Unquiet Giant – interview with Emma Langford


Limerick based singer-songwriter, Emma Langford is sweeping through the Irish music scene. With almost non-stop touring, she is one of the most uplifting artists gracing our stages right now. We spoke to Emma about her musical background, the pressures and joys of touring, anxiety and inspiration.

How did you get into music initially? Did you take music classes? 

No, I had none of the discipline to do music outside of school. My parents tried to put me into violin lessons when I was very young and I have really distinct memories of being put at the back of the group at the Christmas performance and being just told to mime! I had no discipline at all as a child. I was always going to be an artist, I was going to draw. I grew up with that as my ambition, with my parents both as artists. I was drawing all of the time in school. I only started into music in a serious way in my teens. I started song writing and a sort of vague attempt at playing guitar. But I still didn’t start pursuing lessons seriously until about three years ago. 

So you were mostly self-taught? 

Yes, I was, entirely. I actually developed vocal nodules when I was twelve because of poor technique, singing. 

I was singing all of the time, I was like a Disney princess, you couldn’t stop me! But I had really poor technique and I was a teenager and I thought I was doing everything right! But because of that I had to quit singing for about two years. 

I wasn’t allowed to sing around the house, around my friends. In my teens I started going to vocal therapy, just to bring back my speaking voice. It was around then that I started to consider the idea of singing as a career. 

Your sound is incredibly unique, you have a wonderful blend of influences and genres – was that a conscious decision? 

I grew up listening to The Beatles, the house was full of a lot of different sounds. So I was never drawn to anything in particular. 

I just filtered elements of different sounds that were around me at the time. I think being a singer songwriter, you have the freedom to do that, which is great. 

With your album, The Quiet Giant, what was the process that went into creating that? 

The Quiet Giant is kind of a culmination of the work of five or six years. When I started working on it, I hadn’t been expecting to be producing an album! I had been writing for years and I had produced an EP in 2016, which was a crowdfunded project. And then 2017 rolled around and I was offered a tour in Germany but it was contingent on my producing an album and a music video. So I had about six months to do that. So the songs that are on the album span from when I started writing to the year I produced the album. The backing and the arrangements all kept them on the same page in terms of tone, but A Quiet Giant is actually one of the first songs I ever wrote, so it’s kind of nostalgic for me. 


It was nice to allow the album to celebrate that process of just starting songwriting to being a songwriter. 

You’re currently touring at the moment? 

Yes! Sometimes it feels like it never stops! I am touring in Germany and Switzerland in July and in August I’m touring for a week in Denmark! In October I’m hoping to take a break for a little while, hopefully work on some new music, learn some new instruments and go to songwriting seminars hopefully! At the moment I’m really enjoying touring, it’s really good fun, but you do need a break from it sometimes, I’ve learned. 

It must be a lot of pressure constantly going from place to place? 

It can be, but I’m really lucky, I’m living with my parents in Limerick, that’s where I’m based, so I’ve got a really nice place to come back to, to reset and de-compress. But at the same time, when you’re touring so consistently, you are always on and just keeping your energy up all of the time both for the gigs and for promoting them can be draining. It’s probably more mentally draining than physically draining. When your brain is always ‘on’ that takes a lot out of you. 

It was nice to allow the album to celebrate that process of just starting songwriting to being a songwriter. 

I suppose the upside is getting to perform in front of different crowds and getting to meet all kinds of people at your shows? 

You never know who’s going to be in the audience, and you never know what opportunities are going to occur as a result of a particular gig. You might do a gig that you don’t think went great, but someone will be in the audience and they will have heard something that they really like and they might invite you to go somewhere else. Those kind of knock-on opportunities are great. For the last few months I’ve been touring with Sara Ryan (who was also featured in Cinders) the two of us have been hanging out and learning from each other and learning from each other’s sounds. There is so much opportunity for growth and learning when you’re working with another musician. I think I’ve learned a lot from Sara about kindness and patience and giving of yourself which is great. With touring itself its really special to be able to share your songs and your stories with totally new people. That’s really special.

What would you say your process is when you’re writing a new song? 

Most often I don’t really know that I’m dealing with something until I write a song about it. Like a good Irish person I have a tendency to push all of my worries and concerns into a little ball and not deal with it. I just let them condense until it becomes unbearable.

Most often I don’t really know that I’m dealing with something until I write a song about it.

 Until it becomes a song. in terms of a writing process, it’s different every time, depending on what I’m working on. I could wake up in the morning with a melody in my head that I dreamt up and then I start working on that. I could be walking down the street, and see a person stopped at a traffic light and that becomes a melody. The nice thing about song writing is that you get to channel the world around you and show people life through your eyes. Once you’re telling your personal story in a way that only you can do, it’s very important. 

With that in mind, songs of yours like Tug O’ War are very powerful with its message of anxiety and how that can affect you? 

Most of my songs take a bit of time to write, but when I wrote Tug o’ War, it just poured out of me. It had all really compounded, that anxiety, that stress and that panic. I had allowed it to build up that when it came to writing the song, it just flowed out. A lot of the time when you’re songwriting you have a tendency to second guess every word, every sentence, but sometimes you have to just let it happen and the most obvious way of saying something, can be the best way of saying it. You’re just saying exactly how you feel about something and I think that’s what made Tug o’ War such a relatable song for lots of people. The last thing that someone with anxiety needs is a song they have to deconstruct to understand. I just wanted to get the message out there, that I was feeling this and a lot of people feel this and that people aren’t alone with it. 

There’s a lovely gospel flavour to Tug o’ War, was that intentional when you were writing it? 

It was a combination of things really. One of my tutors in college was Kathleen Turner, who is a gorgeous songwriter, and she is incredible. She would have thought me Gospel in college (I did the BA in Voice and Dance in UL) and we had the opportunity to take gospel lessons, which was really cool. She always has been a real role model for me in music and she writes a lot of gospel music. On top of that I had just been supporting Ben Caplan who is a  brilliant Canadian musician and he also has a very gospel flavour to his music. So between listening to the two of them I think it really evoked something in me that I wanted to communicate. I felt that that gospel vibe was the best way to express what I was feeling and that it would be ‘healing’ for the listener. I feel like gospel music as a really healing element to it. It just seemed like the perfect genre to tell that story through. 

And alternatively some of your other songs have a strong trad influence, like Closed Book? 

That was totally accidental in a way! I didn’t grow up with trad at all, although I love it. I didn’t grow up with it so it didn’t have too much of an influence on my writing but somehow it sort of permeated through! Maybe it’s in my bones or something!

Shane Horan_Emma Langford6

 I adore the sounds and I’ve let it take over a lot of my songs, and the next album is actually headed even further in that direction. It’s really nice to be able to represent in the Irish tradition in some way when I travel with my music! 

What is the best advice you’ve gotten in your career as a musician?

Well one, it’s a little clichéd and cheesy but my mum always says that old quote, ‘To thine own self be true’. In any moment of doubt in secondary school, I’d come home mimicking something that someone else said, and my Mum would always say, ‘that’s not you, to thine own self be true. To hold on to that sense of yourself, and that’s found its way into my music as well. That’s really helped. And I don’t remember where I heard it, but just make work happen. Just do it. Whether it’s successful, or whether you’re going to continue with it, just write the song, learn the scales. Come up with guitar riffs, just keep working, keep constantly creating and eventually something will come of it. I think most musicians will tell each other that. Just keep creating work. That’s always been very good advice that I often for get to follow for myself but will always give to someone else, you know the way!

Diamond in the Rough – An interview with Aine Cahill

Rising star of the Irish music industry Áine Cahill is about to hit it big. Her new single, Blood Diamonds, is blowing up the airwaves and her tour has seen her perform with the likes of Kodaline and  JP Cooper. Having been named on multiple ‘ones to watch’ and ‘best newcomer’ lists, Aine Cahill is definitely someone to keep two eyes on in 2018. Méabh McDonnell spoke to her about her music, writing, and hopes for the future

There aren’t many people who would go up on stage and declare ‘I’m the biggest bitch in the world’ but Áine Cahill is not your average person. Of course she’s telling the story of the  girl in her single, ‘Blood Diamonds’ when she says it, but still, it takes guts.

Originally from Cavan, Áine wasn’t someone who considered music as a profession when she was young. ‘When I was younger I was really into sport, I was like a tomboy, and then when I was about 15 or 16, I was sitting in the kitchen, just listening to music and it was a performance that Lady Gaga did on the radio. She was just accompanied by piano, and I listened to it and said, “ I want to play the piano,” and then it just went on from there. I just started to focus on music, when I was 18 I started writing songs, and that was where I began.’

Having never gone for music lessons, you might have thought music was something daunting for Áine but she just jumped right in. ‘I didn’t even study music in school, it’s weird, I just found it, or it found me, I suppose you could say.’

‘I taught myself how to play piano from YouTube and singing, well that just came out of no where, I suppose it came from doing covers of my favorite songs. All of the Lady Gaga songs, I used to cover them, and sing them everywhere, that’s kind of where I learned to sing.’

From humble beginnings, Áine pursued music and kept going when she figured out this was her dream, ‘At the beginning when I first started I was really nervous, really nervous, but I just had to get out there and do it.  It comes with the territory, I suppose, you have to get out there and do it, if you want to perform.’

I didn’t even study music in school, it’s weird, I just found it, or it found me, I suppose you could say.

The last two years have seen all of that hard work pay off with Áne catapulting into the Irish and UK music scene, even getting BBC coverage at Glastonbury. ‘It’s crazy, I suppose the big turning point was when I played Glastonbury, that was a shift in my whole career. It just put me in front of a lot of people. To be honest I had no idea it would be like that when it was happening. Because you do so many things and get nothing from it, but this really blew up, it was crazy. We were just doing a normal set in a small tent at Glastonbury and the BBC just kind of stumbled across the tent and asked us to do Black Dahlia.’

Having done big name festivals such as Glastonbury and Electric Picnic and huge stadiums like the 3 Arena, Áine has experienced a multitude of venues, we wondered if she had a favorite among them? ‘I don’t know, because every gig is different. If I had to choose, I think I’d say the 3 Arena, because it’s so big and you get to perform to so many people, but then you have places like The Grand Social and that was where I played my first sold-out headline show, to 200 and that’s so intimate that you get to really connect with everyone. So it’s two different types of gigs really. I love all of them.’

Áine’s gigs are full of striking, powerful atmosphere, which is reflected in the quality of her music. Áine takes her inspiration from other female artists who use storytelling in their atmospheric lyriccs, ‘My biggest inspiration are Lady Gaga, Lana de Rey and Marina and the Diamonds, I think if I ever stumbled across team in real life I’d die!’

This inspiration is clear in Áine’s music which tells her own unique stories. . She tells the stories of unusual women. From Black Dahlia, which tells the story of a Hollywood murder in the 50s to Blood Diamonds, where she assumes the personality of a cold-hearted woman, ‘the biggest bitch in the world’. The lyrics stick in your mind. ‘When I first started writing all of my songs were like that [story based]. When I started developing my songwriting on my own I just realized that all of my songs were built around the story. Storytelling is a big part of my writing. I want people to listen to it and be able to picture themselves in the situation. To see it in their heads.’

Blood Diamonds is full of meaty lyrics, with powerful images. Áine talked about the inspiration behind this song, ‘Blood Diamonds is about just that, blood diamonds, that people are in Africa, risking their lives to get these diamonds over to people over here. That’s what it was based on, something that I see as one of the greediest industries in the world. And I wrote the song about that, it’s about greed and people with the mindset that material things are more important than people, so I’m just playing the role of a bitch, I’m not a bitch though!’

When I started developing my songwriting on my own I just realized that all of my songs were built around the story.

In the latest release of Blood Diamonds, Áine collaborated with Courage, who remastered the song and gave it, in Aine’s words, ‘A new lease of life, it’s still my song, but he brought something new to it. It was completely different experience and was really cool for me.’

Áine’s storytelling lyrics are so refreshing when compared to most hits and new music that is released week on week, and tells another love story. There’s something wonderfully different about that. She has a unique perspective, telling interesting, intricate tales. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever written a love song,’ said Aine. ‘I’m going to be doing a lot of writing over the next few weeks and then I’m hoping to put an album together in the new year, fingers crossed.’


The Irish music industry is booming at the moment and seems to be in a really good place right now. ‘Ireland is full of huge, huge talent, and even talent that hasn’t been discovered yet, haven’t been put on the radio yet. It’s really cool to be in such a thriving environment at the moment. There’s so much music and talent coming out now, it’s mad, we’re such a small country and yet we have so much to offer.’

It would be great to get more of a spotlight on female artists.

However, even for an industry that’s doing so well, we would always like to see some groups get more recognition, ‘I think it would be really cool to see more female artists, to hear more female artists on the radio, and get more press. It would be great to get more of a spotlight on female artists. There are a lot of male artists in Ireland that are huge and well done to them. But it would be nice to see some more female artists getting out there as much as the male ones,’ said Áine.

Music is a hard road to go down, but one that is filled with so many passionate and talented people. ‘If I was giving advice to people I’d say my golden rule would be having a good manager that you can trust and someone who is going to send you in the right direction is a really good thing to have but I think first and foremost you should write your own songs. It’s really important to write your own material.’

Áine’s music is going from strength to strength right now, and if things continue in this way then Aine is sure to go along with her heroes and inspire many girls to write interesting, lyrical songs of their own.

Follow Áine Cahill on Facebook or Twitter to find out where you can see her live.

Images photographed by Alex Douglas at The Roundhouse, London.

Beautiful release – An interview with musician Sara Ryan

Musician Sara Ryan is the next big thing in folk music. Here, she talks to Cinders about her musical background, being named new folk artist of the year and her plans for the future.

What was your first foray into music?

I grew up in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and growing up, the town was full of music. Every day of the week I had something musical I was involved in, between playing guitar in a trad group, my singing group, choirs, even dancing, just to name a few. But my favorite of all was my singing lessons with Lorraine Nolan my singing teacher, she is the most inspiring woman and she always believed in me. My family were much the same, they always encouraged me to write and to sing. I always had an urge in me to write too, whenever I have ever had anything going on I would right it down, it was such a release, and it continues to be, it really is my salvation to be honest. I knew I loved singing, I feel it’s the reason I’m on this planet, but when I realized I could combine the both of them, through songwriting, sure, jaysus I was delighted!  As I grew older I moved home a few times and one of the places I moved to was Stratford on Slaney, Co. Wicklow.

It was there that I threw myself even more into songwriting and started gigging with bands and solo too. This was so exciting at the beginning and it continues to be as I keep gigging away. I just love to perform.

What artists inspired you growing up? 

It varies a lot, I have always loved folk, blues and soul, artists such as Joni Mitchell, Eva Cassidy, Florence and the Machine, Lisa Hannigan, Melody Gardot, Erykah Badu of course, Lianne La Havas and Cathy Davey. I adore Luka Bloom, Christy Moore and Damien Dempsey’s music and songwriting. They write about today’s Ireland and the Ireland of the past, this has always moved me a great deal, as I feel the struggles of our realities is what makes brilliant songs, it’s the pain that draws you in, and the freedom within that. I was mad for bands like The Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian in my teens, I was attracted to how free their melodies were and the raw and powerful sound of band. I also have always found deep house and techno quite meditative.

Your sound is very distinctive and old world, what process went into discovering what your signature sound would be? 

I used to rack my brains trying to figure out what my sound was, it used to drive me mad, but I found that when I stopped looking and I just focused on singing and being comfortable with what that sounded like that made it a bit easier. The sound unfolds more naturally then when I let the song do the talking. I also am so grateful to have worked with outstanding musicians – Kealan Kenny, Fionn O’Neill, Brian Dunlea, Martin Atkinson, Alison Ronayne and an amazing producer (Christian Best) when recording this EP, “Glitter Skies”, in Monique Studios, Cork, and each person added so many beautiful elements to each song too. It was a really creative experience and I found that having each of their input was an integral part of moulding the sound too.

What was it like being named new folk artist of the year?

It really was such an honor and so surreal. It was an amazing feeling to have worked really really hard and then to receive such wonderful recognition just blew me away. It was a great confidence boost. The whole night was brilliant, and to be on the same line-up as artists who have inspired me a lot was an experience I’ll always treasure.

What are your ambitions for your music going forward? 

I love traveling around and playing in different places with new audiences, and bringing my band with me is such a bonus, we have such good craic and it’s deadly playing my tunes, that really mean so much to me, with people who like playing the songs too, that still blows my mind a bit – that people like my songs! So yeah, I’d just like to keep doing that, keep traveling around singing in different places, sharing my music. I would love to play in Europe and America and even further afield too. My main thing is that I want to connect with people through my songs. It’s my souls purpose and I’m just loving all of it so far.

What kind of stories do you want to tell with your music?

I just write about my own life experiences, different challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve dealt with them. I often write from a place where I haven’t dealt with them yet, and that, as I’ve said before is a beautiful release, it’s very healing. I write about real life things and people that I’ve seen, and my encounters with them. Through songwriting I just try to share that, there is beauty in pain. The struggles I’ve faced, that we all face, are far from glamorous but they too can be seen as beautiful.

Euphoric Recall has a haunting melody that makes me think of film noir – what was the inspiration behind the song?

Thank you so much, that’s such a gorgeous compliment and image. I wrote this song a good while ago, the phrase “Euphoric Recall” refers to glamourising memories, it’s a state of mind where the mind plays tricks on you. It’s like when you look back on a time in your life that wasn’t so great but you trick yourself into thinking it was actually fine, to avoid the truth. That sorta thing. Very uplifting altogether haha!

If you were giving advice to any other young ambitious musicians what would it be?

I don’t want to sound pure cheese-y or preachy saying this, so I’m sorry in advance if I do, but I really would say, trust in your dream, everyday, regardless of what anyone thinks about it, if you feel in your heart that it’s right and if you feel that that’s your truth then believe in it and do everything you can to make it happen. If there are people around you who believe in you, stick with them and they will lift you up. Those who don’t believe in you and your dream, don’t give them an ounce of your time, that’s what will make your dream a reality. I wish I would have done that myself when I was younger, I cared so much what people thought and it really is so time consuming! It’s such a human thing to do though it’s  so normal, but try to not let people who care more than they should into your head. What others think of you is none of your business. What matters is what you think of you, as humans we have more strength than we realise. And most if all, just enjoy it, music is such a wonderful gift to have.

Sara’s EP Glitter Skies is out now on iTunes and Spotify.

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!

Continue reading Dream Child: An interview with Irish Musician Sive

New year, new volume of Cinders

Welcome to volume two! This last year has been one of the best experiences all of us who work on Cinders have ever had. It has been so wonderful to watch this magazine become a reality, moving on from a dream that many of us have shared for many years. It gives us so much pleasure to take our little magazine that could from its first issues into our second year.

We’ve had some incredible highlights from issue one, from interviews with the likes of Ashely Clements, Mary Kate Wiles, Deirdre Sullivan, Meg Grehan, Karen Vaughan and Diana Mirza to looking at feminist influences in pop culture. We’ve looked at some of our favorite tv shows, brilliant movies and incredible historical figures with all around feminist and entertaining writer, Grainne Coyne! We also were lucky enough to be finalists in the V by Very Blog awards Ireland in the books and literature category and shortlisted in the Politics category!

Continue reading New year, new volume of Cinders