Happy weekend everyone! I have another special guest today. Her name is Jenny Mulvey and she is making rounds in the local music scene in Ireland. I met Jenny through an Irish network and from there we started exchanging little messages. Her music captivated my attention and I wrote a brief review in this blog. I decided to go one step further by asking her questions. This correspondence giving her questions and then writing a follow up based on the initial response. Let’s hear it from this wonderful original voice.
How did you become a singer?
Well I suppose I was born a singer and I don’t mean that to be facetious, but like many babies I was always interested in sound. When I was little my brother’s who were closest in age to me used to ask me to shut-up especially as I might be inclined to try out a sound (a noise as far as they were concerned) in the middle of the night or very early in the morning just after I woke up.
Singing was very much part of my school life and I was involved in choirs all throughout my young life. There were lots of good singers in my school and while I was noted as having a good voice, there were many of us.
I have only started singing professionally in the last year. I had always dreamed about it but my energies went elsewhere – education, profession etc. This time two years ago, I set about making a 3 track demo and a year and half later I have a full album. I released the album in January and it is my way of spreading my name.
What instruments do you play other than singing?
I play lots of instruments very poorly. When I was young I was in a marching band. I started on the recorder and after a short spell on the piano accordion, I graduated to trumpet.
As an adult, I took piano lessons at the same time as developing and directing a céilí band as a primary school teacher. So my repertoire on piano is confined to the tunes and songs that children learn.
How did you come up with the stories behind the songs? What’s the inspiration?
My songs are folk songs and they are songs that I have been listening to for many years. The Lullaby of London is a song written by Shane McGowan. All other songs on my CD Suirí are songs that have been sung for centuries in Ireland, England and Scotland. I am attracted to these songs often because of the tune, perhaps the story but most importantly the ‘movement’ of the song. This is something that usually relates to the singer so often it was because I heard someone somewhere sing it in a way that made me look it up and listen again. I really enjoy listening to songs sung in a variety of ways.
Well, I think that developing an identity is a two way process. By hearing of other cultures and learning from them it gives you a greater interest in your own. Likewise, by exploring your own culture, you are often much more interested in the culture of another person. I think that Irish Identity and any identity should be about exploring accepting and nurturing diversity. I think that the kind of cultural dialogue that happens through art, literature and music has much potential in breaking down barriers created by racism and elitism.
What’s the latest news that your fans can expect for this month and beyond?
I am performing in a show called “The legend of Gráinne Mhaol”. This is a dance based show about a woman who lived in the 16th Century in Ireland. (Gráinne Mhaol – Grace O Malley) She was the wife of a chieftain but more of a chieftain herself. She was as comfortable on the Sea as she was on land and led many battles and robberies with armies of hundreds on the Atlantic ocean. She fascinated the English at the time because of her amazing leadership qualities (not usual for women of her period). She fought and charmed Elizabeth I of England.
The show is similar in nature to that of Riverdance except that there is a story running throughout. I am singing a number of songs in this show. It is running every Wednesday night for July and August in Westport, a beautiful town in Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland. There are a host of wonderful musicians and dancers performing also including Cora Smyth, Brian Cunningham (Fuaim Ui Chuinneagáin) and Jame Kilbane. I will also be performing at Féile Iorras 09 (The Erris Arts Festival) amongst many other local functions throughout Mayo and Galway throughout the summer (July & August)
Grace O’ Malley ! Now that’s a notable person in history. What is your personal impression of her?
She is a funny one. I am reading a biography of her at the moment and I have realized that you would have to be living in her time to really know what you would think of her. She certainly made her mark on history – more so on British records. Irish records rarely recorded activities of women but folklore has kept her alive and it is obvious that she had a major impact on the west of Ireland. I wonder though that if I was living in a village somewhere in Ireland and one of her various battles brought the English to my village and caused my family to be wiped out, I don’t know if I would be very fond of her. Her motives included power and the maintenance of the family name and again living in her time, I might begrudge her that. Also she had power over many men and led very large armies. Maybe if I was a woman in that time, I might not have been so impressed. On the other hand anybody could not have failed to be impressed by her and hence she has left a mark on history and folklore and overall she had a lot of support.
I’ve been listening to the wonderful Eddi Reader. I also had the good fortune to meet with a man called Tom Hanway, a banjo player (bluegrass style) and we swapped CDs and I have been listening to him. Galway based band Mórga and The Great Danes have also captured my imagination along with the CD Dual by Julie Fowlis and Muireann Nic Amhlaigh.
Studio or live performance? Which one is better for you?
Live performance is always better for me. There is an energy and movement than cannot be captured in the studio. Many of my friends that aren’t particularly taken by folk/traditional music listened to my CD and enjoyed it. However after coming to my gigs they were really enthusiastic about my music. Many mentioned that I was much better live than on CD. Part of me didn’t know how to take this – as I had put so much work into the CD. I really enjoy working in the studio – exploring sounds, trying out new things. However, the adrenalin makes a live performance.
Do you think the music business has improved greatly ..let’s say in the last 10 years? What do you think is better now and what is bad? Or vice versa?
The music business is so new for me (I have only ventured into it in the last few years) so it is very hard to comment.
Irish music is very popular worldwide. It has charmed many countries including the Philippines. What can you give as an advice to your fellow artists who are trying to get the music heard out there?
Gosh, I could do with a lot of advice for myself! I am working very hard to get my music and sound out there. I suppose that in recent months I have come to the realization that there is only so much I can do in a day. I do something every day to spread my music and hopefully every so often, I’ll gain a new fan because without fans it’s very hard to continue.
You have a terrific voice. Tell me how do you take care of it?
I lost my voice in my twenties when I was a teacher. I was teaching choir in my school as well as teaching a class. ( I was a primary school teacher). I had to go to speech therapy for a while and realized that for some years prior to that point, I had gone away from my natural voice and was mimicking other sounds. So I started all over again and it was for that reason that I started getting lessons. I now try and sing from the lower part of my chest cavity, I take great care not to shout too much (very hard in a busy pub) I like caffeine rich drinks – tea, coffee and coke and I usually have a class of water with them as caffeine is not good for the vocal chords. I do not use cough lozenges (These are also bad for the vocal chords) .Unfortunately I am an asthmatic and I frequently get coughs. This is hard on your vocal chords, and this is one area where I am not careful enough!!
What do you do to relax after a gig?
I usually talk to the people who have been good enough to come to my gig and would like to catch up with me afterwards but as soon as I can I hit the bed! One of my favourite activities is taking my parent’s dog ‘Jake’ for a walk. This is how I relax best!