Brigid Mae Power is a singer songwriter based in Galway, Ireland. “I Told You the Truth” is Brigid’s first solo album and released through the independent Abandoned Reason label in Galway. It’s a truly wonderful album centred round Brigid’s compelling vocals. The album also captures the ambience of the church where it was recorded, which gives it a unique mood. However, what is most striking about the album is the raw emotion that Brigid channels into each of her songs.
Greetings from Yoshiwara Brigid. Tell me, how are you? Is the summer treating you kindly?
Hi! I’m great thank you, this summer has been flying by. I’m just back from an amazing week in Oregon where I was recording with Peter Broderick. So, so far this summer has really outdone last summer. I’m also about to move to London so things are busy.
Coming from Galway, how was it growing up there as a young child? What were your first encounters with music?
I actually grew up in London until I was 12. Then moved to Galway. So my first encounters with music really were in London. I grew up in an Irish bubble in London where I learnt button accordion, tin whistle, did Irish dancing twice a week. So learning traditional music by ear was how I started off really.
But growing up in Galway as an older child was very different to London, but I think I was in awe of the freedom I had compared to if I had been in London. But I also felt really repressed by the catholic schooling. But I would’ve had that in London too so maybe it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
Do you still live Galway? Where are you based and what’s going on right now?
No I moved from Galway in December to Waterford temporarily, but I’m now getting ready to move to London. Galway is a great place for some people but it was really holding me back and it took me a while to realise that. I’m not sure how long I will be in London but I’m going to give it a try anyway. I have lots of things coming up this year, more touring, a possible album release of the new material recorded with Peter and some other unconfirmed things!
Any musicians/bands locally you would care to recommend?
Locally, I’d recommend my friends Declan Kelly and Kate Glavey, they have a banjo and viola collaboration thing they’re doing at the moment that sounds lovely. In Galway I’d recommend a guy called Aaron Coyne who performs under the name yawning chasm…
You recently toured the UK and also supported Peter Broderick. What kind of experience was this? How did the audience receive you?
Touring with Peter completely changed my life! I loved every minute of it. It felt effortless. And was so positive and inspiring it was so good to be around. I realised that performing was what I wanted and needed to do and I was grateful to have such an intense eye-opening moment.
I think the audience received me ok..? But actually that’s the first time I’ve thought about it. I was just completely in a daydream most of the time. They were definitely all there for Peter and definitely crazy about him, maybe I am actually used to slightly different audiences come to think of it, but it still worked and everyone was really appreciative.
Your just back from recording with Peter Broderick in Oregon. That must have been great. Can you tell us more? Why do you think your approaches to music are able to fit so well?
Oh it was so great. I wish I could’ve stayed longer. I’m excited for that record to come out, about half the songs are on piano and the rest are on guitar but very different sounding to what I’ve done previously. Probably mostly because they are recorded properly and you can hear my voice closer now. Whereas before I was always just recording in an echoey room with a handheld recorder.
It worked so well with Peter because I knew he just got it, I trusted his ears completely because, well I just did, but also because his records sound so great. I am quite picky with how I like my voice to sound but from listening to his records I knew he would just get it and that I wouldn’t have to explain too much. I feel limited in trying to express what I want to hear or have behind me musically. It’s not something I can often vocalise. It’s something I visualise. But he seemed so intuitive to what was needed. Which was great because I can really get tangled up if I have to get involved with the technical side. But yea, he is so talented and I was just in awe of the way he works and also it was so easy and effortless being with him as a person, he’s amazing!
You’ve also collaborated with other musical projects within Ireland, including the fantastic ‘Gorges’ with Declan Kelly and David Colohan. I think one aspect of your music that really stands out is the way you use your voice as an instrument. This is especially prominent with Gorges. What’s different about working on those sorts of projects?
Thank you I’m glad you like gorges! That was a very special time, it was the first time I had ever played music with others ever. I was in a phase, a short one, where I just purely wanted to sing but without words. Sometimes I like using my voice as if it was like a trumpet or a sax or something being able to do those little subtle, intricate things. Dave Colohan had a dream where we went down to this big underground car park that we had been going to and that I was singing wordlessly and they were playing harmoniums, so we decided to re-enact the dream!
What’s different about doing that kind of thing I guess is that the music was purely improvised on the spot. I really liked doing the gorges project, but I find I can’t do projects like that for too long. It happens spontaneously but then when you get the thought to go and do it again, something about it for me doesn’t let me feel free or that I’m able to improvise because there’s even an IDEA there to improvise..so it doesn’t feel natural to me and I usually don’t like what comes out of me if there’s too much of an idea or an intention to create without genuinely feeling like I need to, if that makes any sense! When we first went down there we had no idea what it would sound like and I think that’s why it came out good. But it’s all phases for me, sometimes, like right now, I’m in a phase for playing more structured music and then other times I’ll need it to be looser with no ending in sight.
Can you talk a little bit about how you became a musician and songwriter? How and when did you get into making music and writing your own songs?
When I was four in school in London, the whole school used to sit on a really cold tiled floor at 8.30am and listen to the head teacher scream her head off in assembly about how naughty everyone was and how we had to love god etc. I used to fantasise about running up to the front where she was shouting, pushing her out of the way and singing Michael Jackson for everybody. So I have always wanted to sing haha!
That feeling of performing never left me really and I always knew that that was when I felt connected and happy was when I was singing for people. I grew up playing trad accordion and messed around on other instruments. I got into song writing in my early twenties, but I’d say that I only got into it seriously after my son was born about 4 years ago. Giving birth gave me a confidence boost that I really needed and that spread out onto all the areas in my life, especially in music.
Your song “Tiny You and Me” really resonated with me when I first heard it. It’s a beautiful song about your son. What does your son think of your music?
Thank you. Well, this time last year if you would’ve asked me that question I would’ve said that he really doesn’t like my music, that he puts his hands over his ears and shouts ‘NOOOOO!’ But right now I think he is coming around to it. But I don’t put on my own music in the house so he hasn’t heard it really, he’d just hear me occasionally practicing and he’s becoming more interested in playing himself now, which is fun.
Your album ‘I Told You the Truth’ was recorded almost entirely in the chapel of St. Nicholas’. I love the ambiance of the church captured on the recording. How happy are you with the results? Do you feel you captured the mood you were aiming for?
Yeah I was happy with how that turned out. Part of me feels like it’s not finished and I might actually try and re-record it some time. As there were other parts I had written for other instruments on some of the songs. But if it doesn’t work a second time around then I’m also happy to leave it as is. I wasn’t aiming to catch a mood, but I think it did just catch the mood naturally of what I was doing, which was just sitting in that room in the mornings feeling really relaxed playing and letting the previous year’s pour out of me.
You also create wonderful art including the artwork for the cover of your album. Do you feel that your art and your music come from the same place in you, or are they different things entirely?
Hmm.. Well they aren’t different entirely but I did used to feel like they were both from a different place to each other. But now I feel like the music definitely is starting to look a bit more matched to the artwork, especially after recording with Peter. I used to be so musically stuck, I’d procrastinate and avoid it so much, I was scared to go into it, I still am pretty resistant, so I’d delve into painting and drawing instead. So I feel now the more I’m making music, it’s balancing the relationship between the two.
What kinds of music have influenced you the most? What albums do you find yourself returning to time and time again?
Many types of music have been a big influence. Irish traditional is probably the type embedded in me most, but I always, since I was a baby, really loved that 1930’s-40’s swing and jazz sound. I really love Duke Ellington. I love country music too, that was always on in the house. When I was a teenager I got into rock and then worked backwards getting into blues, jazz and then folk too. But I mostly have been influences artists that were undefinable to a genre. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Charles Mingus are some of my favourites. I always come back to Hegira, On the Beach and loads of other Neil Young albums, and then Black Saint and Sinner Lady.. They’re albums that I go back to BUT I fear I might be almost at a stage that I’ve over listened to them so I maybe won’t go near them for a year or so.. But generally I’m influenced by a lot of classic, old stuff!
Looking at Ireland right now, there is some incredible music being created, across all sorts of genres. You mentioned earlier that living in Galway was holding you back. What constraints did you experience in regards to your music?
I just felt like I never fitted in there, it was hard to get people to go to any shows let alone to get paid for a show. I feel like Galway has a lot of ‘craic’ and people play for free and there’s a great and fun side to that which I liked for ages, but I just sort of got fed up of it after a while and I found that I couldn’t be taken seriously. Like it’s hard to find somewhere in Galway where you can listen to someone playing an intimate or a sad song! And I like that and need that intimacy.
With a move to London just around the corner, what hopes do you have for the future? What do hope to accomplish with your music.
I plan to tour more, and just keep going really. I don’t think about it all too much but I would like to just be able to keep performing and writing and to make a living from it would be great!
Thank you Brigid for answering my questions and please use this space for any parting words…
Thanks so much Patrick for your interview and the kind words!
All photographs by Declan Kelly
This feature appears in Yoshiwara Zine Issue 1. Still copies available from our store.
Brigid’s self-titled album is coming out on Jun 10th 2016 with Tompkins Square Records www.tompkinssquare.com
Link to Brigid’s new single below