Mary Gauthier writes songs that are both unflinching and uplifting. The New Orleans-born singer, whose fans include Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, plays Monroe’s Live on Friday, May 3. After releasing seven studio albums, last year Mary released Live at Blue Rock. Why did she decide to release a concert album now?
“I needed to wait ten years or so, until I was confident enough to do it, really,” she says. “Catching a live show is different than going into a studio and being able to redo things over and over again. Also, with a live record – you need a body of work.
“We just played as if the tape wasn’t rolling. I didn’t even think about it – I call it ‘gig tough.’ You just have to be onstage 10,000 hours until nothing matters; the roof could come down, I’d keep playing.”
Songs like I Drink and Drag Queens in Limousines draw from Mary Gauthier’s battle with addiction, and Karla Faye is about the last woman to be executed by the state of Texas. Yet her songs are accessible, and her melodies stay in your head.
“I think you could say the same thing about Hank Williams – those songs came out of one bad marriage,” she says. “Five hundred songs, one bad marriage and dead at 29. The universal human experience, if you can capture it, people will listen to it over and over again. I think simplicity works in our favour in country music; it’s what we’re trying to reach for.
“I’ve got to go through a thousand trapdoors of complexity before I get to simple,” she adds. “It’s not ever obvious. That’s what Johnny Cash used to tell people – ‘write simple, it’s the hardest thing you can ever do’. They shouldn’t even call it writing, they should go ahead and just call it re-writing.”
Sober since 1990, Mary Gauthier moves in a world with a lot of potential pitfalls. How does she deal with the post-show excitement of performing?
“Well, I try not to get addicted to adrenalin,” she says. “I try to stay focused on being centred, and I try to keep my focus on getting rest and staying healthy. Staying creative, getting up in the morning in time to get some exercise in. I’m working on some short stories and a whole pile of new songs. I’ve got so much work in front of me that I can’t do it with a foggy mind in the morning.”
The refrain of the sublime I Drink spells it out: “Fish swim, birds fly/ Lovers leave, by and by/ Old men sit and think/ I drink.” It comes as no surprise that the writer of those lyrics is equally as blunt.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops
“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.
The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.
“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.
The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.
Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.
It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.
Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Arts Festival is still giving it socks!
“This is not a July festival as people know it, moved forward. It’s a different creature” says Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival Paul Fahy about the organisation’s ‘Autumn Edition’ which is being held in reality and virtually in September and October following the cancellation of the July 2020 Festival due to Covid-19.
The aim is to bring live audiences into performances in a safe way, “to re-ignite that spark between live art and audience”, while also using digital platforms to reach those who might not be able to attend live events due to Covid-19.
He’s understandably excited about Mirror Pavilion, a major installation by artist John Gerrard commissioned by the Festival for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.
It will launch in Galway City’s Claddagh Quay on September 3, and will also be in Derrigimlagh Bog in North Connemara for October.
Gerrard is known for spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in California’s Coachella Desert and this work will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever in Ireland.
It will consist of three walls and a roof made of reflective glass while the fourth wall is an LED screen.
Two new artworks will be presented in the Pavilion; Corn Work at Claddagh Quay and Leaf Work at Derrigimlagh.
These connect with their specific setting, with Corn Work reflecting the power of the River Corrib and the many mills and industries it powered in bygone days.
Leaf Work, in the vast spaces of Derrigimlagh is a lament for the environmental damage that’s been caused to the world in the past century.
See full line-up and story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
‘Home’ is theme of diverse Clifden Arts Festival
‘Home’ is the theme of year’s annual Clifden Arts Festival, which runs from September 12-23.
The event will explore the concept of home, as well as showcasing Ireland’s diverse arts community with a wide variety of shows and performances,
“The physical place of birth holds a special place within us, while for others it isn’t physical but rather the feelings, the emotion, the character, the people and the culture, that shape it and make it,” explains Festival Director Brendan Flynn of the decision to focus on home. “We hope to capture that feeling and explore a sense of home and how it is unique for each of us.”
The strong line-up at this year’s Festival includes headline names, some familiar and others new to Clifden.
The RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉs ConTempo Quartet will both make the journey West, as will other big names in Irish music including Aslan, Máirtín O’Connor, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Martin Hayes, Bill Whelan, Lisa Hannigan, Declan Nerney, Frankie Gavin and Fiachra O’Regan, Seán Keane, Charlie McGettigan, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin.
Poets and Aosdána members, Paul Durcan and Rita Ann Higgins will also take part, while Mayo novelist, EM Reapy, whose novel Red Dirt, set in Australia, which won the 2017 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, will read with Sligo-born Galway-based poet, Michael Gorman.
There’s a one-man play, Padraig Potts, by Séamus O’Rourke and a drama about Constance Markievicz, written by journalist Mary Kenny and performed by Jeananne Crowley.
On the comedy front, award-winning Danny O’Brien will bring brings his Lock In show fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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