I was a DJ from the age of 17 onwards, but I stopped when I had my kids, as it made sense for me to avoid late nights. Since then I’ve drifted away from music. Perhaps it was because I needed to take a break from it, as I was shutting the door on a long, lovely period of my life.
But in the past year, while I’ve had the time, I’ve started to listen to music again in earnest. I listened to older artists that I would have played all the time before, but I heard them differently, which was fascinating to me. I also listened to new music – both brand new music and some albums that had passed me by because they came out when I had my kids.
During DJ sets, I would throw in random old-school rock songs if it felt right, and that's reflected in my playlist
My renewed interest in music was timed nicely for A City and A Garden, the outdoor walking audio tour we're doing. Mary Hickson, who does the Sounds from a Safe Harbour Festival in Cork every year,is the person who put it together. With this, you walk in the designated locations and the story guides the way, and then you've got the music, and you're met with visuals along the way too. It's a gorgeous experience, and really innovative.
For our story, Lisa McInerney wrote it, I voiced it, and Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson, who are Fish Go Deep, did the soundtrack. I used to DJ around the time when Greg and Shane were at the height of their powers in Cork, so it's funny that we've come back together with this outdoor theatre piece.
When I was DJing, Jenny Greene from 2FM said to me that I was the love child of Annie Mac and Diplo. I always thought that was quite a good interpretation of the style that I played. But also during DJ sets, I would throw in random old-school rock songs if it felt right, and that's reflected in my playlist.
For some reason, the Talking Heads track Once in a Lifetime became the key song to 2020 for me. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s an odd song. It reminds me of reassessing your life quite frankly, so I used to have that on repeat, and I used to send it to people if they were having a pandemic moment where their head was spinning. I love Talking Heads. They’ve always had a different, fresh perspective on things.
I really like Alicia, which was Alicia Keys’s album that she released last year, and Authors of Forever was one of my favourite tracks. I like her work: it’s sweet. I also found out about Snoh Aalegra last year, and I love the track I Want You Around. When I need to chill out I listen to Upasana by Sam Garrett. His music is inspirational, and it’s completely different from everything else on the list.
Then there’s WAP, by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, which is the funniest tune I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s so ludicrous it made me laugh out loud a lot last year. Can I do the dance? No, I’ll leave that to the professionals.
I've loved returning to music, but I don't think I'll be back behind the decks any time soon
You’ll also find Shiny by Jemaine Clement on the playlist. That’s the song I sing with my kids in the car, and walking up the road – it’s our family song. I loved Jemaine’s comedy band Flight of the Conchords too. I went to see them in Dublin probably about a decade ago, and think they’re so clever and witty. After finding out Jemaine Clement wrote Shiny, I went back and listened to the original Flight of the Conchords album, and it stands the test of time.
Jessie Ware’s voice is beautiful. She released an album, What’s Your Pleasure?, last year, but I was mostly listening to her 2012 album, Devotion. I love Wildest Moments. It reflects that a lot of us felt the need to break free in the last year. That was the premise of Pharrell Williams’s Freedom, another song I’ve chosen. That’s actually off the Despicable Me soundtrack – it’s so apparent I have small kids in the house.
I've loved returning to music, but I don't think I'll be back behind the decks any time soon. Music has been a massive part of my life, and I'm grateful to have DJed through all those years, but I've left it behind now. The late nights are a killer. Sometimes you're coming in at 4am, whereas these days I'm getting up at 6am. I still have all my vinyl, but I'm going to give it to the kids and let them enjoy it instead. – As told to Shilpa Ganatra
A City + A Garden runs in Cork and Dublin from June 11th to 20th