Aoife Woodlock: A woman with perfect voice control

How does Other Voices music producer Aoife Woodlock get such a great line-up in Dingle, Co Kerry, every year? “I don’t have any challenges when it comes to calibre and quality,” she says

 

There is no reason to doubt that Aoife Woodlock, Other Voices music producer, is (as someone once told her) “prolific in the art of persuasion . . .”. For almost 10 years, Woodlock has been at the heart of Other Voices, the organic, Dingle-based, culturally aware music event that gallops into its 12th year next weekend. Her job, she says, is to “source the acts, liaise with the acts, programme the acts”.

Her life in music started in a Dublin mixed-discipline cultural centre located in the Ormond Building at a time when Glen Hansard didn’t have an arse in his trousers. From there, she went on to manage, for the best part of 10 years, the Temple Bar Music Centre (now the Button Factory).

Shortly after leaving TBMC in 2004 – and whilst also managing Irish band Turn – Woodlock received a call from Philip King (then chairperson of the TBMC board, and overseer of Other Voices, the first series of which had started broadcasting on RTÉ television in 2003). The nature of the call? “To put a few ideas on the table, to look at international acts, to travel to festivals. It was a natural progression – when I was at TBMC, Philip was my guy for the music, my ally.”

Nine years later, Woodlock (who is also a consultant with UK’s Redlodge Agency, which oversees, among other things, the Jack Daniel’s Music Projects) remains at the core of Other Voices. Indeed, some would argue that she is one of the main reasons for its success as a particularly credible and diverse music event.

What began as an admirable showcase for Irish singer-songwriter talent has morphed – through Woodlock’s intuition and tenacity – into a mixture of international arena bands (Snow Patrol, The xx, The National, Elbow), left-of-centre folks (Jarvis Cocker, Brett Anderson, John Grant, Billy Bragg, Ryan Adams) and a host of Irish acts (from Villagers and Lisa Hannigan to Jape and James Vincent McMorrow). “Making it bigger, more diverse, adding more genres,” says Woodlock. “That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Describing herself as “the person in the river with a sieve looking for the gem, the piece of gold” – you sense that she stubbornly chases the acts she believes in – she can wade through hundreds of gigs before she finds an act that she instinctively knows will work for Other Voices. It was at this year’s Great Escape event in Brighton that she nabbed Josef Salvat who may prove to be the surprise hit at next weekend’s event. “I had seen 15 bands that day, and I just knew he was what I was looking for.”

Which is exactly what? “The instinctive feeling that the music will translate to the audience in the church, to the viewer and to someone listening online. It’s more than a musician or an act being talented, it’s having that special something. Over the years we’ve been on it in terms of having the ‘firsts’ with international bands, but especially with Irish bands, and we really pride ourselves on that.”

Booking an act involves striking while the iron is hot. You don’t wait until you’re back home in front of your computer, warns Woodlock – you find your act and approach them directly after the show. That’s all well and good for relatively unknown acts such as Salvat, but what about the bigger bands such as Elbow, Snow Patrol and The National, all of whom have come to Other Voices over the past seven years?

“You may know members of particular bands,” says Woodlock, “but when they’re an international act and have a record label, a manager, a publisher and an agent, you have to go down the right route. The majority of people I deal with are management, and management will always loop in the record label.”

Other Voices is independent, I’m an independent consultant, and we have always had to be self-sufficient and source the artists in whatever way comes. If that’s by me initially saying to someone that I’m a friend of a friend who put me in touch, and can you link me in with the decision-maker, then fine.”

Inevitably problems arise, for example finding they are not dealing with bona-fide decision-makers, and six weeks after initial contact realising that the real yes-people have, in the meantime, decided to do something else. Industry-related issues, too, can make for sleepless nights. These mostly centre on strict budgets and restrictions imposed by some record labels – not only in terms of their artists taking part but also fineprint agreement on the use of online content. “For certain artists and certain labels,” says Woodlock, with the preciseness of someone extracting a tiny splinter from a baby’s finger, “it has become a challenge to come to Other Voices.”

No matter. As far as Woodlock and the core OV team are concerned, it matters little whether an act or a band has an album out, is recording an album, is in the middle of a promo campaign, or has just had a number one.

“It’s about the music,” she affirms. “The musicians, their songs – and that means you can do what you do without any external pressure. I don’t have any challenges when it comes to calibre and quality; for me it’s about taking kd lang over Katy Perry. Why? Because that’s what we do.”


Other Voices
takes place in Dingle, Co Kerry, from Friday, December 6th, to Sunday, December 8th. For more, see othervoices.ie