Méav : Interviewing the Million-Selling Irish Singer.

Méav: Promotional shot for The Calling

Méav: Promotional shot for The Calling

She helped to push Anúna and Celtic Woman to global prominence. Now Méav talks about her music (also, how she takes care of that wonderful voice) and the new album The Calling to be released this Autumn under Warner Music.

Millions already heard her crystal clear soprano. It is the voice associated with Anúna and Celtic Woman: acts with whom she shared both the stage and studio with. For someone who sold millions of albums and possesses sheer musical talent (she sings in multiple languages: English, Gaelic, French and Latin) , it is not surprising that listeners want to know more about the person behind the name. What is the source of the musical inspiration after releasing a string of best-selling albums(she has 7). How does she keep it going? It is an honor to welcome Méav into the fold of our featured artists.

Méav, to be in a major label and selling millions with your vocal signature style in Celtic Woman, Anúna , plus solo albums, how do you imagine the listeners’ reaction to The Calling?

It feels great to be sharing new music with you. I think that listeners who know my previous recordings will find plenty that’s familiar, but there are a few surprises in there too. The album brings me back to my folk roots in a contemporary setting. There is guitar and acoustic bass at the heart of the arrangements, which are simpler than the big orchestral sound of Celtic Woman, but with plenty of percussion and traditional instrumentation. We wanted to keep an almost 70’s recording sound in homage to the great folk recordings of that period. My fantastic producer and co-writer Craig Leon encouraged me to write more original material – that is probably the biggest change from my previous recordings.

Craig Leon and NASA. These were interesting events that led the way for The Calling. How was the working experience with the Grammy winning producer so far? 

I was invited to record Don Mc Clean’s Vincent (Starry, starry night) for the NASA project. This was part of a soundtrack which incorporated sounds recorded in space by NASA with existing songs that had  an astral connection. Given the song, the history of the Abbey Road studios and Craig’s own reputation, it could have been a very intimidating experience, but Craig immediately put me at ease. It was amazing to have the opportunity to record in the same room as the Beatles and Maria Callas. Working with Craig is fantastic. We are already plotting our next joint project.

Why did you choose The Calling as the album’s title?

 Many of the songs on the album are about  searching for whatever is missing in our lives. I wanted to find a title that captured that  sense of yearning. The Calling is also a phrase that appears in the album version of the title track.

The title track is my personal favorite because of the way you sing and the choral arrangement. I am curious about this inclusion in the album.

Thanks! I loved the shape of the melody the moment Craig introduced me to it, and immediately felt that it had a haunting quality that I wanted to reflect in the lyrics we wrote. That reflective mood sets the overall tone of the whole album. With regard to the choral arrangement, I love choral music and toured a lot with the National Chamber choir of Ireland and with Anúna, so layering vocals is in my blood.

 I shared my favorite track (and more in the album review), now it is your turn to share your favorite tracks in The Calling.

It’s hard to choose a favourite song – it’s almost like being forced to choose a favourite child! I am very fond of the Calling. I also particularly enjoyed recording Poor Wayfaring Stranger because it was quite different in style from anything I have recorded before. I loved creating the swampy, mysterious atmosphere of the arrangement and the spooky harmonies with Craig and our great musicians. It was also great to have Craig there to encourage me to write more new music such as Glimmering Girl.

Will you ever reprise your role as the main member of Celtic Woman?

Publicity photograph of singer Méav Ní Mhaolchatha

I am proud of my work with Celtic Woman and we had a great time touring and recording together. I think one of the core strengths of Celtic Woman is that each member is effectively a lead performer, rather than there being one lead. I left because I wanted to work on solo projects and raise my young family, but we have always kept the door open. It was great to guest with the group on their latest Christmas release, Home for Christmas, which went straight to Number 1 in the Billboard World Music Charts. I will be collaborating with them on another project very soon – watch this space!

What are the promotional plans for the album upon its release?

The response to the album has been fantastic, even at the pre-release stage, the moment the title track video was posted online. I am really looking forward to performing the material live and sharing it with a wider audience.

How do you preserve that crystal clear voice? Do you have a work related exercise that you follow?

Whisky, cigars and late nights work for me! Actually I have been very fortunate – I think my voice is tougher than it sounds, so I don’t have to be too precious about minding it. However I do try to avoid wine and chocolate before singing. Apparently lots of rest helps too, but usually before a big gig or recording I survive on very little sleep in the scramble to get everything ready. I do vocal warm-ups when I’m stuck in traffic, resulting in funny looks all round. The smoking ban is great for singers as singing in smoky environments was very hard on the voice.

Going back to your career history, it is rare to hear about an artist who was trying to break into the classical crossover scene while studying Law at the same time. How did you carry out this?

I didn’t really plan to become a full-time musician. I fell into studying law because my brother had enjoyed it ahead of me. The weekly timetable of law lectures at Trinity College Dublin was quite short, which gave me plenty of time to spend on music projects. Of course technically you were meant to spend your free time studying in the library, but we’ll gloss over that part! I was really enjoying gigging in the evenings, and gradually realised that I could make a living from singing. I sang in Riverdance and toured the US as a guest soloist with the National Irish Orchestra   (RTECO) and got bitten by the performing bug. To paraphrase the singer Liam O Maonlaoi, sometimes music chooses you and you have no choice in the matter!

Let’s discuss The Calling some more. How was the recording experience and care to share the things you learned as a growing artist?

I loved the recording process. 
I had worked with the fantastic engineer Brian Masterson before, and I felt that he and Craig would really get along musically and personally. I got a real kick out of interacting with them and hearing them out-do one another with their tales of rock ’n roll excess! At one stage we were trying to match up the sound of two parts of a song that are in different vocal registers – one low, one high – which would usually require two different mic techniques. Craig solved the issue by pointing the mic at the ceiling  with great results. We also borrowed from Blondie’s technique of layering up many backing vocals on each line to give a rich backdrop to the lead vocal. Many of the musicians who played on the album are old friends, so the atmosphere was very relaxed. We always made a point of taking a break for a good lunch each day – a simple way to keep everybody happy!

You have a total of seven albums  in groups and solos. What’s your advice to young artists who are trying to break into the scene where you are now?

My advice to any musician, male or female, is to learn your trade – don’t try for world domination too fast or you may crash and burn. Learn to play an instrument or two – this will help you sight-read music. This is very useful if you want to pick up session work in studio, and will make you more flexible as a band member. It also helps you arranging and writing your own music. Sing with other people – there is always something new to learn in a choir, a show or a band. Experiment. Don’t specialize too soon – keep up your other studies so that other avenues remain open to you. Don’t be pressurized into presenting an image you are not comfortable with, and promote your work while guarding your privacy. Work hard and remember how great it is to do what you love!

 Your message to the listeners?

It’s a privilege to sing for a living and I will never take it for granted. Thank you for listening and for supporting live music.

Check out this site’s review of The Calling : http://celticmusicfan.com/2013/06/23/meav-the-calling/

Sample tracks from the album can be heard here: http://www.meav.com/music/

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You can also pre-order The Calling through Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Calling-Meav/dp/B00DD348M2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=13744

or Warner Music Ireland: http://warnermusicirelandstore.com/product/meav-the-calling-pre-order

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