INTERVIEW W/ with Irish singer songwriter, Eleanor McEvoy, who is about to embark on her ‘Gimme Some Wine Tour’
A couple of years ago you released the album ‘Naked Music’, a collection of some of your best-known material, but with each song featuring just one voice and one instrument. What was the inspiration behind this?
Well, I wanted to strip the music back to the bare essentials. I wanted to take away the ‘fancy clothing’; the ‘cosmetics’ of drums, bass, horn section, string parts, etc. I wanted it to be the lyrics and the melody with nothing extraneous except a simple accompaniment from one instrument. Music in its purest form.
You’ve also released ‘Naked Music: The Songbook’. Was that the logical extension to the artistic collaboration behind the album?
It really was. By that point both myself and the painter Chris Gollon – my friend and creative companion who sadly passed away in 2017 – were very taken by this whole concept of one art form influencing another.
The Naked Music exhibition in Gallery Different in Fitzrovia in London (which launched the album) had been really successful and energising, so we were eager to pursue the whole artistic boundary crossing idea. We hooked up with Dublin photographer Shane McCarthy, music journalist Jackie Hayden and Ed McGinley to put the whole thing together. I wrote out the music to each of the songs, with the guitar chords and juxtaposed the sheet music with each of Chris’s paintings.
When I played at the opening of the “Naked Music” exhibition I surprised Chris by singing a song I had written inspired by a painting from the exhibition that was, in turn, inspired by a song on Naked Music. The song was called “Gimme Some Wine”, which gave inspiration to a whole exhibition on the theme of “Gimme Some Wine”. I was lucky enough to play at the opening of that exhibition in IAP fine art gallery Monmouth, Wales.
Can you believe it’s 27 years since the release of one of your best known songs, ‘A Woman’s Heart’?
I really, really can’t. I find it extraordinary that there’s still an interest in both the song and the concept. I’m still astonished when I find myself on stage, sometimes thousands of miles from home, and the audience take over singing the song.
The album of the same name remains one of the biggest selling albums in Irish chart history. How does it feel to have played such a big part of an historic album like that?
It’s bizarre, but I only truly fully grasped the impact it had when we did the 20th anniversary dates. I was astonished to see 26, 27, 28 year-olds at the concerts. I’d say to them afterwards, “How come you’re here? You were only seven when this song came out!” and they’d say, “Yes, it was part of our childhood!”
Your most recent album ‘The Thomas Moore Project’, released in 2017, was nominated for best Folk Album in The RTE Folk Awards. What can you tell us about?
The Thomas Moore Project was the first significant step in my long journey to discover the wonderful songs and extraordinary life of Thomas Moore. My fascination is not just with his music but also with his own place in history in a fantastic artistic period with contrasting a social and political upheaval in Europe and Ireland. I needed to go further than just pay homage, so my arrangements were, I think, contemporary.
As someone well placed to know, how does the live scene in the UK differ from Ireland’s?
There’s a massive amount of talent in Ireland, but not a lot of support. There’s a little more support for artists and bands in the UK. In truth it’s a hard question to answer, because the UK takes in Scotland, Wales, etc. Ireland is a small territory. The audiences are quite different, but then audiences are different right around the world. A Tuesday night audience differs from a Saturday night audience. Odd things can come into play, such as whether or not the audience have had a drink…even extremes of weather will affect the energy in the club/theatre.
For a time you were infamous for touring in a hearse? Is it still roadworthy and, if not, did you give it a funeral of its own?
Sadly the hearse died a little while ago! It served me well in fairness. It’s maybe just as well, though, because every time we drove through a small town in Ireland people would bless themselves!
You’re a prolific songwriter, so who would you most like to write a song with?
I’d love to write with Bruce Springsteen, he’s a wonderful writer.
And if you could write a song for another artist to sing, who would that artist be?
Ohhhh, there are so many artists I’d like to write for. I couldn’t narrow it down to just one.
For those who haven’t seen you play live before, what can audiences expect at your live shows?
The stage is set with my electric guitar, my acoustic guitar, violin, piano…no two shows are the same. I believe that music is a mood altering substance. By the end of the night the audience is uplifted.