Scratch the skin of any Irish singer-songwriter these days and you discover a sensibility that aches with sadness just as it proffers hope.
A cultural legacy, maybe – the refusal to be overwhelmed by suffering, the invocation of a blessing among the despair. You might even call it the deep soul impulse. Fionn Regan, Damien Rice and James Vincent McMorrow are some of those at the vanguard of this movement. Now add to that the name of Ciaran Lavery.
A native of Aghagallon in County Antrim, Lavery has been mapping the diverse trajectory of the human heart since his debut album, Not Nearly Dark, in 2013. He writes the kind of universal truths about love, loss and redemption that resonate with people: lots of people. After all, more than 14 million listeners on Spotify can’t be wrong.
The song ‘Shame‘ has had over 6 million plays alone, while ‘Left For America‘, from last year’s critically lauded EP, Kosher, is at around 5 million and counting. Ciaran Lavery also won the Alcatel OneTouch ‘Big Break’ 2015 and featured on the cover of HOTPRESS.
Lavery sings from the inside out in a voice that augments the candour of his words over predominantly acoustic templates channelling the sonic spirit of America. Think Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and, however incongruous the assimilation of influences, hip hop. Small wonder that Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody has used superlatives such as “stunning” and “magical” to describe him.
He cut his teeth in his teens on the local music scene as frontman of seven-piece alt-folk outfit Captain Kennedy.
“We had many great times and were lucky enough to meet a lot of great people and bands during our six-year trip,” Lavery recalls fondly.
“When the band split up, he found the transition to solo artist, “a bit strange, but I’ve grown into it over time. It suits my introverted style as a person.”
Lavery credits Aghagallon with informing the approach to his craft.
He said: “You could literally drive through it in thirty seconds, but it’s jam packed full of characters and real, genuine people. It’s the type of place where, if you’re being an idiot, someone will tell you. That’s just how the environment was. I guess that sort of honesty comes out in my music.”
It’s an openness that Lavery himself finds therapeutic, not least because in revealing his inner emotions, he is concomitantly releasing them.
“Once I’ve let someone in to hear them, they aren’t my songs any more. People come up to me and say the strangest things like, ‘This song meant a lot to me’, or they tell me what they think the song is about. And maybe it’s not, but their version is usually better than mine, so I usually agree with them.”
Catch the quiet man that everyone’s talking about on the following dates…
June 21 – Body and Soul Festival , IRL
June 27 – Glastonbury Festival , UK
July 10 – McGrory’s Culdaff , IRL
July 18 – Chagstock, UK
July 19 – Larmer Tree, UK
July 23 – The Convent, Stroud
July 24 – Secret Garden Party Festival
July 31 – Camp Bestival
August 1 – Cambridge Folk Festival
August 7 – Stendhal, Northern Ireland
August 8 – Dranouter, Belgium
Headline Tour of Ireland
August 12 – Coughlans, Cork, with The Hard Ground (Acoustic Set )
August 13 – The Harbour Bar , Bray , with Marc O’Reilly
August 14 – Whelans , Dublin , with Marc O’Reilly
August 15 – McCarthys Bar , Dingle , with Marc O’Reilly
August 16 – DeBarras , Clonakilty , with Marc O’Reilly
September 20 – Ramsbottom Festival
October 15 to 25 – UK Headline tour
January 27 – Tradfest Dublin