Moya Brennan (Clannad)
Musical Discoveries: Please will you fill us in on what you've been doing musically –- in your solo and collaboration and as a band -- since the last Clannad studio album?
Moya: Since Landmarks I have recorded eight solo albums, including a live album and two Voices and Harps albums. There have been various collaborations including dance and techno singles and film scores, most notably King Arthur with Hans Zimmer). So I've been quite busy and, although committed to the Clannad schedule at the moment, I want to keep that side of my work alive.
Other members have also recorded their own albums, written film music and toured with other musicians. Paul (Brennan) won an IFTA (Irish Film awards) for his score of Kings and has done a number of other movies, TV and animation scores.
How did the Christ Church Cathedral live performances lead to the latest studio album?
Chist Church, with the five of us getting together for a special one-off, showed us what we are still capable of. We started the shows off with just the five of us on stage, like in the 70s, which was very reassuring. We were booked to do one show but ended up selling out three! The audience was obviously still there so, yes, Christ Church was a huge inspiration to get out there again.
The new album has taken a while to get together with touring and festivals. During the last 18 months we've been writing new material but set aside May and June this year to consolidate our writing and finish the recording.
It must have looked funny, after winning a grammy for Landmarks, to hang up our boots for such a long time. But we didn't want carry on recording and touring just for the sake of it. Now, after the break, the excitement's back in there.
You have to remember that we are a big, close-knit family and that we see each other constantly and have played together regularly in the interim in various situations, for Leo's Tavern anniversaries, charity events and one-off gigs. So there was never a feeling that we'd broken up. We just took time out!
Please describe for our readers how you think the sound has developed from the beginning to Landmarks and then onto Nádúr?
The Clannad sound will always be what we're about. This sound developed from singing old traditional songs, developing vocal arrangements influenced, among other things, by West Coast pop harmonies (Mamas and Papas, Beach Boys), Ciaran's jazz influences, coming from Donegal and the music reflecting the landscape.
From the beginning we started to bring in synths and non-traditional instrumentation, always developing the vocal end. With all five of us now writing on Nádúr, the sound is richer but still retains the roots. Nádúr is the Irish word for nature and reflects the organic substance to our music while reflecting the elemental core of much of our music.
What should listeners expect -- from your own personal perspective -- on Nádúr?
When we started writing for this album we had a load of material to choose from. We felt we chose the songs that represented where we're at now and knowing, from talking to fans, what their favorite songs are. Our new songs represent an all-round taste of what Clannad is about in the broadest way. There are fourteen songs with our unique sound, often imitated, never equalled.
What can you tell us about the other members of your family that have performed with Clannad over the years?
We've had many musicians with the band over the years. When it comes to singing, and especially the Irish lyrics, it does make sense to involve the family. Enya joined us in 79-82 at a time when we started bringing keys into live performances. She played keys and sang. All members of the family are great singers and Dee and Bridin jumped at the chance to join us in the studio and touring. It was especially valuable and fun for me having my sisters with me.
What is a live Clannad performance like for you as an artist and performer from behind the microphone and instruments?
I've aways enjoyed playing on stage -- I got that from my father -- and it's great for all of us to feel the atmosphere and seeing an audience being drawn into the magical space we create.
How did Clannad get involved with the United States PBS network and how was the response to the promotion of the Clannad Christ Church Cathedral material?
When we did Christ Church it was too good an opportunity to miss not filming it. We organised it ourselves and were thrilled that PBS liked it enough to network it and that the other companies wanted to distribute it. It has been a marvelous way to reintroduce ourselves to those in the know and show ourselves to those who like this kind of music but is new to them.
How did the band get involved with ARC Music as the label for the most recent recording?
We are thrilled that ARC, who champion world music, were interested to work with us. Its a friendly relationship and nice to have a label who genuinely understand what we're about and want to take it the widest possible audience. As for the future, we'll wait and see what happens.
How would you say that the internet and social media arecontributing to the band's attention by listeners and fans worldwide?
Of course it's very important because the web is the first place anyone looks nowadays. We're always wanting to reach a wider audience on a wider scale. So we cant ignore the potential of the social networking sites and the means they provide for spreading the word.
All bands have to promote themselves like never before to get attention because everyone is out there at the moment. Everything is more accessible than ever and, whoever you are, you have to work to get yourself noticed.
Enya performed with the band and then departed to begin her solo career. Will she work with Clannad again?
As I mentioned above, Enya's experience with Clannad, after she finished school, stood her in very good stead to pursue her own separate career. It was great stepping stone towards what she always wanted to do as a solo artist. The whole family have been thrilled with the amazing success she has had and long may it last.
In closing, what else rocks your world these days?
A few things have personally excited me recently -- like playing together with my family: husband, son and daughter -- at the Glastonbury festival in England.
It's also really exciting to see our kids taking up the challenges we had at the beginning. My daughter, Aisling [Jarvis], is an astonishing studio engineer, has just released her first EP [http://aislingjarvis.bandcamp.com/] and will have a complete album by the new year.
Leo and Baba's grandchildren are all showing great potential and when the Clan are all together -- me with my four brothers and four sisters and our fifteen kids -- we love playing and singing together in Donegal.
Many thanks for the interview Moya.