Ciaran Lavery, Not Nearly Dark
As he prepares to release his debut album, the singer-songwriter discusses going solo after six years rocking with Captain Kennedy
For those unaware of your music, where would they find your forthcoming debut album, Not Nearly Dark, in the record store?
Record stores aren't what they used to be, which is sad really. When I go into a record store now I usually have to trawl through a sea of DVDs and games to get to the music. In my heart I'd love to see my album somewhere between The Low Anthem and Townes Van Zandt, but in reality it's likely to be shoved between some PS3 game and a Blu-Ray of The Notebook.
Tell us about your development as an artist.
I cut my teeth on the music scene with seven-piece alt-folk band Captain Kennedy. We had many great times and were lucky enough to meet a lot of great people and bands during our six-year trip. The transition from being involved in a big band set up to writing and performing as a solo artist was initially something I found a bit strange, but I've grown into it over time. It suits my introverted style as a person.
You were 'born and rared' near Lough Neagh. How did growing up in a small village shape you as an artist?
I love living in Aghagallon. No matter where I go it's always going to be my home. I think people expect singer-songwriters to live in these remote little cabins out in the woods. That all comes with the musical style, or repertoire. I don't live in a shack miles from civilisation, but if a village with a few shops and one main road in and out is seen as remote, then I'm guilty.
You're release your debut album, Not Nearly Dark in March. How long did you work on it?
The album was recorded over two weekends in Start Together Studio in Belfast, and at producer Barrett Lahey's home. It was an easy process. I put that down to Barrett and the musicians I was lucky enough to work with. Those boys came in cold and within two hours we were making huge dents in the work. I owe them everything.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
I consciously don't listen to the album that often, but if I had to pick one I would maybe go for 'American'. It was the one song before we recorded that I thought in my head had the potential to sound really beautiful and fragile at the same time.
My writing style has always been based around my curious nature about everyday happenings and the human condition. I'm fascinated by people, how they react to certain situations, where they're going. I like forming background stories in my head.
There is a paired-down production on the album. Is it the same when you perform live?
I put a lot of time into planning the album, and I was very aware that any instrument that I had at my disposal I wanted to have the space to shine through. With the songs laid down very bare, there are no real hiding places. I basically present my songs as straight as I can for people to hear. "Here it is, take whatever you want from this."
I always appreciated albums that were to the point, with minimum frills so the message doesn't get lost or diluted in the process. And I like the feeling to be the same on the record as it is live. I'm working with a band at the minute on the live shows, and though arrangements won't be exactly the same, I hope the ideal will.
Is it lonely as a solo artist?
No, not at all. If anything I'm more likely to meet new people as a solo artist, which is ironic. I don't know whether it's because I'm more approachable and accessible than I would be standing with a band of people, but it's a very friendly environment. The drive to some gigs or venues, however, is a different story altogether.
What is it like being a part of the Northern Irish music scene at present?
Personally, I think that music is in a good place right now in Northern Ireland. There are so many bold and new sounds coming through all the time, and it's a pity that some of these great bands and sounds may never get the exposure that they rightfully deserve. We're all in it together, and that's comforting. But for such a small place, there's a lot of great music and musicians here for sure.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
2013 is going to be a busy year. I'm readying Not Nearly Dark for release, and I'm working out a number of shows all over the country alongside some great musicians to promote it. Right now, that's all I can really do. Generally if I can get my music to good people and have an effect on them then I'm more than happy.
Ciaran Lavery launches Not Nearly Dark in the Black Box in Belfast on March 3, 2013, with the digital release to follow.