Editor Mary is in Toronto for CMW 2016 this week.
Ongoing coverage of the event will be on our Twitter and on the site this way.
SXSW 2016 | 2015
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My very last interview of SXSW 2016 was also one of the most memorable conversations I had during the week in Austin. Up-and-coming alt rocker Barns Courtney played a blinding set on the NME in association with UK Trade & Investment showcase at the British Music Embassy, and afterward I spirited him off into the alley outside for a chat. As it turned out, his fast and furious pace on the stage was matched by a quick wit and a ready sense of humour after the spotlights were off.
Courtney’s American accent rather took me by surprise, and when I asked him about it, he explained that he’s a British citizen, though he spent most of his youth in Seattle before moving back to England. His career is currently based in London, but he cited an eclectic mix of musical influences, including the White Stripes and Kanye West. That conversation led to discussion of Courtney’s own music, which he describes (very accurately, in my opinion) as “raw” and “percussive”.
Courtney’s early tracks ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter and Gold’ have already gained traction on both sides of the pond, and he has tentative plans to record an album in the near future, having signed with Virgin EMI in the UK and Capitol Records in North America. He hopes to put out some new music in the EP format ahead of the full album, and I must admit that it struck me as funny that he described the EP approach as “old-fashioned”, but the success of his early individual tracks is nothing if not a testament to how quickly a single song can take flight in the digital music age.
SXSW was only the beginning of Courtney’s American tour, and he played an exhausting 10 shows during the week in Austin. Be sure to listen through to the end of the interview clip, where he describes losing his voice at one point, but miraculously managing to bring it back to life. Barns Courtney has a lengthy list of UK dates on the horizon; you can find details of those on his official Facebook.
Thanks to Jason for his assistance with setting up this interview.
Fresh-faced singer/songwriter Holly Macve played an intimate show at the Hilton Austin’s Liberty Tavern around dinnertime on the Saturday evening of SXSW 2016 after most of the day shows had ended but before the official night showcases were set to begin. Macve’s solo performance made the small Liberty Tavern stage look quite large, but her delicate vocals and exquisite songwriting quickly filled the space and captured the attention of everyone in attendance.
After Macve’s set was finished, I had the opportunity to sit down with her for a brief interview to follow up on our earlier Bands to Watch preview. I quickly discovered that Macve is as soft-spoken in person as she is on stage, as she related the Cinderella story of her signing to Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union Records last summer, as well as plans for her upcoming debut album, for which she has received funding from the PRS for Music Foundation.
Though she currently resides in Brighton, Macve’s family roots are in Ireland and she was brought up primarily in the north of England. She mentioned the country and folk music influences imparted to her by her parents, and how the authenticity of those songs translates into her own music. We also discussed some of the songs she performed at Liberty Tavern on the night, in particular a cover of classic country tune ‘Crazy’, made famous by Patsy Cline, and her own song ‘Sycamore Tree’, which she recorded for NPR’s South X Lullaby series.
Macve talked with me about having the opportunity to perform in several other unique places during her time in America, including the 35 Denton Festival in north Texas and Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion on the stormy Friday night of SXSW 2016. Following SXSW, Macve will play at Canadian Music Week in Toronto and at Brighton’s The Great Escape in May. Her first headline show in the UK will take place on the 9th of June at St. Pancras Old Church in London. A full list of Macve’s upcoming live dates can be found on her official Web site.
Thanks to Brid, Abbey, and Simon for their help coordinating this interview.
Saturday was our last full day in Austin for SXSW 2016, and my day started off with a visit to the SPIN Magazine party at Brazos Hall, for an interview with American singer/songwriter Lissie. I recently reviewed Lissie’s third album ‘My Wild West’, and I was eager to ask her about it, especially after hearing her play a few of the songs live on the SPIN showcase. Our conversation centered around the writing and recording process for ‘My Wild West’, which chronicled Lissie’s evolution as a songwriter during her 12 years living in Southern California, but which also inspired her to make some major life changes, both professionally and personally. After leaving her previous major record label, she chose to release this album independently (via Thirty Tigers and Cooking Vinyl), which she feels is, artistically, a better fit for her at this point. On the personal side of things, Lissie has also left the Los Angeles area behind and relocated to Iowa, where she’s purchased a farm not far from her childhood home in Illinois.
Unfortunately, the last couple of minutes of our interview are missing from the audio clip above, due to a technical glitch (read: user error) with my digital recorder. To fill you in on what’s missing from the audio, I rounded off the chat by asking Lissie about her plans for touring after SXSW and what might be next for her following the album cycle for ‘My Wild West’. She said that for now she’s focusing on ‘My Wild West’ and hasn’t made definite plans for anything beyond what’s already scheduled, though she didn’t rule out the possibility of more touring if the opportunity presents itself.
However, she also mentioned wanting to spend some time getting herself properly settled in Iowa, as well as possibly taking on a couple of more ambitious potential projects: creating studio space in a renovated barn on her property and buying more land in an attempt to start a beekeeping operation. When I asked her how interested fans might keep tabs on her wide variety of activities, she mentioned that she’s a regular Instagram user, so if you want more information on how Lissie is staying busy, have a look at her Instagram feed.
Many thanks to Hayley for graciously coordinating this interview.
Stay tuned to TGTF for a full review of my Saturday activities at SXSW 2016, coming soon.
Scottish hard rock quartet Holy Esque marked their fourth consecutive appearance at SXSW this year, despite the fact that Creative Scotland didn’t sponsor an official showcase at SXSW 2016. I was excited to hear them play on the Friday night TuneCore showcase at Vulcan Gas Company, though as it turned out the stormy early evening weather (which editor Mary has already noted in her Friday night review) created complications for everyone involved. Holy Esque themselves were late arriving to the venue, as rain and slow traffic in downtown Austin had delayed their arrival. I had arrived in plenty of time myself, but I quickly found that Vulcan Gas Company wasn’t going to be an easy place to conduct an interview. There was no quiet corner to duck into, and the large crowd in attendance on the night were noisy with anticipation for acts later on the docket, including the night’s headliner Wyclef Jean.
In the end, when I did manage to meet up with the band and make introductions, we were left with no option but to step outside into the alley behind the club for our interview. Once outside, we had to dodge cars and golf carts driving through the alley, and at one point the ever vigilant security staff nearly locked us out, which would have been a problem as Holy Esque were very close to going on stage. In spite of all the confusion, the four band members were gracious enough to give a very brief interview highlighting their reasons for returning to Austin year after year, as well as making a brief mention of their heavy-hitting debut album ‘At Hope’s Ravine’, which was released at the end of February via Beyond the Frequency and Believe Recordings.
Thanks to Matt for coordinating this interview.
Keep an eye on TGTF for my review of Holy Esque’s performance at Vulcan Gas Company, along with my other Friday night activities, which will post soon. In the meantime, you can see a few sneak preview photos from their set just below.
By the Friday of SXSW 2016, as the hectic week was drawing to a close, my mind started to get a bit overwhelmed with the wide variety of music and musicians I was taking in. Near the end of Friday afternoon’s Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, I had the chance to interview a band I’d missed at SXSW 2014, Dublin garage pop act September Girls, but by that point, my memory was a bit foggy about when they’d previously appeared in Austin. Luckily, band members Paula Cullen (bass) and Sarah Grimes (drums) were able to set me straight in fairly short order when we stepped outside the pub for a quick chat in the middle of the Irish festivities.
September Girls’ appearance at SXSW 2014 had taken place shortly after the release of their first LP ‘Cursing the Sea’, and they made the long trek to Austin again this year ahead of their new album ‘Age of Indignation’, which is due out on the 8th of April via Fortuna POP! The band made the most of their time in Texas this year, often playing two or even three shows per day, as well as a handful of shows in Southern California before and after SXSW. While they didn’t have a lot of free time to spend on leisure activities in Austin, the five ladies in the band did manage to squeeze in one particularly memorable experience between gigs—have a listen to the audio stream below to find out about the “souvenirs” they obtained.
September Girls will play a list of headline dates in Ireland and the UK beginning on the 15th of April and extending through the middle of May, in support of their new album ‘Age of Indignation’. You can find a list of their upcoming live dates here on their official Facebook. Keep an eye on TGTF for a review of ‘Age of Indignation’ in the coming days.
Header photo: Gemma Doherty (on harp) and Morgan MacIntyre of Saint Sister
It’s still very early going for Irish alt-folk duo act Saint Sister, comprising Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty, who only formed officially in November 2014. Their unique sound has been very appropriately dubbed “atmosfolk”: a combination of traditional Celtic harp and 1960s folk, draped in a gossamer sheen of atmospheric synths and underpinned by electronic rhythms and drum beats. MacIntyre and Doherty first came to the attention of Music From Ireland when they played the Hard Working Class Heroes festival in 2015, which eventually led to their showcasing appearance at SXSW 2016.
I had the pleasure of hearing Saint Sister play during Friday afternoon’s Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, and at the end of the festivities, I spirited them off outside for a quick interview. We began our chat with unanimous praise for the ladies’ compatriot Irish act Rusangano Family, who played the final slot on the showcase that afternoon and ended the show on a euphoric high. (Stay tuned to TGTF for more coverage of all the acts on Friday’s Full Irish Breakfast in the coming days!)
The discussion quickly turned to other bands MacIntyre and Doherty had seen or wanted to see during their time in Austin, which were, coincidentally, mostly fellow female artists. On a tangentially-related note, they also related a mildly shocking interaction they’d had with a SXSW punter earlier in the week—have a listen to the interview below to find out what transpired.
Saint Sister’s first EP ‘Madrid’ was released in November 2015, and they hope to release more new music soon. They plan to spend this summer touring in Ireland and the UK, including both festivals and a pair of UK headline dates in May. You can find details of Saint Sister’s live appearances on their official Facebook. The video for their latest track ‘Blood Moon’ is featured just below.
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