Bronagh Gallagher, Natural Born Storyteller
One of Derry~Londonderry's most well-known faces continues to surprise with her soulful voice
Bronagh Gallagher has been catching up on her shut-eye. Sleep was something in short supply when the Derry~Londonderry singer was touring her new, eponymous album around Ireland earlier this year. Not that Gallagher is complaining. She loved every minute of being back on the road with her band of musicians.
'I was getting to bed every night at 4am and then singing again the following night,' she says in a quickly-snatched phone-call. 'Running the whole ship myself meant I had to get up early every day. There's so much to do promoting the album, but thank God, the feedback so far has been fantastic.
'We played gigs in Cork, Galway and Limerick and we got a great response. This album has been a real labour of love for me so I want to work it 24/7. I want to saturate the place with it, make sure I cover all corners.'
And while there's always time for a bit of rock and roll bad behaviour here and there, Gallagher is adamant that, in order to get the best out of any tour, a safety first, health conscious regime must be developed and adhered to – most of the time, at least.
'I'm getting to do what I love with a great band of people, and I also do yoga, which is brilliant. I've been doing it for 10 years now, fairly intensively for the past five. Physically, it's a great help, but mentally, it gets me through things.'
As we chat, Gallagher explains that she likes to surround herself with people she knows and loves. 'My god-child (Jordan Buckspan), is one of my backing singers. Her mum Shelley, who is a great friend of mine from New York, is one of my backing singers too. It's a real family affair.'
As well as the Buckspans' contribution, Gallagher also collaborated with her keyboardist cousin, Caolan McLaughlin, on some of the songwriting for this second album. Her brother Paul designed her website, while her sister Louise looks after her social networking sites.
'I couldn't do without all their help,' Bronagh admits. 'It's great to have their support. There's no better way of doing things. You know who you're dealing with.'
Following the release of her Meteor-nominated debut album Precious Soul eight years ago, Gallagher is back with a beautifully crafted, soulful offering. Her new album is 'deeply personal', says the fast-talking Derry woman, interweaving stories of past experiences of life and love.
'I'm incredibly proud of my first album,' Gallagher says. 'It sold over 3,000 copies in Ireland, which is great for an independent release. And it continued to sell on iTunes after that. But I think my new one is a stronger and better album. It's soulful and summery and very uplifting, the type of album you can blare in your car.'
The tunes are heavily influenced by the music Gallagher grew up listening to – namely, blues and soul – and the album pays homage to the great producers of the 1960s and early 70s, the likes of Phil Spector and Shadow Morton. Gallagher is thrilled when I tell her I hear hints of The Chiffons and Shangri-Las. 'You're talking my language girl,' she laughs.
A naturally gifted storyteller, Gallagher describes her second album as a 'jigsaw' of tales, both her own and other people's. 'Basically, it's me telling people about my life and the people who have been in it over the past eight years,' she explains. 'But there are other people's experiences in there too, things that I have witnessed or that have been told to me.
'What I've done is take all these stories and turn them into love songs. It's an album I'd like to think many women can relate to, though in saying that, it's not merely a woman's album. For me, it's more an album of redemption, of loss and of healing. It's about finding yourself in a place where you've maybe lost someone you loved but you realise how lucky you were to have known them and how lucky we all are to be here.'
Despite the eight-year gap between albums, Gallagher was hardly resting on her laurels. An accomplished stage and screen actress, the star of such movies as The Commitments, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Sherlock Holmes was busying herself with television and theatrical roles.
As well as guest appearances in television shows like The Bill, Holby City and more recently Pramface, Gallagher also toured with Theatre de Complicite for six years, on and off, and starred in the National Theatre's West End production of War Horse. Her experience of Hollywood was 'exciting', and something she will always cherish as an artist.
'Acting is my other passion,' gushes Gallagher. 'I particularly love theatre, with the interaction you have with the audience. It's like playing gigs, I love the buzz you get from a live show. Nothing beats that.
'I was thrilled to be involved with Pulp Fiction and Star Wars, especially Pulp Fiction. I met some great people on that. But the thing with doing movies is that it's someone else's work. That's why I'm so excited about my album. When it's your own work, you get a greater sense of fulfilment, I think.'
Speaking of summer, Gallagher's schedule is already shaping up to be pretty hectic over the next few months. She plans to tour Ireland again, before taking to the road around England. And she'll be performing at the Westport Festival on June 24. She has also lined up a few acting projects, though she's not at liberty to reveal what they are just yet. 'One is a television drama and one is a television movie, that's all I can tell you for now.'
But the one film she regrets not accepting a part in is the biopic of her good friend, Terri Hooley, Good Vibrations, which premièred in Belfast earlier this month (June 2012). Gallagher was offered a role but work commitments elsewhere forced her to decline.
'Do you know, if it wasn't for Terri Hooley,' she concludes, cheerily, 'I probably wouldn't be making music now. When I was 15 I used to take the bus up to Belfast every other Saturday and pop into Good Vibrations to buy old blues records by Muddy Waters. Listening to those records got me into music, so I have a lot to thank him for.'
Bronagh Gallagher is out now on Salty Dog Records.