Niamh Bury told David Hennessy about her new single, her time studying in Norwich and playing with Dermot Kennedy.
Portmarnock folk singer-songwriter Niamh Bury, released her debut single Beehive last week on Claddagh Records.
Over the past six months alone, Niamh Bury has collaborated and shared the stage with acts like Dermot Kennedy, Ye Vagabonds, Martin Hayes, Myles O’Reilly, Niamh Regan and Cinder Well.
She has performed at St. Patrick’s Festival, Body & Soul, Quiet Lights, and Dún Laoghaire Folk Festival, captivating audiences with uniquely stirring vocals, adept lyricism, and striking interpretations of old songs.
Niamh is also one of the chief organisers of the iconic traditional singing session The Night Before Larry Got Stretched, which famously takes place in The Cobblestone Pub on the last Sunday of every month and whose founders include members of Lankum.
The release of Beehive by Niamh Bury comes just a week after Claddagh Records shared experimental doom folk outfit ØXN’s debut single Love Henry heralding a new era for the iconic label with music from its first new signings in almost two decades.
How does it feel to have Beehive out there? “I’m excited. It’s been with me for a while so I’m excited to let other people hear it finally.”
What is the song about? “It’s about a few things but I suppose it was kind of inspired by a book I was reading a few years ago called Wisdom of the Elders.
“It’s sort of all about the overlapping of myth and science and I was inspired by a passage where the author was talking about a tribe in the Amazon who in their folklore say the human brain is like a beehive– at once chaotic and intricately ordered.
“I just thought that was really beautiful image.
“That’s where the nugget of the song came from.
“I’m often kind of struck by imagery and then my own brain kind of makes lyrics from there.
“I like to write like that.”
Niamh says music is “the best means of communication I have. I think art puts a mic up to that quiet part of ourselves that can easily get drowned out by the constant noise around us. If I need to figure out how I feel about something, I’ll write a song about it.”
Did you start early? Was your household a musical one? “I’ve always sung in the community and my family are very musical.
“I started learning the guitar when I was about 10 but I’ve always sung from as long as I can remember.”
Would you describe yourself as trad? “I’m very involved in traditional singing in Dublin and I help to run a traditional singing session here.
“The music I’m around is a lot of trad but you wouldn’t call my own songs trad.
“They’re much more contemporary folk, I would say.
“But I’m influenced by loads of stuff, I love jazz.
“I love a lot of different types of music, so I think in my own songwriting, they all come out in different ways, I suppose.”
Notably, this year Niamh was selected by Dermot Kennedy to play with him in an exclusive gig as part of Guinness’s Live and Rising campaign.
“Yeah, that was a bit of a whirlwind of a day.
“It was really fun.
“It was part of a project with Guinness that I was involved with and Dermot was as well.
“So yeah, it was nice. We did it in a really lovely pub in Dublin called The Long Hall and it was a very intimate crowd.
“But it was a bit mad to be witness to the fan base of Dermot,” Niamh laughs.
“He’s kind of on another level so that was interesting to be part of that.”
You say it was intimate but with it being Dermot, were there crowds outside? Word always gets out, doesn’t it? “They definitely knew.
“Yeah, there was a crowd outside for an hour and a half before.
“I’d say he’s used to it at this point.
“He’s quite a megastar so I’d say he takes it in stride.”
What was he like? Is he nice? “Yeah, he seemed really nice. It was a very busy day and I didn’t really chat him for that long but he seemed very nice.
“I’ve been really lucky in the past year.
“A lot of the people I’ve worked with and performed with I’m a really big fan of.
“Brían (Mac Gloinn, Ye Vagabonds), and I are really good friends.
“I’ve kind of known them for eight or nine years at this point and they’re just really good dudes and fantastic musicians.
“We actually met in a session in a pub called Walsh’s in Stoneybatter in Dublin.
“That’s been a really important space for people to come together.
“There’s been a session there on a Sunday and a Monday for the best part of 10 years at this point. Loads of people have kind of formed really important relationships there. It’s right around the corner from The Cobblestone as well so those two pubs would be really central in Irish folk music right now.
“And Brían actually had a huge part to play in the album I just recorded. It was very much a collaboration, so he actually engineered and co- produced it with me.
“That’s been a really important relationship in my life for the past year or so.
“So I was very happy when he said that he would record my songs and very happy that we got to make it happen.
“I’m just massively inspired by Irish musicians in general.
“I got to support Martin Hayes before Christmas and he was just unreal to watch him do his thing.
“He’s just completely magic and like something from another world.
“That was really special as well.”
What has been a highlight of your live performances so far? “Playing Vicar Street in Dublin, it’s one of the best venues in Ireland really.
“I’ve been lucky enough to join Ye Vagabonds twice in the last few years there.
“And I played at a festival called Quiet Lights last year in Cork which was gorgeous, had a really nice lineup.
“I’m yet to do my own tour which I’m very excited about as well.
“I’m excited to have more of a band with me.
“I play solo a lot so it’ll be exciting to bring everyone from the record on board as well.”
Niamh is one of Claddagh Records’ first signings in 18 years as the iconic label looks to once again become an active contributor to Ireland’s prodigious artistic output.
Claddagh boasts a back catalogue of artists like The Chieftains, Seán Ó Riada, Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh, to name just a few.
How does it feel to be one of the label’s first signings in 18 years? “Yeah, it’s a big honour.
“It’s really exciting.
“Irish folk music is kind of in a bit of a blossoming period at the moment.
“I think people are particularly engaged in it at the moment and kind of making it their own and experimenting a bit and figuring out what it means to them.
“We have obviously a massive history of trad music and folk music in this country.
“And I think to have a home for it with an Irish label is really, really cool.
“I think there’s just so many amazing artists right now.
“It’s very exciting to be in Dublin at the moment.
“So I’m excited and it’s been great working with them (Claddagh Records) so far.”
Did you study music? “Yeah, I did actually.
“I studied it for a year in college.
“I really liked music theory and music history but I ended up doing voice as my instrument to be examined with and I really didn’t like that.
“So I studied it for a year but I ended up majoring in English literature.
“I’m really interested in that as well.
“I ended up doing a Masters in it as well.
“That’s kind of where the lyrical side of my brain comes into action, I suppose.”
Niamh studied at Maynooth University before completing her Masters in Norwich.
“I lived in Norfolk for about three years.
“Norwich is a really nice city to live in.
“It’s beautiful. There’s a tonne of medieval buildings and yeah, just a really nice vibe.
“It’s a great place.”
Would you like to come back over to gig there now? “Yeah, definitely. I’d love to do some gigs in the UK. Norwich is kind of my second home really because my partner’s from there. And there’s some great venues.
“Definitely some day would love to do that.”
Beehive by Niamh Bury is out now on Claddagh Records.
For more information, click here.