One to watch: Rising Irish troubadour Ciaran Lavery chats to independent.ie about his big plans for 2014
Hailing from the tiny village of Aghagallon in Co Antrim, alt-folk troubadour Ciaran has used the isolated homeland as his inspiration.
In his celebrated debut album Not Nearly Dark, he channels the quiet despair of isolation into timeless songs of beauty and heartache.
Following the critical success of his EPs - You Will Be a Stranger Now and The Maker of Things - the former Captain Kennedy frontman has come into his own as a solo artist.
His music has been described as an amalgamation of Bon Iver, Tom Waits and Ray Lamontagne.
Lavery has also recently released a download only covers EP 'Other People Wrote These' to critical acclaim.
This year promises yet another original release from the prolific songwriter. We caught up with the busy songwriter in a rare, quiet moment.
What is your career highlight so far?
I've been lucky enough to play some great venues up and down the country and I toured the UK in the last year alongside some brilliant artists so it's difficult to pick out my definitive highlight. But the release of my debut album last year was a major moment for me and I guess a real step up in my career. I do feel though, that the next upcoming release will be the biggest thing for me
Any crazy 'rockstar' moments (tv out the window)? Any stories from your time in the industry?
Shamefully no, I wish I was in a touring rock band when I get asked something like this. I have driven the length and breadth of Wales in one sitting on tour, but both of my hands were too busy to get a tv out the window.
What are your plans for this year?
I am putting the finishing touches to some new recordings so that has been at the front of my mind this year. It's been a really cool process compared to the album I released last year plus I'm co-producing this time which has been great and more hands on than I have ever been before.
I will have some live shows announced on my website very soon - I hope this year to be a busy time for me and my music. I released 'Not Nearly Dark' in March of last year which was a nice experience. It's always a nervous time putting out into the ether something that's consumed the majority of your time, it almost becomes like a child and in a way the releasing part is like sending the kid out in the world and saying "now go enjoy yourself."
The album was recorded by producer Barrett Lahey and for the most part it was experimenting in the 'less is more' theory.
We were very meticulous about letting the song breathe and we used space as an additional instrument. People seemed to really get it, especially those in the music world who I look up to - I was very pleased that I was getting these people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed the album. That in itself was a real treat.
The other thing is getting strangers to buy my album or write to me and tell me how they like it, it's still such a great thing to hear and it lets me know I'm doing my job right in some ways
What do you have different than what's out there at the moment?
It's hard for me to compare myself to anyone, I can only speak for and about myself. A lot of the music I listen to isn't from this decade. I guess I like to take risks, I enjoy experimenting with sounds. It's common to get pigeon-holed as a singer/songwriter or folk artist because I play a wooden guitar but I prefer to keep myself moving.
After I recorded 'Not Nearly Dark' I went in and recorded some of my own versions of 80s songs that I like. It was nice to break away from what might have been 'expected' of me and I really enjoyed reworking songs like 'All Night Long' and 'Psycho Killer' just because it would be fun. T
his next recording is another step in a different direction for me sonically. I find it interesting to change things up and I've always admired artists like Beck and Tom Waits who do. I'm also a fan of hip hop so some of the sounds in this upcoming recording leans towards that influence, not that I will be free-styling or 'dropping rhymes'.
How important has Aghagallon been in terms of providing inspiration?
Home is a massive influence on my music and I'm very proud of both where I come from and where I spent my time growing up. Aghagallon is a very small village, ever expanding, but everyone knows everyone and I think that's a rare thing. The local town Lurgan is a real hotbed of local music and I have a lot of close life-long friends there so I'm lucky to have that support network.
Gigging has expanded my family so to speak and I now have a lot of close friends I have met through music. It's great being able to call up to the north coast or down to Kerry and feel just as at home.
Listen to his song 'Left For America' performed on Balcony TV Dublin below
For more of Ciaran, you can find him here: