Before Ciaran Lavery’s astounding set at The Mac in Belfast, Gigging NI’s Chantelle Frampton was lucky enough to be able to catch up with him backstage and talk music, Bob Dylan and guilty pleasures.
GNI: Your lyrics are nothing short of poetry and I feel can be compared to the likes of Cohen and Springsteen. Do you have any sort of ritual to write or any specific place to write?
Ciaran: That’s a massive compliment. What I tend to do is write sporadically. It’s like anything; I don’t think it is possible to write constantly all year round. What I tend to do is either listen or watch a lot of different things. It helps me on a personal level to listen to things that aren’t close to the same genre or even podcasts are really helpful. I’m back into reading but sometimes I’ll go through a phase where I can’t read a line out of a book. It’s like watching box sets where you watch so much you just can’t for a while. I tend to immerse myself in one of those and usually it filters out like an idea at the end of it. Songs are usually something I think I want to sit down and write about this so I’ve automatically narrowed the filter and I’m almost strangling myself because I can only write about so much. You go from having a huge paramount landscape to everything is squeezed. I guess there’s no real specific that I would think about in particular I just sort of leave myself open to whatever comes in at the time.
GNI: You’ve transitioned from a simple Irish village lad to a global performer. Is there a stand out moment or experience that sticks out in your mind?
Ciaran: There’s maybe a couple. Every so often I’ll get reminded that I’m on a step up from where I was. To be honest even with as many things that have happened that I’m really happy with I appreciate and I learn more from the shows or from the experience s that remind me I’ve still got a long way to go. I suppose to answer your question, one of the main ones for me would be the Willie Nelson Ranch at South by Southwest earlier this year. It was really cool and it’s a spaghetti western set and it’s in tact so you walk down this street and basically you’re in the middle of the sixties western with a saloon and the shop and all sorts of things and they sort of build the festival around this one area. It’s really small and there’s only 30 acts playing so it was nice to be named in amongst that bunch. It’s probably more often than not I appreciate the reminder I still have a long way to go because you never know what’s around the corner.
GNI: From your twitter and previous interviews I can see you’re a big Bob Dylan fan. I’d love to know what your favourite Bob Dylan song is. Sorry to put you on the spot.
Ciaran: At the moment there’s a couple but it’s interchangeable. I was doing some shows a few weeks ago with Lanterns on the Lake and their singer is a huge Bob Dylan fan and she was telling me about the New York sessions. The last two weeks I have just had about half of that playing because I can’t listen to the Blood on the Tracks that he released because I am convinced the New York sessions are much better. Then I always go back to things like Not Dark Yet and Boots of Spanish Leather and I listen to a whole lot more.
GNI: You’re just back from Edinburgh, Leeds and London. How does playing around other cities in the UK differ from Belfast?
Ciaran: It is strange, you can from town to town never mind city and there’s a difference already. It’s not only how the music is received but how they kind of perceive it and how they react to it is totally different which is great because I kind of find with the smaller areas the people are very sort of personal. I wouldn’t say they’re more appreciative but its maybe because in small towns they don’t have music coming through every night of the week or a mad amount of venues; I like doing those shows because there is a personal gain from those shows. Then again there’s shows I’ve done in London, where a lot of people are afraid of, and I’ve always had a good time and been very lucky. It varies; even in Belfast I’ve never had two shows the same and I keep meeting new people at the shows which is great and sometimes you don’t see them again which is not so great.
GNI: My final question is a bit of a silly one. Everyone has that embarrassing, guilty pleasure song. What is yours?
Ciaran: This has put me more on the spot than the Bob Dylan one, there’s too many. I’ll tell you the very first CD single that I ever bought when I was P5. I bought Savage Garden Truly Madly Deeply. It’s a classic. Me and my brother used to share a room so every night before we went to sleep we got to select which CD we put on before we went to bed. We would go to sleep and after a while one of us would get up and turn it off. He hated Savage Garden and he still hates it because I would put it on all the time and it would play on a loop.
Check out the full review from the show here!
Photos by Chris McGuigan