Google Ciaran Lavery and you get a results page full of interviews and articles and reviews all saying he is one to watch, the gig of the day, and EP of the week. It’s up to you to find out if it’s true. But I found him down to earth, a hard worker, and in possession of a wicked sense of humour. Let’s just say when you start of a call with a man about his soul searching songwriting you don’t expect to find a comment about Lily Allen’s legs in there. But I’ll come back to that.
Ciaran Lavery is back in Ireland after a couple gigs in Europe starting out on an Irish tour with comrade in arms Marc O’Reilly. I caught up with him on his way to dinner just before he was due to hit the stage opening night in Coughlan’s Live in Cork. “I’m always super nervous before any gig. Tickets have been sold so that’s always a bonus. I’m pretty excited now to get started”, he said of the Cork gig. He and Marc buddied up after both played Glastonbury this summer after discovering a similar taste in music. And now they hit the road again to revel in further glory.
Although I don’t think glory and revelry are what Mr Lavery seeks. Ciaran talks about his home town Aghagallon (“Aha- like the band- gallon”, he explains to me) where he recently bought a house with his girlfriend as somewhere to keep him grounded. “You can imagine walking down the street and hearing people talk about the local football team. You’re treated like normal and I prefer that. When I go to write there are no distractions or expectations there. I’m sheltered from the big expectations I might get in a big city. Everywhere moves too quickly, I like a slower pace”, he said.
I ask about his EP Kosher released last year. “I’ve been listening to alot of punk rock and hip hop, they made an impression on me and that has something to do with how Kosher came about. Lyrically it took me awhile to grow up and pull a story together. It was easy to talk about failed loves stories they’re stock writing material. But I wanted to relate a bit more to the material. I’m always impressed by those who have the gift of writing diary like songs. But that’s not easy for me. But Kosher was the first time I was able to settle down and comfortably write. To flirt with stories I had heard or had happened to me. It felt genuine. I was conscious of creating something people could hold onto without being too downbeat or grim”, he explains.
What we have are songs of remembrance, memories, full of melancholy, regret and I wonder what ifs. But they are upbeat, celebratory of those memories which set the path for this present. And here’s where Lily comes into. “Compared to the Album (“Not Nearly Dark”) I was very concerned with doing something different with it. I like the idea of the grim topic dealt with an up tempo beat”, Ciaran said. “Kind of like what Lily Allen does”, I ask? “Ha ha kind of. But I wish I had her talent and her legs”, jokes Lavery. Someone get this man a pair of stockings!
After the album but before Kosher we had Other People Wrote These, an EP of four covers. Now, normally if an artist produces an album of covers some label has made them do it to increase the coffers. For Lavery however, it was a stop gap. That place between being the down and out troubadour and the witty lyricist. His selection of tracks is also telling. “I grew up an 80’s child, a late 80’s child mind you, but my sisters played all that gear. So then later you’re sitting in a bar half drunk and these songs come on and you wonder how you know all the words. Well that’s how. I always wanted an opportunity to get back into the studio. But with no pressure, just for fun. I had Lionel and Talking Heads already picked in my head and the arrangements done. But I was literally walking into the studio still having to come up with arrangements for “I Drove All Night” and “All Fired Up”. Pat Benatar is there because I wanted some cheese and then I wanted something dark so I rewrote “I Drove All Night” so that all that was left were the lyrics” adds Ciaran.
Does Ciaran get anytime to enjoy his new house? “We sit down with two diaries and we see when you’re free or when she’s free and then it’s about working around those dates. I also have the most understanding girlfriend in the world who allows me the time to go and do the things I need to do.” After this Irish tour Ciaran Lavery is touring the UK and Switzerland in October and Germany in November. “It’s so completely different over there. I can completely understand why so many musicians are going over there at the moment.” Then there’s the new album out next year. “I have the bones of it together now so that’ll be happening next year.” Between now and then Ciaran is driving around Ireland in a car with no radio “it got stolen” and a CD player with two volumes “very loud and non existent” listening to “Born To Run”, Arcade Fire, Bonnie Prince Billy, Artic Monkeys and “Upside Down Mountain”. Throw the man a disc if you see him.
Catch Ciaran Lavery
13th August – Bray, The Harbour Bar
14th August – Dublin, Whelans
16th August – Clonakilty, De Barras
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