"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Twisted Ear JANUARY 21, 2007 - by James Gracey
From films to fills, Ireland's most established rising star talks.
Well known for her roles in films such as The Commitments, Divorcing Jack and Pulp Fiction, Bronagh Gallagher has also been stealthily making a name for herself on the music scene for the past couple of years too, amassing something of a cult following. This looks set to continue growing in 2007 with the promise of a new record. 2005 saw the release of her debut album Precious Soul, recorded in London using vintage equipment to enhance the raw, sparse feel of the music and produced by her friend, none other than Brian Eno. Last year she played Glasgowbury Music Festival, the Festival of World Cultures in Dublin and together with her band, she won the award for Best New Irish Band/Act at the Buzz Awards and was nominated in the Best Irish Female category at the Meteor Irish Music Awards. Her career has always been touched by music. Before embarking on a solo career she worked with Belfast-born singer/songwriter Andy White, playing drums and lending vocals.
The Derry born singer explains that she's just completed work on a new film, the comedy-horror hybrid 13 in which she plays one half of a set of evil twins directly descended from Ivan the Terrible; "It's a bit of a pantomime really. It should be interesting. There was a great cast of English and Irish actors. Stephen Dorff plays the main character, he's great, he plays it quite straight but the rest of us are all just complete freaks. I think it'll be a good laugh."
For Bronagh, like her Commitments co-star and front man of The Frames, Glen Hansard, her career seems to have looped back on itself, from the soul music that formed an integral part of Alan Parker's film about a struggling Dublin band to the soul enveloped country blues that infuses her music now. According to Bronagh: "I was brought up in a very musical house and my parents loved music, mainly soul and country, so we were brought up on that. I starting writing stuff when I was a kid, I wrote a few songs here and there and I wrote quite a few when I did The Commitments which was cool as I was just surrounded by music. I think it obviously inspired me in some way. I sang and played around town and was always involved in music. I sang in a band called The Listener, a little mod band. We all were big into The Undertones, it was a magic time for music, a really special time."
Citing the likes of John Lennon, Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Shadow Morton as influences, Bronagh describes her song writing process as spontaneous. "It sort of just comes to me. I couldn't just sit down and say to myself, ok I'm going to write a song now. It just comes to me. Some days I'd write about two songs in a row, just depending on what kind of mood I'm in. Sometimes a tune will come into my head and maybe a few lyrics and I just take it from there."
Bronagh is a self-taught drummer, she reveals that she has a few good friends who are also drummers and were at hand to offer guidence. "I've only been playing drums since I was maybe twenty three, twenty four, I taught myself and I've got great friends who are drummers and they can keep me right! I'm mainly self-taught though, hence the slight unorthodox approach. It's just very enjoyable."
Her first album, Precious Soul was an understated, bluesy mixture of Nashville Country and raw Memphis Soul and was produced by Brian Eno. "Over the last few years I've just written more and more and a couple of good friends said 'why don't you just make a record?' so the more I thought about it I thought it would be good to do that. I love writing songs, it's how I can get stuff off my mind. Precious Soul, the title and a song from the first album, is a song about a mate of mine. It's just a nice song about a good friend and I'm really happy with the album and how it turned out."
Obviously while speaking to Bronagh, I have to ask about her time spent working with two of the biggest names in cinema today: Quentin Tarantino and George Lucas. "George Lucas was cool, a really, really sweet man. It was all very professional and obviously all very technical, blue screens everywhere. It was amazing, a little daunting and maybe a bit much really, you know? These sets were massive, the biggest I've ever seen. We were just inside the spaceship and the whole of the rest of the studio was taken over where they had basically built planets. It was great. I don't think the movie was up to much but it was certainly great to be involved in it, I mean it was a Star Wars movie!
Working with Quentin Tarantino was one of those magic experiences were you just end up doing this film, coming away from it, no one knowing who this guy is and then one year later the film is in this whole different place. I had been reading for the part of Jody, but there was pressure from Miramax to have a big name and that meant I was kind of elbowed out of the part but Quentin said he wanted me to be in the movie anyway and offered me the role of Trudi and said he'd fatten it up a little for me to get me in there."
Now that filming has been completed on 13, Bronagh explains that she's really looking forward to getting her drum kit out and recording some new music, with the possibility of touring again too. "I really hope to start working on my next album, I'm just putting everything in place and can't wait to start recording again. I've a load of stuff already for the new album, it's just a case of getting the right people together and people's availability and getting the finance in place. It's all going well so far though. I think these songs are a lot more mature than the ones from the last album. A lot of those were written when I was seventeen or eighteen, early twenties. The new songs are obviously more about what my life's about now."