Cathy Jordan is best known for being part of hit band Dervish but next month sees her strike out on her own with her solo debut album All The Way Home.
I caught up with Cathy to talk about the new record, how she felt recording is as a solo artist and what lies ahead.
- You are about to release you debut solo album All The Way Home so what can we expect from this new record?
Well it’s a look back at my childhood through song, I grew up in household that was a singing household; my mother and father sang and my brothers and sister all song and I had a repertoire at the age of three.
These are the songs that I learnt growing up and they were like the soundtrack of my life, every social event and weekends were marked by singing; all these songs would get aired and everyone had their party pieces.
So it’s a look at all of those songs in a new and fresh way - some of them are well known in certain circles in Ireland and I didn’t want to just put another version like all the others. In order to breathe new life into them I enlisted the help of long time friend from Sweden, who is a great Swedish folk musician, to produce and play on the album.
He had never heard the songs before so he automatically was bringing fresh life to them. Then there are also some newly composed pieces that I wrote to tie the whole story together, a song about leaving home for the first time but not being afraid to go and I wrote that with Brendan Graham. The second song is the title track All The Way Home.
On those newly composed songs there is more of an Irish flavour with musicians Andy Irvine, Eddie Reader and Liam from the band Dervish as well.
So it was a very enjoyable album to make, not because I was so familiar with those songs, but because everything seemed to fall into place from the initial idea of doing the album to Roger agreeing to produce it and play on it and to the musicians that I had dreamed having on there who were all available and willing to play.
- Many of the tracks on the album are traditional Irish songs so how have you gone about putting your own stamp on them.
That was more or less in the arrangements that myself and Roger put together in Sweden; I went over for a couple of reckies. First of all I sent over all of the songs acapella with no instruments at all and Roger sat with them and came up with chords and different rhythms that could go with them.
Then I joined him and we tweaked them this way and that way and I suppose a lot of it is in the arrangements, the chord structures and the rhythms that we played around with.
- There is a mix traditional Irish music as well as a touch of folk in there so how would you describe the sound of the album?
I always find it hard to pigeon hole myself because I don’t feel I am in any kind of a pigeon hole - I suppose I have spent a long time in the traditional world but when I write anything can come out and you wonder where is this coming from?
I suppose so much music has gone into my brain and it regurgitates itself when I write so I am not really sure how to describe it - I will leave that to the critics (laughs).
- This album reintroduces theses song and this style of music to a new audience so how have you personally found the response to the album?
It has been absolutely brilliant but has been really nerve-wracking. I suppose my first critics were the family as I really wanted them to like it, they have the same family history as I do and have grown up with the same songs as I have; I didn’t want them to be so different that they wouldn’t like them or respond to them.
I passed that test with flying colours and they were delighted with what they heard and excited about what they heard as well as being proud of our heritage.
So that was the first hurdle and after that I didn’t care because it was paying homage to all that time and my family. It’s a bonus to have the critics liking it but the main critics for me were family and they responded fantastically to it. But having said that the reviews have been fantastic and musician friends seem to love it so so far so good.
- There is almost an ethereal quality to the album, or that was what I thought when I was listening to it, is this a type of sound that you were aiming for?
I don’t think we were aiming for anything in particular we just let it be. When myself and Roger Tallroth got together a certain magic happened that we didn’t have to tweak, we didn’t have to change or alter it just happened.
We didn’t mess around with the takes, a lot of the songs on the album are from first takes of just us getting together sitting down and just doing it and liking what we heard.
- The album was produced by Roger Tallroth so how did that collaboration come about and how did you find working with him?
Well Roger has been a friend of mine for sixteen or seventeen years and our bands have met over the years, the first time we met was in Belgium, we recorded one of Roger’s tunes ten or twelve years ago. We all hit it off and frequently the two bands walked together because what we didn’t have in frequency they had and vice versa - so we musically gelled really well together.
I always found singing with Roger really enjoyable as he just had a different take on things than other guitar players or musicians that I had played with and I was really drawn to that, his producing abilities were second to none as well.
So we were both in Shetland at the Shetland Folk Festival a couple of years ago when I asked and he said yes and it went from there really. We have spent lots of time together and we get on really well and it was a great laugh, it was a really enjoyable record to make.
I am sad that that part of it is over now really because that was the creative part and that is always the most enjoyable part.
- What does his influence bring to the record?
I think it’s a whole new sound and hearing these songs in a fresh soundscape that they have never been heard in before. Sometimes when you hear a song that you are so familiar with you almost take it for granted and he allowed the song the air and freedom so that when you hear them it feels like you are hearing them for the first time.
- There are a couple of songs on there that you have penned yourself such as The Road I Go, which tells of the restlessness of youth so how much did your draw on your own youth when penning these songs?
Very much so because that was what was on my mind the whole time. In that song it wasn’t as much as my own leaving home for the first time but I reminisced about my brother when he went to America for the first time.
My father’s only experience of leaving home was immigration when his sisters left for New Zealand, one of them which he never saw again, so immigration was a huge thing for him and when my brother was leaving it really depressed my father.
On the morning that my brother was leaving my father couldn’t get out of bed he was so sad because he thought that he would never see his son again - we all know life as moved on and airlines are there to take you back and forth and there is Skype and so on.
But from my father’s own experience it was they go and they never come back, that was March and my brother came back in August. My father was in the meadow making hay, where we had all spent out youth with them, and my brother came to the field where my father was. So all of those memories come into your head as my father was so excited when he saw him again, compared to only a few months ago when he thought he would never see him again.
But we all had a great and happy childhood so we were ready for anything, although you miss home it gave us a great spring-board for life growing up the way that we did.
- That song in particular saw you work with song writer Brendan Graham so how did you find working with him?
It was absolutely brilliant because it was like having the most amazing master class that you could ever imagine because you really are seeing the master at work and the pains and the lengths he goes to to get a song right, he won’t rest until it’s absolutely perfect; he will teak and labour over a sentence and the syllables in the line.
So it was fascinating from my point of view and it really spurred me on to be more dedicated in my song writing and not take the first thing that comes along. You have to work really hard to get it right and don’t settle, you might end up settling for what you wrote first but not until you have tweaked it in all directions that you would be happy to do that.
- How much was music an influence as you were growing up - was it played and sung in the home?
Music was the one thing that I was totally and utterly dedicated to and I would spend hours either listening to or trying to play on my brother’s old beat up guitar.
Early on we had an old gramophone with loads of 78’s from the Kaylee Band to the Carter Family and everything in between. We then progressed onto normal records and tapes.
I had a neighbour called Colin Casey and he had a huge music collection so I use to go over to his house and he introduced me to the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Waite and John Prine, all of those American songwriters and I just ate it up.
Then there was Simon & Garfunkel, Nancy Griffiths was huge in our house, Mary Black and that was alongside the older stuff that was there all along.
- You are best known as being part of band Dervish so how does it feel to be striking out on your own?
I suppose I was ready, I think that you do things when you are ready to do them. I was thinking for a long time about doing a solo album I just didn’t know what it would be and what shape it would take.
I found the process of recording and writing very easy but I suppose that it’s the gigging that is different because it’s much more my own responsibility rather than being part of a unit of six who all have their designated jobs.
When we launched the album I was tour manager and I was booking the flights and the accommodation and the travel and food, all the things that further down the road you might get a road manager to do it; it Dervish we all do it as a unit.
The work load was huge but very enjoyable, particularly the rehearsing, the recording and the mixing was all wonderful.
- Finally what is coming up for you in the rest of 2012?
Well at the end of the week I go to America with Dervish and we are going to send out 15th consecutive March in the US of A. After that my solo album is getting launched in the UK, I am going to London to do a couple of gigs for that.
At the end of April I go to the US for a festival in Atlanta and then Spain, Italy, USA again before the end of the year. So there are a lot of things dotted out through the calendar I can hardly keep up with myself.
Cathy Jordan’s album All The Way Home is released 2nd April
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw