As one of the most respected Irish singer/songwriters in the business, Eleanor McEvoy's talent has never let up, and she's back with a brand new compilation of tracks that were influenced by comments from fans.

I got the chance to chat to Eleanor about her career so far, what to expect from her new material and just how she works.

How would you say you've evolved as an artist over the past few years?

Well, most significantly I think my first album was my 'bedsit album', I was stuck in my bedsit! The subject matter is very much akin to that in that album, and I think you're a different person at 22 than you are 20 years later, so you have the naturally evolving thing which of course we all know about.

I think for me I began to look more outward. In those days if somebody split up with me I'd cry for three years, you know what I mean? Nowadays I couldn't give a sh*te, I'm in a different headspace so that reflects in my music.

What is it about music that you love and drew you to taking this career path?

I live and breathe it, it's never been an option for me to do anything else. I think that music is a very potent substance, I think it's a mood-altering substance, I think that we underestimate its power. I think that the medical profession underestimates its power. I think that the supermarkets have it down - they know how potent it is, they know it's relevant. I think the big commercial organisations understand. But, maybe society as a whole doesn't.

We listen to the radio but commercial stations, you're really just listening to the next opportunity that they have to sell you Persil, or house insurance or Rolex watches or whatever. They use it in that kind of a way, but I think it's a very powerful thing to have in your life, and for me it's very uplifting.

Your new album 'Stuff' is out this Monday, what should fans expect from this record?

Well it's a very unusual record for me because usually I go in with an artistic vision for what I'm doing in the studio and I have arrangements, orchestras and whatever - this wasn't like this.

This was fans coming to me after gigs when I'm signing autographs and saying: 'Jesus, I loved the acoustic version you did of Memphis Tennessee, why don't you put that in an album?' - it was me listening to them for once (laughs) so that's why there's some very quirky choices on there.

There's songs of mine that were on other people's albums but I'd never put them on one of my own albums for whatever reason.

There's audiofile tracks, I have quite a big following in the audiofile world because I record for hi-fis and stuff, and there were mixes that I'd never put on an album so there are some of them on there.

You know, Georges Moustaki one of my favourite songwriters of all time died last year, I was gutted and I went on stage and did one of his songs made famous by the French singer Édith Piaf so I did that - that got very popular so I got requests for that - so that's on there.

So, it's a compilation album of interesting stuff that people want.

So you've let the fans have a little bit of creative control?

Yeah, I guess I did... on one level I've always believed in being uncompromising about what I do, but on another level that's the way I work.

I got up on stage, I don't work with a setlist, I don't just sing a bunch of songs, I try and create a bit of magic in the room so when I step up on stage, I don't have a setlist, I know what I'm gonna start off with, after that it's down to the energy of the room, the sound, and I see what it's like, so I do a different gig on a Tuesday night than I do on a Saturday night.

I'll do a different gig for 3,000 people in Australia than I will in a small pub in London, you know?

You co-wrote with Dave Rotheray for this record, how did that collaboration come about?

I've been working with Dave now for quite a while. He asked me to go on tour with him, he really liked me, he saw one of my gigs in Hull and he really liked what I was doing, and so did Paul Heaton - he said some very nice things about me.

As soon as we started working together we just clicked and we've been co-writing ever since. The particular track 'The Night May Still Be Young But I Am Not' - we were in a pub and it was getting very, very late and a crowd of us wanted to go on, and a crowd of us wanted to stop, and he said to me "the night is young", and I said "the night may still be young, but I am not." and we looked at each other, and we got out the pencils and started writing a song.

You recently toured in Australia, how was that whole experience?

It was absolutely fantastic. It was just brilliant. We were doing 26 dates in all, about 11 dates at festivals, and they were just amazing, playing to thousands of people. We got a great reaction - lovely to get that kind of feedback for your music.

The Abuse Commission is on there at the moment, the Clerical Sex Abuse Commission, and obviously a lot of my songs have relevance to that because I write about that quite a lot, and of course I have a song that's about eating disorders and sadly, eating disorders are very prolific in Australia which is very sad, but yeah.

It was I think one of my favourite tours ever, of all time, of any continent or any country!

Should we expect some UK and Ireland live shows to support this album?

Absolutely. Well, I'm doing the Jazz Café in London on the 21st of this month - May - so that's a Wednesday night.

I'll be doing more dates. A lot of European stuff, some Irish dates and probably a UK tour in November.

Do you enjoy the travelling that comes with touring?

Yeah, I mean I love it. I guess the longer - seven and a half weeks is a long time to be away from your family and friends - but actually my family came out to me during this one, because it was too long, but yeah I miss friends and family for sure but, travelling is wonderful. It gives you fantastic perspective on the world, and you know, what I do for a living I'm very privileged, because I meet people from every class, from every race - you're playing for royalty, you're playing for presidents, the next day you're playing for homeless people and charity gigs - and you get to chat to them all.

So, it's astonishing really. You kind of have an in into people's lives and sometimes they feel like they know you because they identify with your songs, so you have a kind of a very privileged position I have to say.

What do you feel is the most important thing for you as an artist?

Most important thing for me as an artist is that it's relevant - that what I'm doing is relevant and it touches people, you know? And it's hard to define what it is that touches people.

I'll often be singing in a foreign country where they don't speak English and yet in very relevant songs they'll be crying or they'll be laughing and I think: 'how are they laughing, how are they crying? They don't know what the song is about', and of course you realise that you marry melodies to your lyrics that reflect those lyrics, so they're getting it through that music.

So music is a language in itself?

It really is a language in itself, yeah.

So where do you hope to be and what do you hope to be doing this time next year?

This time next year I hope to be doing exactly what I'm doing now - only doing it better, only doing it to a higher standard! (laughs) I kind of feel at the moment I'm at the top of my game, I'm at the top of the game of where I've been.

I do this solo show now which has taken a long time to get right so I'd like to enhance that and do different things with it.

Eleanor McEvoy's new album 'Stuff' is out Monday May 12, and Eleanor is playing live at The Jazz Café in London on May 21.

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