaction in Ireland which was wonderful, and Belgium was very interesting as I was involved in another project over there which gave it an extra dimension.
I sang on the title music of a Flemish Drama Series called Stille Waters, which was released as a soundtrack album by Universal, so I went out to promote both albums and got loads of great opportunities, such as singing my music with a full orchestra in the Queen Elizabeth hall in Antwerp. It's about to be released in Holland too, so I'm looking forward to that.
How would you compare your latest project to the work of Máire Brennan, the others in Anúna that have branched out or Clannad?
I know that I wrote the music with Pól, so obviously people are going to draw comparisons with Máire and Clannad, but the great thing about Pól is that he insists on never doing the same thing twice. That's why he left Clannad, it was really great but he needed to branch out. As you might guess, I love the music of Clannad, Maire and Anúna but I honestly don't think it's sounds anything like them. The last thing I want to do is sound like someone else.
We understand that you've just signed a publishing deal with George Martin Music. What can we expect to emerge from the arrangement?
This is the one thing that I'm probably most excited about. I met Sir George in Dublin a couple of years ago when I was invited to sing a song in a concert he was giving. He conducted a seventy piece orchestra while we came to perform Beatles songs. It was a wonderful experience and he was every bit he complete gentleman you would expect him to be. He is a very warm-hearted person, and he asked me to send on my record when it was finished. Check out his website at www.georgemartimusic.com.
Much to my delight, both he and his assistants -- his son Giles, and Adam Sharp -- really took to the music and asked if the could publish it! They felt that it stood out as, while others had made recordings inspired by legend or with a Celtic theme, they did not tend to have a strong lyrical content, and Through The Lens did. They work it in all types of ways, for example, trying to find a suitable film soundtrack for it etc., but they will also get me to write with all types of interesting people. Watch this space.
What do you think about the internet? Is there any chance that it will expand your fanbase?
The internet is EXTRAORDINARY. I really don't know how I survived with out it. I was one of those kids who used to dream about owning a set of encyclopaedias because I hated not being able to sate my curiosity as soon as something came into my head. Now I have it all, everywhere I go on my laptop!
As regards as fanbase, I certainly do think that the internet make the possibilities endless. I hear from fans in the USA, yet I still have to release a solo recording there! Soon I will also have an official fans website, created someone who contacted me because they love the music. That is very gratifying.
So what else are you up to just now?
I'm still working really hard on Through the Lens and it still has a lot of key releases to come. I have a lot of fires in the oven at present and will let you know as things develop!