Guest Blog: Nuala Honan

Having just released her latest album Doubt & Reckoning last month, Australian Bristol-based Nuala Honan has been evolving her songwriting over the years from acoustic folk artist to a grittier, more eclectic, sound, whilst losing none of her reflective lyrical storytelling.

A collection of lilting, heartfelt offerings, the new album showcases a soaring, emotion-strewn splendour and the subtle, stirring power of Honan’s rich vocals.

Following the album’s release, Nuala has reflected on the influence of water on her music, and the strong feelings it evokes in her. Read her guest blog below:

FOR A SOUL-SAVING NEW SOUND, JUST ADD WATER

When I was a kid growing up in Australia, I spent a lot of time at the beach. I had so much to love and cherish in life then, but I was also often unhappy. On walks down the beach by myself, once out of earshot, I would shout at the sea. Long, musical wailing, improvising words and melodies about my woes and teenage crushes, writing my first songs. I still shout at the sea when I get the chance.

The landscape where I grew up is big, and flat, and the sky and sea goes on forever. Something about bigness soothes my soul, keeps me grounded, and speaks to me in a way that I speak back and write songs. I honestly can’t think of anything more spiritual to me than water and music, hand in hand. Since moving to England’s South West sixteen years ago, I’ve transferred that love of the ocean to England’s cold, stretching network of rivers and lakes.

In the ’90s, the Eyre Peninsula – my dusty corner of South Australia – had no accessible live music, no DIY or riot grrrl culture, and no internet to seek it out. Gifted an acoustic guitar for my fifteenth birthday, I fell into folk and eventually country. It was satisfying and leant itself to my autobiographical musings. I ended up making a living that way, often playing alone, but after a decade I ended up in a rut. Not just creatively but physically and mentally in my work and self, so I took the step into counselling.

Very quickly my therapy revealed a desire to take a break from my music and the unsustainable DIY artist grind that I’d wound up living, and I applied to be a lifeguard at an outdoor swimming lake, an old flooded quarry in North Bristol.

The most interesting thing I’ve learned working at the lake is the power of being bored (not so bored I get distracted from the task, you are in safe hands!). But I spend hours on end without a phone or the internet, surrounded by trees and wildlife and water, listening. I process ideas for songs, and have the time to repeat and reinforce them. I feel safe to ask myself why I make music, and what I want to communicate. I sing when I think no one’s listening, and I quite literally stared across the lake at the big willow tree for months, planning the photoshoot for my album artwork.

The space and balance the lake brought to my life made room for me to consider themes from my counselling and re-examine my creativity. The track ‘How to Shame You’ from my new album is an ode to my childhood bully. I wrote it consciously, to cast off and free myself from pain I was holding onto. It marked a transition, where I cast aside my old way of writing and weaved myself outside my comfort zone. You can hear the country sound in the verses sweeping into the new belting psychedelic sound in the chorus.

People are often surprised to hear I suffer with self-doubt and anxiety; they only see the confident gig or final version of a song (the studio stage might be the only place in the world I love more than the water!). It took a lot of practice in courage to pull myself, this band, and this album together, and I learned a lot about courage from winter swimming at the lake. Lowering your body into water is totally mad. It takes a mindset of courage and acceptance to get in. The sensation of catching my breath, feeling the blood move to my core, the needles and fizzing on the surface of my skin makes me feel totally alive. Then getting out of the water is a whole other feeling. Because my body is essentially in stress response, all my senses are heightened, I feel a bit like a superhero for two minutes as I stand beside the lake!

I think it’s the same experience making music. It’s terrifying, but it’s courageous and magical and human and even though you’re afraid, you have to do it anyway, and then you feel alive, and you make something beautiful.

Massive thanks to Nuala Honan for sharing her thoughts with us!

Doubt & Reckoning is out now. Listen on Spotify.

Photo Credit: Paul Blakemore

Track Of The Day: Emma Kupa – ‘Nawlins’

Having recently announced her upcoming debut solo album, and following last single ‘Nothing At All’, Emma Kupa has now shared ‘Nawlins’. Already a big fan of her band Mammoth Penguins, I’m no less in love with Kupa’s solo material, and this latest offering showcases why. 

Inspired by a period of travel and meeting new people, ‘Nawlins’ flows with lilting, folk-strewn melodies and Kupa’s distinctive raw vocals. Filled with a reflective, heartfelt lyrical storytelling and effervescent uptempo musicality, it builds with glistening whirring hooks to a stirring slice of perfect indie-pop. Of the track, Emma explains: 

“‘Nawlins’ is a song about a period when I was travelling around a fair bit visiting family for various reasons – a wedding, a elderly relative with cancer (see my song Katie NYC) and I’d end up hanging out with fun people I was put in touch with through friends and family here in the UK. It’s always good to know someone in a new place who can show you round, especially if you’re on your own.”

I just can’t get enough of the sunny yet reflective chiming offerings of Emma Kupa, and truly find everything she creates to be blissfully soothing and subtly uplifting.

‘Nawlins’ also features on Jeanie Finlay’s documentary about Indietracks – aka the loveliest festival in the world. And listening to this song just leaves me longing to sit in the damp grass in Derbyshire, local beer in hand; the sound of owls, steam trains and dreamy indie-pop wafting through the air. Bring on 2021…

Made with the help of Emma’s neighbour Sara (and her dance students), and edited by Darren Hayman, watch the beautifully choreographed new video for ‘Nawlins’ here: 


Listen to ‘Nawlins’ on Spotify now. It Will Come Easier, the debut solo album from Emma Kupa, is out 18th September via Fika Recordings. 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Debbie at Wolf James Photography

Introducing Interview: The Frisbys

Having received praise from the likes of Amazing Radio, Gigwise and For Folk’s Sake, South London folk collective The Frisbys create twinkling, emotion-strewn offerings, oozing a sweeping musicality and celestial splendour.

With a new EP set for release this week, we caught up with Nicola Frisby from the band to find out more…

Hi, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about The Frisbys? 
Hi! We are an alternative folk/country band from South London. Our band consists of myself (Helen – vocals, flute), my twin sister Nicola (vocals – guitar), my husband Sam Keer (electric guitar) and three of our friends from university/college – Sal Palekar (piano and violin), Will Cattermole  (bass) and Tom Finigan (dums). We will be releasing our third EP, My Wicked Mind this week and we’re looking forward to hopefully playing live again as soon as we possibly can!  

How did you initially all get together and start creating music?
Although Nicola and I have been writing music together since we were teenagers, our line up as a band has changed massively over the last few years. When Nicola and I started creating music, we were an acoustic duo playing locally around South London with just harmonies, guitar and a flute. Gradually as the years have gone by, we’ve recruited some amazing musicians who also happen to be some of our best friends. Every member of our band is a friend that we’ve met through studying music at college or university. The most wonderful thing is that making music together has helped to reunite us again and I know that both Nicola and I feel incredibly lucky for that.

Your new EP My Wicked Mind is out on Friday – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the EP?
The title of My Wicked Mind stems from the idea that the human mind is just bonkers. I suppose I just find it strange how the mind can create such wonder and beauty, whilst at the same time be capable of causing so much anxiety and suffering. I wouldn’t say that this EP is thematic in its concept, but it is a collection of songs that explore both the inner turmoil and the resolute strength of the human mind. So, for example, the songs ‘I Heard’ and ‘Print’ are almost opposite viewpoints based on the same theme. ‘I Heard’ is a fighting song about pushing through even when everyone is telling you what you are trying to achieve is impossible, whereas ‘Print’ highlights the insecurity that lies beneath. Even if you believe in yourself and the path you’ve chosen, it can be very hard not to let those doubts overwhelm you. Everybody wants to be accepted. 

You’ve been compared to the likes of First Aid Kit and The Lumineers, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Unsurprisingly, Nicola and I have very similar musical influences. Our early days listening to my mum’s Simon and Garfunkel records or my brother’s Nirvana collection has meant that we have a pretty varied taste in music; which would maybe explain why our music can be so hard to fit into one genre. We like everything. As individuals, we all have quite different musical tastes. I recently asked the band to compile some of their favourite artists for a Spotify playlist and it was pretty amazing how diverse some of the artists were. Nonetheless,  there are always points where our influences cross. I would say that, collectively, we are inspired by artists such as Carole King, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles. 

How is your local music scene (in ‘normal’ times!)? Do you go to see lots of live music?
I actually moved very recently and so Covid has prevented me from getting out and about and testing out the local music scene, but before that we gigged a lot in the Croydon and South London area. Some of our very first gigs were gigging in South Croydon and we have a real soft spot for it in our hearts. What we’ve noticed as the years have gone by is that more and more of the venues that we used to play in have closed down and so now it can be quite difficult to find a venue that has a capacity for a band of our size. The good news is that there are some local musicians and venues who are constantly fighting this and putting on some excellent nights of music. I adore seeing live music and I try to see as much of it as I can. I prefer more intimate gigs to big arenas as I sometimes feel a little stifled by the environment. I need to move around and hate being restricted to a seat! One of the best gigs I’ve been to recently was watching Skunk Anansie in Brighton. The energy they created was just incredible and Skin’s stage presence is second to none.

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
I think our aim as a band is to make you feel something. Tom (our drummer) has a particular talent for creating set-lists and he always puts a lot of thought into making the set into a bit of a journey. We definitely don’t just have one style that we sit with, we try to mix it up. I love the fact that we can build the crowd’s energy with songs like our recent single ‘I Heard’, only to drop them back down again and make them almost silent with songs like ‘Give in to the Dark’. As horrible as it sounds, I quite like it when people tell me we made them cry! For me it means that we connected with them.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
One of my favourite bands I have found over the last few years is an American band called Joseph. They are a band of three sisters who create the most incredible live sound I’ve ever heard. Other upcoming bands we’d recommend are Theo Katzman (a multi-instrumentalist from California) and FlagTwister, John Lovell, Scott McFarnon, Chloe Ray and Dave Sears who are all local musicians we love to listen to.

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I think there are lots of really wonderful opportunities for new bands at the moments. For example, anyone can submit their music to be played on BBC Introducing and there are some fantastic blogs (like yourself) who are out there promoting new music. More affordable music software has meant that it is cheaper for people to create music themselves which is so wonderful, but it does mean that the music industry is very over-saturated. Most bands now realise that they can make music without record companies funding them and so that has meant that it is a much more level playing field. I think it has meant that bands have to work harder to get their music heard and maybe they have to be more creative about how they promote their music, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing!

Finally, what does the rest of 2020 have in store for The Frisbys?
We recorded a live lock-down version of our new single, ‘I Heard’, in May and we are currently in the process of creating some more videos for our fans. We were hoping to be playing an EP release party this year and some festivals, but who knows what will be happening on the ‘live’ music front. Hopefully, we will find a way of playing an ‘online’ gig to help celebrate the release, so fingers crossed we can make something happen!

Massive thanks to Helen for answering our questions!

 

My Wicked Mind, the upcoming EP from The Frisbys, is out this Friday 26th June.

LISTEN: Siân Alexander – ‘Blizz’

Having previously charmed our ears as vocalist of Gold Baby, songwriter Siân Alexander has now shared her first solo material. In the spring of 2018 Siân tied an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, a suitcase and a flute to a folding trolley and made the long commute by tube, train, ferry and bus from London to County Wicklow in Ireland to write an album. And she has now shared the first single from the album.

Oozing a blissful, melancholic aura, ‘Blizz’ flows with twinkling melodies alongside Siân’s luscious smooth vocals. With a shimmering emotion and folk-strewn musicality, it’s a beautiful, contemplative ballad with a gritty edge; a simply spellbinding, goosebump-inducing, introduction to this solo collection.

Listen to ‘Blizz’ here:

 

Siân has committed to producing and releasing one song from the solo album each month. ‘Blizz’ will be followed by ‘Henry’ on the 18th of June, with all ten tracks due to be released before the year is out.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: @zeashanashraf