ARTS AND FEATURES — 04 December 2013

                                                                                          

Shelley Marsden meets Swiss-based Irish musician Anna Murphy…

IN the day job, raven-haired, tattooed Anna Murphy rocks, er, the hurdy gurdy – in a chart-topping Swiss folk metal band.

Even more intriguingly, both her (Irish) parents are opera singers. It might smack of teenage rebellion, but her eccentric musical path wasn’t a conscious body-swerve from Mozart to metal: “It just happened! They respect my music, I respect theirs and we’re all open to everything to – as long as it’s not crap!”

Eluveitie (their name comes from the graffiti on a vessel from Mantua ca. 300 BC) are one of the leading lights of the new wave of folk metal. Formed in 2002, they use traditional instruments amidst guitars and harsh vocals, the lyrics often in the now extinct language, Gaulish. So far, so strange.

Anna, whose hometown is Lucerne, enjoys classical music in addition to her more acquired tastes, and sees her parents perform when she can. But the Zurich-based band, which in its obscure niche has enjoyed great success to date, keeps her busy. For a good chunk of the year, they tour the world.

The most “insane” gig to date, she recalls, was playing to a crowd of 25,000 people in Guwahati, India, complete with armed soldiers backstage who at one point had to get the band members off the stage swiftly, as the fans were getting so riotous.

She says:  “After a calming speech by some important dude, I don’t know who, were able to continue. I’ll never forget that for sure. These are the kind of crazy gifts being a musician has bestowed on me!”

Her favourite country to tour, she says, is the US, but one of the highlights was playing Dublin for the first time, after seven years of being in the band. (“I got to see my family back home, and that meant a lot. We had a great time.”).

The new album, Cellar Darling

The majority of Anna’s family used to live in and around Skerries, County Dublin and are now scattered across the country. The singer reckons she has so many relatives back home there are sure to be a few she doesn’t know about.

Though she visited Ireland every year, she never lived there and has always been based in Switzerland. However, she feels the Irish creative streak strongly, saying: “I’m from a family of artists and they’re all nuts! I’ve always thought that’s a pretty Irish trait.”

Now, after years in the bosom of a band, she’s branching out with a solo album, darkly titled Cellar Darling. Seemingly undaunted by going it alone, she said of the experience: “I would have never thought that I’d have the confidence to do something like this. But I just took the leap, and now I know I can do it.”

On Cellar Darling which she describes vaguely as “including a bit of everything”, Anna writes the lyrics, the music, co-produces and, apparently, had a hand in the artwork. I get the feeling she likes to be in control…

“I don’t get the feeling that I MUST be in control of everything! But for this album it just the way it worked out”, she explains. “I’ve been working at a studio for about three years now and learned everything from Marco Jencarelli, my boss and producer. So I obviously wanted no-one else but him to do my record.

“I was co-producing because I work there anyway, and not only have musical inputs, but also sound-inputs. The artwork was done by myself (with help from Costin Chioreanu who did the layout) because I didn’t know what else to do… so basically I thought, well, it’s so personal already, why don’t I just do it all?!”

The end result is unique – an exotic mix of rock, pop and electronic, not far from the sound achieved by bands like Evanescence or singers like Tori Amos. The title track, with Murphy’s hypnotic vocals over the top as dark and haunting as it sounds, paves the way for an eerily intense collection of songs.

Anna is a great believer in crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, which allows artists to release albums independently of record labels, which she is using with Cellar Darling.

She says: “It’s great to be able to release an album independently, with help from people who count the most – my fans. This way, I can work with people to finance my album who won’t tell me who to be and what to do, because they already like what I do and put enough trust into me as an artist. Artists can stay truly independent, which is what I’m all about.”

See http://annamurphy.ch for more.

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