Jeannette Byrne – Exclusive GIGsoup Interview

Jeannette Byrne’s ‘Women Of The One World’ concept album brings covers from inspirational women of the 60’s to a generation of new and nostalgic listeners. Interview

Irish music artist Jeannette Byrne has just released her fourth album ‘Women Of The One World’. Women Of The One World is a concept album that hosts a collection of covers from influential female artists of the 1960s and 1970s, many of whom continue their great work today. With songs from Buffy Sainte Marie, Joan Baez, Sandy Denny, Judy Collins and Laura Nyro, Jeannette Byrne draws inspiration from women who put themselves at the forefront of progressive movements.  An established performer of the French chanson on sold-out stages across Europe, Jeannette has also performed widely across Irish national television and radio. In 1998, Jeannette Byrne’s first EP ‘Une Femme’ was voted one of the top 5 records of the year by The Irish Times. 1999 saw the release of Jeannette’s critically acclaimed first studio album ‘Elegy’ followed by her 2005 album ‘Cafe Diva’.

Inspired by the centenary marking 100 years of women having the right to vote, Jeannette Byrne began to think about the female singers who had championed humanitarian causes throughout her life. The album cleverly links tracks from these female artists together in a compelling way, a breath of fresh air in the vacuous singles market we know today. 

At a time with resurgent global unrest, Jeannette Byrne hopes these songs will find their way to inspire a new generation of listeners. Timeless American songs like Buffy St Marie’s Oscar-winning ‘Up Where We Belong’ and Joan Baez’s ‘Love Song To A Stranger’ are at home on the same record as the UK’s Sandy Denny and her classic ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’. Jeannette Byrne captures their universal language of music with fresh takes and twists all round. GIGsoup caught up with Jeannette to talk about her latest album.

Hi Jeannette. Tell us everything about your new album ‘Women Of The One World’.

My album  “Women of the One Worldfeatures the music of amazing female singer-songwriters that emerged from the 1960s.  Women whom I admire and who inspired me as a young girl. The 5 featured women are Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Sandy Denny, Buffy Sainte Marie and Laura Nyro.
Beautiful songs, wonderful rich lyrics. Songs I have wanted to record for many years. I felt now that the time was right for this project.

When did you start singing?

I can always remember singing:  The first official event was in the school play aged 5 when I was given the solo to sing.

Could you briefly describe the music-making process for your tracks?

The music-making process was a big ask for this album;
Firstly Cian Boylan and I sat down and worked out how we would approach the songs: I wanted it to be an orchestral project and he is the man for the job.

We shortlisted the songs and over a few months we worked out the shape of the songs:

Cian arranged the songs and wrote the scores for all the instrumentation:
We started recording with the rhythm section with me doing guide vocals.  This gave us the skeleton of each song. It also gave us time to examine if the arrangement worked etc.

We then recorded the different sections of the orchestra..strings, woodwind, brass, etc over a few months as we had to work around schedules.
Once we had all of the instruments recorded I recorded my final vocals.  I liked this approach because it gave me a lot of time with each song to finalise the interpretation vocally. Then came the mixing which was very complex and we took a lot of time getting it right.  I stepped out of it here as it is hard to listen to yourself : 

When we all agreed with the mixes we mastered it ready for release (the design was something I had been working on with a local designer).

I really liked the video for ‘All Our Days’. It’s like a short movie. Share with us the concept behind it.

Thank you: “All Our Days” is a very special song. From the folk tradition, it is about the cycle of life….the world, nature and the elements. It is about the seasons. Whatever happens, the seasons still change. There is a constant in the change.

Being over 5 minutes long, it is not a song that I reckoned would get much airplay so we decided to make it the theme track for a video. It’s like a mini film. It is filmed where I live outside Dublin and is partially my tribute to nature and also to show the beauty of the area.  Like many places this day, it is under threat to overdevelopment. I chose a team of young local filmmakers, Conor and Ben of Rubberduck: They immediately got what the song was about and what I needed.  It is not a glamour video of me.  We filmed on a mad windswept day, the elements were in control.  

When we made it in early March, the world was beginning to come to see the effects of the Covid 19 virus. We had been planning it for weeks and just managed to film it before the restrictions started to come in.  It is now so apt. People have been telling me the song and the video gives them comfort.

Which animal would best suit your personality?

Which….I love horses and have been around them for years….. but I also love dogs.

I have an Irish Wheaten Terrier ( he is in the video)  and he’s totally suited to me: He loves walks around the coast and then loves his comforts and cuddles. 

Who are your musical icons?

My Musical Icons are
Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Joan Baez, Renee Fleming. I also love Adel….

What was the first album you purchased?

My first album bought with my own money was David Bowie “Hunky Dory” ..still one of my favourite albums

Which artists are you listening to right now?

As we are in Lockdown I am listening to everything:  Re-visiting old favourites ….in fact currently we are listening to Fleetwood Mac “Rumours”. Lots of Pink Floyd  ( my husband’s choice)….also catching up with opera …I love Wagner’s  “Tristan & Isolde”

How would you describe your fashion style?

Fashion style…I am very boring now.  Like many mums I lived in leggings and tops, anything easy to throw on for school runs.  Now that I no longer have to do this, I am still into comfort dressing:
Black and more Black….on stage I dress according to the show I am doing….but always black…
General style, black trousers, boots/chunky trainers and long black/ white tunic or shirts…very easy and comfy:  ( I have the odd dress for special events).
Smart relaxed…..No heels.

Tell us about your next show and why we should be there.

My Next Show… Well, all is currently in a state of flux:

We were to launch the album in London in March in Soho at a Press/Media launch event plus a small audience…..this was to lead to a larger show later in the year with full band and orchestra.

Currently we will be in London for the small show in September for a Re-launch or Post-launch event. I would hope to know then when the larger concert is going to happen.  It is harder to organise when one is a small Independent artist:  I usually work with local agents. Everything is now put back but we are working on it.

When it does happen it will be a full on show with an orchestra with the songs from the album plus some from a previous album that fit with the concept of “Women of the One World”.  As in my past shows, there will be stories about the songs and the writers…..
I have great plans.

What does the rest of 2020 hold for you?

2020 has presented the World with huge challenges. Primarily my aims are simple, for my family and friends to be well and for us all to get through this.

Creatively I’m happy to know from the thousands of views and streaming etc that my music has struck a chord with people. As an artist that is all we can ask. 

If I manage to do some shows later in the year then that will be the icing on the cake.

It is a different world to 3 months ago when we started to launch the album. (planned since September 2019)
Money will be tight for so many people now, but musicians need work and I hope that we do get out and perform.

I will keep making plans and practicing the songs.

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