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

Guest Blog: Lazy Queen

Having received acclaim from the likes of Wonderland and Nylon, Oslo-based Lazy Queen have recently caught our ears’ attention with the hooky surf-rock energy and jangly scuzz of latest single ‘Sober’. Reflecting on the complex nature of addition, it explores the ongoing struggle of sobriety in an addictive personality.

Having struggled with displacement throughout their life, Lazy Queen front-person Henrik has now moved from the US to Oslo, and is starting to feel in a better place. As a Non-Binary artist, they are a huge advocate of supporting the LGBTQ+ creative community and have performed at local Pride events a number of times.

Here, in our latest Guest Blog feature, Henrik reflects on their journey to self acceptance through music… 

I’ve been asked to write about my journey to self-acceptance through music, but I’m finding it increasingly hard to get anything down on this page. It feels similar to being at the hairdresser, having no choice but to stare at yourself in the mirror for an hour straight, and all of a sudden everything just looks.. odd, out of place and not like you. I honestly think it would be hard to write an article about how I achieved being comfortable with myself, because I still don’t know if that’s something I can claim to be. I don’t think I’d be far off in saying that I experience at least a moment of some shade of self hatred every day, but it’s got better, and along the way I’ve come to realise that for me it’s as much about the work as the end point. And obviously, writing and creating in Lazy Queen and other projects has been a major part of the process. 

Music has always been my form of expression in some way or another. My notebook is where I process my thoughts, feelings and impressions; in the rehearsal space, or in the tour van is where I get to be close, open and honest with my closest friends/family; and the stage is where I get to fully express myself in ways I’m not always able to in real life. For having been a fairly private and closed off person for most my life, I find it endlessly confusing and amusing that I now often end up airing out personal insights, struggles and developments in songs to be heard by, for the most part, strangers, before I actually open up about it to the people around me. My process has always been to internalise, but music showed me that there was an alternative, where the end-point isn’t necessarily completely closed off and isolated. 

Growing up, I used to envy people who could unashamed – confidently and eloquently expressing their inner thoughts and ideas at any given time, feeling like I would never be able to do that; I felt like I lacked something very integral to relationships. Now, with a bit more life experience, and a somewhat more nuanced view of people in general, I realise that I’ll probably never get to that same space, that that’s totally fine, and also that maybe those people weren’t quite as straightforward  as they might’ve seemed at the time. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, in the way that I thought it did.

Writing and performing has given me a safe space to process, and a door to open when I was ready for it, and it’s a practice that has slowly followed me into my everyday life. I’ve always been an introspective and shielded person, and at the same time pretty invested in picking apart my own thoughts and patterns – though it took me hitting some major lows before I did anything about it. After a brush with death a couple of years ago I started to realise that I absolutely needed to open myself up more, also outside of the music. I think I’ve come a long way since then, but it’s still still far from easy. I feel like I fuck up every other day, and on those days I feel like a fucking hypocrite trying to write things like this.

I was talking to my friend Chloe (our tour manager) the other day, and she said something to the effect of: you’re at the same time one of the most open and closed off people I know. I’m not sure what to do with that, but it sure feels like the shoe fits. I don’t hold the answers, but if anything, I believe honesty, openness and an attitude of “fuck the taboos” have saved my life.

Massive thanks to Henrik for sharing his thoughts with us! 

Lazy Queen’s latest single ‘Sober‘ is out now.

Photo Credit: Lukka Fogie

Guest Blog: Deux Furieuses

Covid 19 and the necessary restrictions surrounding it have brought about a number of cancellations of music events, including what would have been Get In Her Ears’ very first festival. Taking place tomorrow, Saturday 18th July, it was set to be a pretty special day, filled with some of our favourite female and non binary artists. Fingers crossed we can finally make it happen next year…

One of the bands set to play was post-punk duo Deux Furieuses. Having previously blown us away live at The Finsbury with their explosive gritty energy and raw emotion, they’ve become firm favourites of ours over the last few years and we were really looking forward to hosting them once again.

In the absence of our festival, and any gigs, at the moment, Ros from the band has written a poignant guest blog for us about changing priorities in the current situation, and the importance of having a quiet space to write. Have a read, and be reminded of the duo’s incredible power with the video for ‘Let It Burn’ at the end of the article!

A Room Of One’s Own… 

Deux Furieuses should have been playing Get In Her Ears Festival tomorrow. Instead, I have moved to the countryside in search of a place to breath and make music without thumps and texts from the flat above every time I strum my guitar.

I am writing this at night in a gatehouse lodge cottage designed in 1869 by Quaker architect Alfred Waterhouse, who also built the National History Museum and the red brick universities, for abolitionist MP Thomas Foxwell Buxton. I wonder who else has lived here over the past 150 years and what troubles they knew.

The neighbours on one side are a black and white horse in a field and a rabbit who munches grass outside the kitchen window every evening at the same time. There are red kites and buzzards swooping over head, nettles everywhere and a space where a shed used to be before it blew away. I can hear the sound of the London train which makes me smile every time it blows its horn, calling me back to London to rehearse with Vas.

Deux Furieuses were working on third album material before Covid 19, London lockdown and the death of someone close upended everything. It was Vas who found this cottage when I said I had to live some other way. No time in our living memory has been this uncertain. We have to do what we can to survive. For me it’s about being free to write music and having a ‘room of one’s own’. We intend to start demoing our third album as soon as I am settled.

Get In Her Ears’ first festival would have been a joyous celebration of female and non binary talent and is another missed gathering of our tribe. Playing live to an audience is a fading memory but we have to find our collective way back.

Guest Blog: LibraLibra

Covid 19 and the necessary restrictions surrounding it have brought about a number of cancellations of music events, including what would have been Get In Her Ears’ very first festival. Taking place tomorrow, Saturday 18th July, it was set to be a pretty special day, filled with some of our favourite female and non binary artists. Fingers crossed we can finally make it happen next year…

One of the bands set to play was Brighton’s LibraLibra. Creating immense, energy-fuelled cacophonies with a gritty magnetism, they’ve become firm favourites of ours over the last few years, having blown us away at our gig at The Finsbury last December with their seething, riotous charisma.

In the absence of the festival, and any gigs, at the moment, LibraLibra front-woman Beth Cannon has shared an insightful guest blog for us, as well as an epic playlist… Have a read, listen and then be sure to watch the video for the band’s incredible new single ‘Lonely Girl’ at the bottom of this article!

The realities of being a woman in a band in your early 30s… 

Yes, I’m 32 and wish I could say I was confident and proud of it, yet most days I’m not. I’m an insecure wreck seconding guessing every move I make. Sorry I’m not starting with an emboldened, empowering statement, but in what I do at the level I’m at there is no glamour; there may be a thread of security (my band & my manager), but also a whole world of fear. 

Firstly, you can’t be in a band and not work, unless you have lucked out and struck a deal, but even then most deals don’t amount to much. So, you are essentially working two full time jobs – one you hate and one you love; the love bit is great, but the reality is you’re in a 9-5 most days questioning your whole existence. This isn’t news, this isn’t an eye opener, it’s our reality. And it’s ok to hold your hands up and burn out sometimes. It happens to me a lot: I think this living two lives, this parallel universe shift, tugs at our mental health more so than we care to admit. It’s exhausting, it’s anxiety driven, I cry almost every other day. 

So, why the fuck do I do this? Because I fucking love it so much. That’s the sad truth; I’m addicted to music. It’s in my head 24/7 – melodies, orchestras, choirs, jingles, it’s never ending. The only way I can truly be silent in my head is being on stage. It’s the most terrifying experience, but also the most exhilarating – I go from throwing up backstage to forgetting my name and my existence within 3 minutes of being on that stage. So, what I’m trying to say in my usual long-winded way (I’m dyslexic, so being concise and structured is not happening!) is we do this because of love and love alone, and that burning raging passion that is flooding our veins. And that’s not OTT for any musician, anyone with a passion will feel it, and there’s almost no words, there is a silent understanding deep within. I won’t stop, I can’t stop, stopping is not an option. No matter how many times I have that daily meltdown –  I should be earning x amount, I should be settling down, it’s time to give up the dream you’re far too old. Who’s to say I’m too old? 

My main tip on how to get through this? Don’t listen to the mainstream media whose voice has been instilled in us since birth. Make it your mantra – fuck the media. Go with your gut, your instinct and your truth. If you can manage to hold on to it even on the darkest of days, you’ve got it and perseverance is key. Maybe I could have been something much younger than I am now, but I was severely mentally unwell: I had PTSD from experiences in my teens that I wish to forget but I was running for a long time, and in turn getting myself into even worse situations. So, why can’t my time be now, at a time in my life where I’m ready to look after myself, I’m ready to acknowledge the bad and embrace the good in me? Why do we place timelines on women? It’s wrong. There isn’t a shelf for us to retire too, we should be loud, proud and beautiful at any age. Hold on to your fire, to anyone having a day of doubts and despair: hold it, embrace it and then tell it to fuck off, don’t let the negative voices win. And that is the only advice I can give, ride this motherfucking mighty wave and go against the curve.

This playlist is called ‘No Humps’; it gets me going, it gets me inspired, it gets my blood pumping, the lows, the highs, the technical thrills that I can only hope to achieve… It’s full of badass artists that have given me hope along the way. 

 

LibraLibra’s upcoming EP Hail Mary is out 14th August. Watch the new video for the band’s latest single ‘Lonely Girl’ and download/stream here: