Studio Stings and Stairways – #sRated

As I typically do on a recording day, I made myself late with excitement. Yesterday was my first day back in the studio since last December to build some content for online marketing, demo a new track and get the ball rolling on what’s coming up for release in the next few months!! Days in the studio remind me of the days in primary school when I waited months for the school tour to come around, planning my outfit and the filling for my sambo’s and of course collecting money to spend on sweets and presents in the novelty shop at the end of the tour! With all that prepared, I’d wake up way too early and spend the morning flapping around with excitement only to realise I had just five minutes to be at the school gates, dressed, washed and packed!!

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After a delayed start, we got cracking on stings for Matthews.ie. It’s a bit surreal hearing my music on their radio ads that are currently running on LMFM and NorthernSound but I am so proud everytime I hear the ads come on! After that, we made a showreel of a selection of the music I have recorded and released to date, which is really handy to have for online marketing and showcasing my work up to now. It’s actually lovely to hear short snippets of the songs back to back and reminds me how much work has gone on up to this point in my career. I’d advise any artist to do that just for a little boost as well as it being a very useful soundbyte.

Finally we worked on a demo of a song that I have co-written with a girl in America who I have never met personally but we connected online and decided to try working together. The song is called ‘Standing Right Here’. Lynda wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music. It’s exciting working out of my comfort zone. The song is not something I would write for myself or sing myself so I’m working in a very different way, quite a methodical way asking questions like what sort of vocalist would suit the sentiment of the track, what genre will it sit into best, where do we position it etc.

First thing I did was put down the guide piano track. Played it fairly well and thought, that didn’t take long, I’m happy with that only for Martin the studio engineer and producer to tell me that my intro came pretty close to being a rip off of Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven both melodically and in chord sequence! Well that was the end of that intro and it was a case of re-writing on the spot. I was more annoyed with myself for not spotting the similarities! A risky little business this songwriting is!!

Other than that near miss, it was great to be back in my own little sweet shop and of course now I have the bug back so badly that I’m just waiting on confirming my dates to record a new track for release in October/November. I’ll leave you with the track that I had a very close shave with.. Enjoy and chat soon!

Stairway to Heaven

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#sRated Recording DIY Style! 

  

It’s FINALLY a bright, sunny morning here in Ireland! I’m on day three of a pretty miserable cold that hit me hard on Monday and knocked me for six. It’s one of the worst things about being self employed! You push yourself as far as you can go because you kinda have to. Ain’t no such thing as a paid sick day! 
Anyways, the point of this mornings bright and sunny post despite the sneezing is to tell you that I finally started to do something I should have done on day 1 of my music career. My good DJ buddy Dave O’Connor has been shouting down my ear for years about setting myself up to do some pretty decent home recording but I just never really took it that seriously and kept putting it on the long finger. I wish I hadn’t but I’m starting now and would like to share some of my experiences as I go through the process of buying items and recording.. Maybe my experiences will be useful to someone along the way! 

First up I was told, is to invest in a really good mic and the Rode NT1a had been suggested to me many times. There are lots out there but at €189 brand new on Thomann Ireland it’s a decent price and won’t break the bank. I did a little scan for one on the private seller sites and found a guy up the road selling his for €130 – “barely used” the ad said so fingers crossed! I offered him €110 so I’m hoping that for the €80 savings it will be a good buy! I’ll keep you posted!! 

Apparently the next not so expensive step is to purchase a pre-amp! I might as well be looking into a ditch as to knowing what exactly they do but it’s my job now to find out and buy myself one! 

I’m happy that I finally got a move on in setting myself up to home record. While nothing beats the real experience, it’s ridiculous that I am not  doing all my demos and basic productions myself here at home. Got the ball rolling now at least and I’ll share my experiences of it along the #sRated way! 

‘MATTHEWS TAKE YOU THERE’ – My first company song!! #sRated

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So after months and months of waiting to share the news with you, I can finally reveal that I have written my first ever company song for Irish transport and tour operator Matthews.ie!!!

http://MATTHEWS.IE

I was delighted that at the end of 2013 Paddy Matthews CEO of the company, asked me to write a song for them. I was a little scared to be honest, simply because of the nature of the song he wanted. It had to showcase the company services and sentiments and also include the company name. Now, as anyone who writes songs or poems know.. rhyme whether it’s in your face or barely recognisable, some words are nearly impossible to use. The vibe and momentum of the word and how it moves and fits into the song and with the music is also a massive factor. Anyways, without boring you, the point is that ‘Matthews’ is a very difficult word to fit into a lyrical sentence!! 🙂 I wrote a blog post at the time describing my experience of writing to brief, which you can read here: https://sineadmcnally.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/do-these-briefs-fit/

But I decided to give writing the company song a shot and after a few days of pulling my hair out and revisiting lots of different ideas, Matthews Take You There finally came together!! It is being launched on May 7th in Dundalk in conjunction with the company’s 20th anniversary, alongside another project that I have worked on with Matthews.ie called the ‘Matthews Arts Showcase’ and it deserves a whole blog post of it’s own, which will be posted soon!

Matthews Take You There Song and Video

The First #sRated Milestone!

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My own dressing room and a cup of tea…. well if that isn’t a good way to start back on the road gigging, I don’t know what is!! 🙂 Last night was such a buzz. I hadn’t gigged in such a long time and I was mad to get back out there and sing my songs, telling the stories and doing my usual mad leg movements that happen under the piano as I play. The venue was incredible too. It was the Íontas Theatre in Castleblayney, Co.Monaghan and from everything to the dressing rooms, to the main theatre and foyer, it’s just a fab place to play. The sound was also superb! When you arrive somewhere and know that you are dealing with top class facilities, it makes you feel so much more relaxed, confident and excited. Iontas Theatre

As a performer, the audience cannot be seen at all from the stage. You can hear them shuffle and cough and clap but you cannot see a soul. It’s a little weird singing out and simling at a black canvas but it gets you into a zone and its ALL about the performance.

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I did a 25 minute set that included my opening piece that includes a section of a Mendellsohn piece of music that develops into one of my own songs ‘Showtime’. Its a little opener to my set and I really enjoy the blend of genres. Following that I did an old number ‘Fix You Up’ and managed to get the audience singing along with me.. After that was my newest song and with the lyrics only finalised about 4 hours before the gig, I wasn’t convinced I could pull it off but for a first performance, it went better than expected!

After that, I read out my poem ‘Northern Borders’ https://sineadmcnally.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/northern-borders/ which I accompany with my own take on the well known ballad ‘Hills of Donegal’. It’s a difficult one as the emotion is high throughout but people got it and that’s what’s special about sharing it. I finished up my set with ‘Ship Street’,

one of my favourite songs that I wrote last Summer after a visit to Brighton to attend a female songwriting workshop with Fiona Bevan and Kal Lavelle. Fiona wrote One Directions ‘Little Things’. Hence the line in the song that says “I got lost in love and loss and all those little things..”

I finished up a very enjoyable, emotional and buzzing set with one off my debut EP ‘Something Has Changed’, a piece in 6/8 time that is a lot of fun and quite tricky on the fingers!!

Thanks to Barry Jay Hughes, to all at the Iontas Theatre and to all who bought and ordered my CD’s. Over the next few years, I will work towards a changing room of my own in the 3 Arena!! Dream big!! Chat soon x

Happy New Year!

It’s the last day of 2014 and I have been completely useless with blogging updates since August! All of my attention went on my NCKids project NCKids which only really finished last week… More to follow on that.

For now, I just wanted to wish you all a very Happy New Year and reflect musically for a couple of moments on the year that was 2014!

I learned to toughen up and start thinking ‘business’ in 2014. It meant being a bit of a ***** at times but I realised that if I was to realistically live and earn from songwriting and performing, I had to step it up a notch and act professionally even if that meant upsetting some people in the process. That may sound a little harsh but it was a transition I had to make or else leave my music in a very hobby-like, comfortable, safe and people pleasing place, which just wasn’t for me.

So with that, I made the decision in January 2014 to open up some opportunities that were both musically challenging and enjoyable as well as being clever little business moves that generated revenue and could individually be built into successful little businesses! I am proud to say that I have achieved those ideals and whilst I have to remain tight lipped about one of them until its launch in April 2015, the NCKIDS brand is off to an exciting start. Yes, it requires work and a lot of funds before it’s a profitable business but I have lots of ideas for 2015 that may help speed it up and attract some investors.

I didn’t write anywhere as much as I normally do in a year. I’ve missed it terribly but my head was somewhere else and I’m looking forward to the time off in January to play with some ideas, write for some pop pitches and just explore where I’m going as an artist.

I guess you could say that 2014 has been about the songwriter ‘business’ person in me. Thinking outside the box as a writer with a view to being a
a music entrepreneur of sorts. Whilst it hasn’t been easy turing up in boardrooms negotiating contracts and being business savvy, I have to admit that I have enjoyed the challenge in it and more importantly the reward in hearing the music you wrote getting the professional respect and reward it deserves. There are of course times that I write and play just for sheer personal and social enjoyment regardless of the reaction or outcome but there are no words to describe just how good it feels to see what you do best becoming a real career, a real business!

Thank you for keeping up to date and taking an interest in the music and events. I hope ‘Showtime’ provides some insight or inspiration for other songwriters out there and I promise to write more frequent updates!! Thanks also to those of you who are supporting what I do. I am very grateful.

Happy New Year!!
Sinead x

A Musical Canvas…

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So last month, I decided it was time to inject some colour into my artist shots and I organised the first of two shoots that I plan on doing this year. Being independent always gives you great freedom in your decision making, although with that freedom comes a great big load of responsibility, which can be a little daunting….

The result is a selection of very colourful yet somewhat abstract photos and I thought a short blog post on how these shots came to be and the concept behind them might be of interest to some of you.

I began the photo-shoot process on Pinterest. Pinterest is AMAZING, there are no other words for it. I have used it for the last few years to compile all my visual ideas into one place. It is like an Aladdin’s Cave for ideas. I discovered very early on that two very strong styles of shoot were coming together so I made the decision to separate them rather than get completely conflicted about the shots I wanted. Shoot one, this one, consisted of all the visuals that were quite playful, fun and full of bright colours so I decided to work with that style of shoot first. I also wanted to build something quite abstract into the shoot, something people might ask questions about. I used the set as an opportunity to create that wonder. As you will see, there are seven white canvas’s displayed around me, each one with a block colour splashed on to it. They represent the seven single releases I have had to date. Each one has it’s own place in what I have done to date and by putting them all together, it brings me to where I am now. Hence, the reason why I represent the amalgamation of all the colours you see around me.

I have reservations about some of my decisions on this shoot but overall I am happy with the outcome. I went back to my friend and photographer Mark McGuire to take the shots for me as we have worked well together on other shoots and knew he would ‘get me’. 🙂 The set and styling itself cost me very little, (I had a miniscule budget)…in fact it was less than €50 to put it all together, using things I had already and some supplies from an art and crafts shop, some white piping and lots of items you would find in a primary school art cupboard!!

It was great fun and I am delighted that the shots capture a bit of my more playful side… Shoot two will happen at the end of the Summer and I look forward to bringing those shots to you then!! Thanks for reading xx

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Do these briefs fit?

Do these briefs fit?

I was recently asked to pen a song for an Irish company, more about which will be revealed soon! However, I did want to share my thoughts on writing to a brief, something I have not generally done, certainly not at this level and with a lot of responsibility attached.

I genuinely wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. It actually scared me to be so deliberate in my writing processes. Not just in lyrical content – that had to match the company ethos and standards, even their name had to be included but also in musical direction, style, tempo etc whilst taking into account the target market and of course the company values and presentation.

Even as I was presenting the first draft of the song to the client, I was unattached, not convinced I had done a good enough job. Looking at it now, it’s clear that it was down to the fact that it was so far removed from where I am as an artist and how I’m used to writing and producing that I couldn’t find an attachment with it. I also more importantly realise now that I didn’t need to. I didn’t need to love it or feel a special bond, it just needed to fit the brief and whilst work on the song is still ongoing, I’m feeling much more confident about it’s ability to fit in with the company.

I also learned one more very valuable thing throughout this project… The fact that the song is not stylistically or lyrically representative of ‘me’ is a wonderful thing. The freedom in that is amazing. In the studio, I put my corporate hat on and looked at it from the outside in and not the inside out if that makes sense. Listening back to it now as it’s in the final stages, I am incredibly proud of producing something totally not me at all! It’s really great fun and whatever comes to be of this song, I will have very fond and enjoyable memories of putting it together. In fact, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s a songwriting aspect of me that I didn’t discover before, possibly didn’t even believe it was there and that’s a buzz if ever there was one!

Now to see if it fits the brief… Watch this space 🙂