Dream Child: An interview with Irish Musician Sive

Sive is an Irish singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist , with a voice that sounds like the Irish sea. Her music is full of depth and haunting lyrics. Cinders was lucky enough to sit down with Sive and chat about her latest album, The Roaring Girl, the Irish music industry and what she hopes to see in the future.

1.Your music has a really ethereal sound, what would you say is your main inspiration?

I’d say my musical inspiration comes mostly from a combination of folk, jazz and world music. In the last few years I’ve been addicted to a number of African artists like Rokia Troare, Fatoumata Diawera and Ayub Ogada as well as contemporary Irish artists who bring their own flavour to Irish traditional music, like Kila and Colm Mac Con Iomaire. I’m a big lover of jazz as well, particularly the more piano-based stuff. And from a songwriting point of view, I love people who really craft their lyrics, like Joni Mitchell and Jesca Hoop. So I guess it makes sense that those influences might come together to create something slightly ethereal!

2.How do you approach writing a new song – does the idea come to you first or the melody – which instrument would you compose on?

It really varies every time. Sometimes I might have an idea for lyrics and jot them down, and I might even start formulating a melody before I get to pick up an instrument. I often compose music on the guitar or piano, so sometimes I will be able to weave a lyrical idea into something musical I’ve already begun, whereas other times all the different aspects grow together. I love composing on instruments I don’t usually play too, because you can end up with a song you’d never have written otherwise. I like to experiment – I don’t really have a formula!

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3. Giraffe (By the Shore) is a really beautiful track that encompasses a real depth of feeling – what were you thinking about when you wrote it?

Thank you! I was actually walking along a beach in Kerry and I saw this little toy giraffe in the sand – hence the name, which I never really intended on keeping but it stuck! I was going to pick it up and move it to where it wouldn’t get washed out to sea, and suddenly my mind start running away with ideas about all the adventures it might have if I left it there to be swept away. As I wrote the song it kind of developed into how that applies to us all – how we can get caught up in trying to find some solid ground beneath our feet and lose our sense of freedom in the process.

4. You crowdfunded your album The Roaring Girl – what were the advantages to going about producing that way?

Well the most obvious advantage was that I didn’t end up in debt when the album was finished, which is always good! But really my favourite thing about it was the opportunity it gave me to connect with people and involve them in the journey of the album.It gets you thinking of creative ways to keep people updated about the process, so that by the time the album is coming out you already have a good base of people who are very much on board. That’s a lovely feeling.

5. Was there anything unexpected that came about when you were writing The Roaring Girl – were there any tracks that surprised you?

There were definitely songs that surprised me in terms of the direction they took. There were some tracks on the album that I had arranged to a T before booking the studio, whereas with others I decided to loosen my grip and see how they flowed. ‘Shoot the Stars’ is the oldest song on the album – I’d had it for years but could never settle on how I wanted it to develop or what it needed. I wasn’t sure whether it should make the cut at all, but once I got into a flow with the production it really sucked me in and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people have mentioned it as a favourite.

6. You’ve produced tracks for Seachtain na Gaeilge and for Pieta House – do you enjoy producing tracks with other organisations?

As a songwriter, releasing songs for charities that mean something to you is just such a logical and simple way of contributing. I can also be quite relaxed when it comes to the promotional side of things, so having a organisation on board that you want to raise money for is an extra motivation! The challenge of translating songs into Irish for Seachtain na Gaeilge was something I found very satisfying and I hope to do more of that in the future.

“There might be more men in the industry than women, but the ratio is not proportional to the ratio of men to women on lineups. And it’s just not the case that men are making better music than women. It’s getting better, but casual sexism is still rife.”

7. As a musician you have to balance, writing and touring and producing tracks – how do you put it all together?

It is quite a balancing act – and those things you mentioned are only the beginning! For me, a lot of my time is spent working as a musician in various choirs, community groups and healthcare settings. Those may be the things that pay my rent, but they also give me great personal fulfillment. I do always try to keep my writing and practice ticking over though, because I have more to offer to those groups when my creative self is being nourished. In terms of balancing it all, I’m slowly figuring that out. Learning to say no and manage your time is an important skill for any freelancer, but I think that’ll be a lifelong learning curve for me!

8. What challenges to you think are currently facing female artists?

Well there’s still a huge imbalance in lineups at festivals, which I have to admit I’m not great at paying attention to because it’s not high on my priority list. But the problem is that when you bring it up you can be faced with the reaction: ‘Acts should be picked on merit, not gender’. Of course that’s true, but it’s ignoring the fact that if you want to change an existing imbalance you have to address it directly and acknowledge the underlying prejudices that have built up through years of inequality. There might be more men in the industry than women, but the ratio is not proportional to the ratio of men to women on lineups. And it’s just not the case that men are making better music than women. It’s getting better, but casual sexism is still rife. The other day I walked into the guitar section of a music shop and the shopkeeper said to me: ‘Welcome to the man cave.’ I tried to make a joke out of it but he just kept digging a hole, so I left!

9. What would you like to see more of in the music industry?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve just been on a tour with my friend Dani, a fantastic Belfast-based songwriter, and we had lots of conversations about the industry, the need for self-promotion and the hours you can spend playing the social media game. You have to decide for yourself what you want from your career and whether it’s worth that. Being out on tour, doing our own thing and making real connections with people was the best way for us to reinvigorate ourselves and remind ourselves why we do any of it at all. I guess I’d like to see more honesty, and more acknowledgement of the fact that success means different things for different people and we don’t all need to be chasing the same bindle.

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10.What advice would you give to other aspiring musicians?

Carve your own path, keep your mind open and be flexible. When I left school I knew I wanted to make a life out of music but I had no idea what that would look like. The options are endless. Don’t be distracted by what other people think you should be doing. You’ll always have someone saying ‘D’ye know what you should do…?’ They usually mean well, but only you can figure out your own values. For me I got to a point where I’d become totally disillusioned, and I ended up neglecting my own music for a while in favour of community and healthcare work which I found more fulfilling and less narcissistic. But now I’ve come around and found a balance between the two which keeps me both happy and fed. So don’t get too attached to any ideas about how your career should unfold!

11. What do you have lined up next, where can fans find you?

I’ve just finished the tour I mentioned, so I think I’m probably finished with gigging for this year. Christmas is a busy season for choirs and other groups so that’ll be my priority for the time being, but I do have lots of new songs which I’ll be working on in my downtime. Myself and Dani were so delighted with how our tour went that we’ve already started hatching plans for another one next year, so you can find me online to see if we’ll be coming your way!

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The Roaring Girl is available to download on iTunes , Spotify and Bandcamp.

Photographs and album cover by Mark Hill

Author: Méabh McDonnell

As editor of Cinders magazine books, television, comic books and the lack of representation for women in movies that I otherwise enjoy are most of what I talk about. Aside from reading I write, mostly about driving from Galway to Ennis. You can find more of my musings over on Twitter @redridinghood19. Check out Cinders magazine at www.cindersmagazine.com

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