The Charlotte Interview: Ciaran Lavery

by Charlotte Jakobsen
Photo Credit: Colum Coyle

Cambridge Folk Festival Special

This week Ceol Colletive talked to the talented young singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery who will be playing at Cambridge Folk Festival and Glastonbury this summer.

Hi Ciaran, Congratulations on the Hot Press Magazine “Big Break Winner” Award. 
Looks like 2015 will be an amazing year for you.
How was the Big Break Live Show in Dublin last week?

Thanks a million. It was a real blast. I've never been in the spotlight like that before so it really strange, especially with the photos of my face everywhere. But it was cool. I really didn't expect to win the competition in the first place.
I just entered out of curiosity to be honest and then the next thing I was on the front cover of Hot Press. It's a bit crazy

For people who do not know your music, can you tell us about yourself and your music?

My name is Ciaran Lavery, songwriter & singer from Aghagallon. Star sign - Cancer. Birthday - July.
My music has over 14 million streams on Spotify. I was named as Zane Lowe's last ever 'Big Hype' before he left Radio 1 & my music has been playlisted on Amazing Radio. I have shared the stage with Villagers,
Emily Barker, Stu Larsen & The Lost Brothers within the last year. I also really like dogs.

You come from a tiny town in Co. Amagh in Northern Ireland. 
Do you find that has had a big influence on you as an artist and your song-writing?

I think it's hard not to be influenced by my surroundings. I love living here. I've just recently settled here & hope that my family can grow here.
I have a lot of fond memories of living in Aghagallon. All my fathers' family are from here, have always been & in many ways it's just an extension of me. There's not much to it, it's certainly not huge but it's home.

You started writing your own music at the age of 17 but before that you played in different bands and were influenced by American music. Can you say more about that?

Who isn't influenced by America? Even in school we learned about American history, most of the movies/tv we watched growing up was American based & music was no exception. Before I wrote I listened to a lot of American hip-hop, growing up in a time when Eminem exploded onto the scene. I was also drawn into punk rock through Green Day, No FX, Blink 182 etc.
I think it was all a part of growing up. Influential people like Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan all caught my eye/ears in those formidable teen years.
It wasn't just American music alone that influenced me then but it was certainly a strong reference. When I was writing music for Captain Kennedy I was listening to a lot of Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, people like that. Looking back now I guess it took me a while to find my own voice, to be able to talk about my own personal experiences that have shaped my own music now

Your songs are very personal, passionate and often full of heartbreak and despair. Do you find it difficult to share these highly personal feelings and memories with others?

I don't think so. It took me to grow up & be able to be comfortable about opening up over things, being able to share them with people who hear the music. I don't find my songs as despairing as some people might think (haha), but I am real interested in what people take from them & I guess in a weird way once I put a song out there to people, the song belongs to them & not to me

You once said that you always admired artists who didnt have a filter on their lyrical content but never thought you would be brave enough. 
Do you find yourself more brave these days or is there still a filter on your lyrics?

I don't try to overthink lyrics these days, what comes out naturally for me is probably the best & most honest I can be. Either way I don't try to force it. But for sure, I have a lot of love for people who keep the filter off. There's not too many who do & I've still a lot to learn in that regard

Your earlier songs seemed more sombre than the songs on your newest solo album “Kosher” from 2014. Was it a conscious decision to make more up- beat brighter songs?

Absolutely. At some stage you have to want to dance. I think if I released the same tempo records again & again I would bore myself & wouldn't fault anyone for finding my music a total snore. There's so much of my feelings of not wanting to be pigeon-holed or have my music hemned into one specific genre that drives those changes in tempo & general recording. I want to take risks. It seems to be working

In April you and Ryan Vail released the new album “Sea Legs”. How did the collaboration come about? 
Can you tell us about the album and in what way it is different from your previous work?

Working with Ryan was a dream. I guess, as mentioned before, it was all borne from that desire to take risks. I had the idea kicking about in my head for quite a while but the timing was always off. I spent a while listening to Ryan's music & took a chance by contacting him on Twitter,
I just basically threw the idea at him. We managed to be playing at the same festival around a month later & had more of a chat about the idea of recording.
From there, I got to writing & sending demos onto Ryan. The whole process was seriously quick. To be honest I was surprised by how people took to the album.
In my head I thought Sea Legs was just going to be something for us two & that if people liked what they heard then that would be a bonus, but it ended up really turning a few heads, so that was super cool.

You are playing Cambridge Folk Festival for the first time in July. How do you feel about playing there?

I've heard so much about the Cambridge Folk Festival & the huge names who've played there over the years like Bert Jansch & Paul Simon.
It's practically an institution, so I'm obviously honoured to be asked to play at this years festival, especially alongside names like Joan Baez & Frank Turner as well as my good friends The Emerald Armada.

What can we expect to hear at Cambridge Folk Festival and your Ireland tour in August?

I'll be doing a lot of solo shows this year including the Irish Tour & Cambridge. I've recently recorded some new material & I've also some brand new stuff I'm going to be trialling on the road. I guess bar that you can expect some really bad jokes, awkward silences & me in my suit

What else is on the cards for your this year? This is a really busy year for me. I have Glastonbury coming up really soon and a full Summer of festivals taking me up to Autumn time.
I have the Irish tour in there, a UK tour booked for October along with some dates in Switzerland & a tour of Germany in November time.