HWCH Q&A: Ailbhe Reddy
Hard Working Class Heroes act Ailbhe Reddy on being a musician in 2016
We continue our series of Q&As with various acts playing the Hard Working Class Heroes festival, which kicks off next Thursday with three days and nights of musicians making music and people talking about music. Here’s what Ailbhe Reddy has to say about being a musician in 2016. Catch her at the Workman’s Club on Thursday night at 9.50pm
If you were to point an Irish Times reader to the best example of your work, what would it be and why?
“I think I would point people towards the video for my single “Distrust”, because I really love that song and the video, which was directed by Daragh Murphy, is really beautiful. We shot it in an old dye mill which has since been demolished, I think it fits perfectly with the video and song.”
Why did you get involved with making music in the first place? Has it lived up to expectations?
“I used to sing songs I made up to my dog in our back garden when I was a little kid, so I’ve definitely always wanted to write music. I started playing guitar when I was 12 and immediately began to write songs – they were awful, of course! However, I improved as I got older (I hope) and obviously experiencing relationships as I got older gave me the real inspiration I needed to write honestly.
“I never had any concrete expectations when I was writing pop songs in my room as a teenager, so music has actually exceeded my expectations. I never thought that I’d be in a band with brilliant musicians and playing the biggest festivals in the country, so I’m a very happy camper.”
What was your experience of music at school and in the education system?
“I never really took part in choirs or anything, as it wasn’t the kind of music I was into at the time. However, the music teachers were wonderfully supportive; they let us use the music room in school for band practice, which was a really brilliant asset for us at the time, I think that I only realised that when I was in college and using rehearsals spaces around town which were not as lovely, bright and dry as the ones in school. I got my first songwriting confidence boost in my final year of school when I was allowed to write a song for the choir to sing at our graduation. That was huge for me, I had always been really shy so the support I got back then really helped me pursue songwriting later.”
What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out on this path?
“A friend of mine who is in a band I love, The Viking Project, said to me early on ‘decide what you want to sound like and do that, pursue that’. That really stuck with me because once I set my mind on what I wanted to achieve sonically and lyrically, things became more straightforward. Of course that is changing as time goes on, but the advice still stands.
What advice would you give to other bands or those who want to be in a band or make music?
“I think a great piece of advice that I heard at HWCH last year was ‘you only get one chance to be heard for the first time’. I think there is a huge temptation because of the ease of uploading tracks online these days to just put every thought up to be heard. I didn’t consider what I was putting out early on as much as I do now. It was a brilliant piece of advice.
“Also from my own personal perspective, I wish I had started gigging sooner, because once I did I really started to gain confidence. Dublin is a great city for starting out your music career, and people are very supportive, so just take a chance on yourself.”
Your favourite Irish venue to play and why?
“I have a real soft spot for Ruby Sessions in Doyle’s because the crowd are always really attentive. I also love how everyone has to strip back their songs, so all you hear on the night is the song in its most honest form. I think its really interesting to hear and also a really exciting challenge for any of us who are used to playing with a band. Last time I was there, I dropped my guitar and smashed a pint into oblivion though, so I hope they let me return!”
Do you still have to do other stuff to make a living? If so, what stuff? Does this frustrate you?
“I do indeed, I work as an administrative assistant. I’m really lucky that the people I work for are understanding that music comes first and can be flexible when it comes to me taking days off to work on music. It can be extremely stressful juggling both, as music involves a lot of late nights and offices require early mornings.
“If I am honest, I wish I could make a living from music. I think a lot of musicians feel the same. If I was putting this much hard work and love into any other career it would probably be paying off financially a bit more. I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated because I love what music so much, but I would say that I am often very tired. I do have faith that I can eventually make it work though.”
Who was the last Irish act you saw and where/when?
“I saw Rosa Nutty, who is a wonderful singer-songwriter, play Ruby Sessions last week. She dedicated a song called “Fiona’s Daughter” to me, which was delightful as it’s my favourite song of hers. The Irish music scene is brilliant for that, its great to play gigs alongside other musicians that I admire and am friendly with.”
If you’d one piece of advice for Heather Humphries, the minister for arts, about support for Irish music and musicians, what would it be?
“This is kind of like the Leaving Cert Irish question ‘dá mbeinn i mo thaoiseach…’ However, I have an actual answer for this! I think that the standard of music coming out of Ireland is so high and that more funding would keep our brilliant musicians in the country. I know that it is easy to put it down to needing more funding, but unfortunately, that is what we need. Plenty of Irish bands cannot fund their own albums or tours or cannot go abroad for opportunities. It’s a shame that they are being held back by financial constraints. However, that could be said for anyone in any career. I think FMC does a great job at helping out Irish musicians and giving us opportunities, I’m really appreciative of the work that they do for independent musicians, like myself.”
Aside from your upcoming show at HWCH, what else are you working on at present?
“I am currently working on a single with Darragh Nolan (Sacred Animals), which I am hoping to release with a video early next year so I’ve lots to keep me busy”