Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

HWCH Q&A: Maria Kelly

Maria Kelly answers some questions about being an Irish musician in 2016

Maria Kelly

Thu, Oct 6, 2016, 09:59


The Hard Working Class Heroes festival and convention kicks off today. Over the last few days, we’ve featured a number of acts talking what it’s like to be in a band in 2016 and here’s what Maria Kelly had to say on the subject. Catch her at Wigwam on Saturday night at 9.10pm

If you were to point an Irish Times reader to the best example of your work, what would it be and why?

“I would say my upcoming single “Stitches”. I just uploaded it to Soundcloud this week, but the way in which it has been received has blown me away, which has been really encouraging. It’s the first song that I’ve written in quite a while that I feel a really strong connection to and one which I think is a strong representation of where my songwriting is headed at the moment.”

Why did you get involved with making music in the first place? Has it lived up to expectations?

“At a young age, online D.I.Y musicians endlessly inspired me. The likes of Kina Grannis, Orla Gartland and Kate McGill were huge inspirations to me in terms of realizing that the do-it-yourself approach is possible. Then around the age of 12, my mum bought me a copy of “Begin To Hope” by Regina Spektor and I fell in love with it – it exposed me to such a particular way of lyric writing and was a major catalyst in my songwriting. From there, I just wrote and wrote, and eventually began performing in TY.

“To be honest, I really didn’t have any big expectations of music in my future. I just enjoyed doing it, so I kept doing it. Even now, I don’t like to expect anything. I just enjoy working from one release to another, trying to improve what I’m doing.”

What was your experience of music at school and in the education system?

I picked up music in 5th year, choosing to study it for my Leaving Cert. It was a very positive experience for me; although I’m pretty sure that listening to “Sea Changes” on repeat for two years has caused some sort of lasting damage (joking!…Well, kind of)!

I loved the fact that 50% of the grade came down to your live performance – it was really encouraging and quite a load off compared to the other paper-heavy subjects. The subject also helped me decide that I definitely wanted to continue studying music at third level and I was lucky enough to be accepted to BIMM Dublin in 2014.”

What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out on this path?

“To really enjoy the live aspect of it all. I started performing in dingy pubs, where it was loud and crowded and where no one was listening. But I was playing with two of my best friends at the time and we had so much fun performing that we didn’t even care about the obnoxiousness of it all. I think it gets a little harder to maintain that mentality as you get older, and there are of course exceptions, but I still try to enjoy whatever gig I play, no matter the quality of the show.”

What advice would you give to other bands or those who want to be in a band or make music?

“I would say to stick at it. I know that sounds obvious, but if you choose music as something you want to do in your life, try to do it everyday. Make time for it everyday. Write everyday. Rehearse as often as you can. I’m still trying to make it an everyday routine in my life, but already I’ve found that the more time I spend at it, the more I want to do it, and then in turn, the progress is more visible.”

Your favourite Irish venue to play and why?

“A dream venue would be the Olympia. I’ve seen some of my favourite acts there like Regina Spektor, Gabrielle Aplin, Matt Corby. It’s such a beautifully built room and the sound is incredible.”

Do you still have to do other stuff to make a living? If so, what stuff? Does this frustrate you?

“I’m a student at the moment, so there’s college to pay for too. I’ve hopped between service jobs to make a little extra money but it doesn’t exactly frustrate me. Of course, to be able to make a living from music is the dream, but for now, while I’m attempting to better myself as a musician, I don’t really mind working a little harder in order to get myself there.”

Who was the last Irish act you saw and where/when?

“I saw Bitch Falcon at Electric Picnic and they blew my mind (but to be fair, they do this every single time I see them play!). Their sound is probably the furthest thing from my own, but I love it so much! Their arrangements, skill and energy on stage make for a really incredible show. I would recommend going to see them as soon as you get the chance.”

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?

“I would say to try and assist with the current attempt to get a higher percentage of Irish music on the radio. There are countless bands in Ireland who really need that support from their own country, and more accessible radio play would be a massive step in the right direction.”

Aside from your upcoming show at HWCH, what else are you working on at present?

“I’m currently working up to the release of my next single “Stitches”, which is coming out on October 7. I have a video coming out at the end of the month, along with some exciting shows – including Repeal It! on October 27 in Foam Café, which aims to raise much needed funds for Repeal Eight, the coalition to repeal the 8th amendment. The Repeal the 8th movement is something I feel incredibly strongly about, so I’m really thrilled to be able to take part and raise awareness through a gig of this kind.”