THE next few months are busy and exciting…
when it comes to Gráinne Duffy’s music. I speak to the Irish singer-songwriter about her love of the Blues and how music has infused her soul and heart – and when it first came into her life. She talks to me about the latest track, Where I Belong - and the album of the same name. Duffy talks about her home in County Monaghan and how, she feels, she has developed as an artist in the past couple of years.
I ask which three albums are most important to her; the inspiration behind Where I Belong and a few of the new artists everyone should include in their regular rotation.
Hi, Gráinne. How are you? How has your week been?
Very good thank you! All-go!
Getting new strings on and sorted for some festival shows in Norway and Ireland.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure. I’m an Irish singer and guitarist (from Ireland) - and I play a mix of Blues, Soul and Rock-styled music; mostly self-penned.
Where I Belong is your new single. What is the story behind the song?
Well. I think, in a time of world disharmony; it is a cry for some peace and calm in the midst of so much talk of terror. We have a beautiful planet around us and we should be grateful every day the sun comes up - and goes back down on it.
It is a song (kind of) about taking a moment to enjoy the harmony of nature.
It boasts a raw and instant vocal. How hard do you have to work to keep your voice that bracing and powerful? Do you have a regime preserving the voice?
Well. I do some warm-up before my gigs.
I try to sing at least an hour a day - but it is usually more as I love singing, anyway! I think it is just the natural inflection of my voice to be husky, but I did grow up in a family of nine - so I had to learn to shout to get heard!
That helped too.
Is there going to be a new E.P. or album towards the end of the year?
We are releasing the album, also titled Where I Belong, later this year. I am very excited and proud of this album.
Keep your ears peeled for the release date…..
Do you remember when music arrived in your life? What is your first memory of music?
My dad always loved Country music and he had lots of records of country artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson; Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton – so, I had a good education of music that way. Then, my sister dated a drummer and they used to listen to music all-day-long like Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones...that is when I fell in love with music.
We had no T.V. at home and so we had to get records for Christmas presents - and we loved getting the records no-one else had. I started listening to more R’n’B, Soul and Blues then, in my teens, after hearing Peter Green’s Need your Love So Bad.
That was it for me, really: the love affair began.
Did you grow up in a very musical family? How important was your parents’ tastes with regards your own music?
No. Not a musical family, but my mother always encouraged us to do what we loved - so my sisters and I had a band and used to gig every weekend.
I also sang in my local choir growing up - and that was my first introduction to singing solo. My sister’s band was my first experience in live performance in a band setting, with an electric guitar, an amp; singing all my favourite songs in a live setting - and it felt great.
It seems Blues plays an important role. Are the legends like B.B. King instrumental and what is it about the genre that appeals to you?
Yes, of course.
Blues and B.B. King are so important to me and the history of the Blues. It is the raw emotional power of the Blues: the way in which a few notes in a Blues melody or on the guitar can be so emotionally powerful.
I love that honesty.
You were raised in County Monaghan and live in Ireland. What is the music scene like where you are and is it quite easy getting gigs and bringing your music to a range of different audiences?
Well. We are very lucky to have a great history of show bands in Co. Monaghan - so there was a history of music here and the live gig scene has always been a good one, thankfully. Thin Lizzy played in my local town, which is a small one….
There is also a really good Blues festival, Harvest Time Blues Festival, in September and that really was so pivotal for me - as it was a local festival for the Blues and it brought in great artists from all over the world, to my doorstep. It was host to Van Morrison and Peter Green (to name but a few).
Gigs were always a drive-away but, luckily, my family owned a garage growing up - so we had a van and the wheels to get around very quickly.
Last year, you recorded with Justin Stanley and Adam Ayan. Between them, they have worked with some of the biggest musicians ever. What was that experience like and what did you learn from them
It was truly amazing as an experience for me.
They are both true professionals and so creative and inspirational to work with. We wrote along with Justin while in the studio on L.A. That was really fun and exciting as we had never done that before. He really knows how to draw the best from you - in terms of writing and performing in a very relaxed way, which I loved.
Adam, also, was great to work with as he has so much experience in mastering and knew exactly the sound we were looking for on the record.
Overall; it was a very special and rewarding experience, for sure.
Over the years; you have released two popular albums and performed around the world. How would you say you’ve developed as an artist and what has been your fondest memory from your time in music?
Yes. I have had some really amazing experience so far and have been so lucky with where my music has brought me - from Asia to The North Pole; sharing stages with some of my heroes - including Billy Gibbons, John Mayall; Sinead O’Connor, Keb’ Mo’ and many others.
One of my fondest memories was playing three days at Glastonbury - as it is such a special event in music and to be part of it was really amazing.
But, every day brings a new discovery in music; writing a new song; meeting a new musician; getting inspired by a new song…..
Can you reveal the tour dates coming up and where we can see you play?
Alongside our general tour dates - in Norway, Denmark; Romania and a tour in Germany - we are doing our album release in September, in Ireland - playing 20th Sept. (The Sugar Club, Dublin); 21st Sept. (The Black Box, Belfast) and 22nd Sept. (The Spirit Store, Dundalk); 19th Oct. (Nells, London) and, on 20th Oct., we will be playing Under the Apple Tree Session for Bob Harris.
All very exciting for us...
IN THIS PHOTO: Relish
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would it be and why?
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
All the songs are perfect: the recording is perfect and the performances are superb. Timeless!
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
A modern-day masterpiece: amazing-sounding album, great feel - and Amy’s vocals and delivery are perfect.
The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St.
Again…a perfect album. Great songs and guitar-playing, singing; playing on all songs, throughout. It encapsulates a moment in time.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Work hard, believe in yourself: respect people working hard with and for you…and have fun.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Thank you ;-)
Follow Gráinne Duffy