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.’

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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.