New Airs vocalist Rachel Voloczi told David Hennessy about working with stars such as Mundy, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Mundy and American folk star Beth Nielsen Chapman and how they would react if Bono walked in keen to record with them.
With over six million views on YouTube, New Airs have announced themselves as an exciting new name to emerge on the Irish music scene. Combining the genres of classical, folk, rock and pop, New Airs have gained attention for their covers of tracks by bands such as U2, Thin LIzzy and Ed Sheeran and artists like Mundy, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Mundy and American folk star Beth Nielsen Chapman have been sufficiently impressed to join them for recordings.
Singer Rachel Voloczi told The Irish World: “Working with the original artists is something we didn’t anticipate happening. That was just our sign to continue with the covers because it was a huge compliment to be trusted with the original artists to come on and they were just so humble and nice. It was lovely to work with them.
“Especially Liam Ó Maonlaí. He didn’t know much about us at all so we appreciate the trust he had in us and were able to then say, ‘Well Liam did it…’ So we had Mundy and Beth Nielsen Chapman. She’s amazing. I think she was performing in Belfast at the time and she just came down to Dublin: No airs and graces, just so nice.”
It was actually here in London that they first came into contact with the Hothouse Flowers man.
“We met Liam at the London Irish Centre at the time of the Céad Festival in 2016. That was such a lovely charming evening. It was an honour to perform there as well, of course. It was my first time to London believe it or not, what a great introduction to the place. It was a very memorable evening.”
Although they have another cover version to come soon, Rachel says the focus for New Airs is shifting to their own stuff now.
“We have one more. We have a Brian Kennedy collaboration we did which will be out soon.
“Our focus is definitely on original music now. We do perform original songs as well but we haven’t actually recorded any. That’s what we want to do next. During lockdown, we have been working on original material which is definitely our focus at the moment so hopefully next year we will have some original pieces out as well.”
Rachel met songwriter and arranger Glen Austin while they were both studying music together at DIT. And while Rachel went in a different direction to study psychology, they had become partners which led to Rachel joining him on his new project having gained more confidence as a singer but also as assistant producer and videographer.
“I loved music growing up. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I had a fascination with powerful vocalists and I used to always say, ‘I want to be a singer when I grow up’.
“It’s funny. People usually say my parents were very musical. I don’t have a very musical family. My mam is a good singer but she was never an avid listener. I just happened to find a cassette when I was four or five that my mam had and it was of Elaine Page. There was a song on it called Without You and I was obsessed with it. I became so fascinated by powerful female vocalists. I used to listen to Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion, Whitney Houston. I was just obsessed with different styles and techniques. They were kind of like singing teachers to me growing up.
“My parents thought it was the right route to go classical training. Even though I loved that, I wasn’t at that stage. I wasn’t as confident as the other girls and I didn’t actually go on to do the degree and I left with a certificate. Glen went on and did his degree but I just had a change of heart.
“Even though I loved music and I was always in choirs and things, I studied my (psychology) masters.
“I always had music there. Glen is my partner. He’s been in my life so I’ve always had music there so I’ve always been in and out of it.
“He just said, ‘Listen, you would be perfect for New Airs’. He brought me back in which is what I’ve always wanted.
“What I loved about the idea was that the way that Glen arranges music, it’s like the voice is an instrument more than at the forefront. That’s what attracted me to it initially but my confidence has grown. Glen is at the forefront of all of this. He’s brilliant at what he does, as a producer and an arranger.”
Rachel made use of the time during the lockdown by editing the videos A Satisfied Mind and their latest, Ain’t No Ash Will Burn.
“It’s been such a challenging time for everybody. I felt so grateful to have an outlet because those few weeks of lockdown when you couldn’t leave the house, it was something I just felt would keep me going.”
Rachel sees a link between her two passions and says that music can play a role working with children with autism.
“To me there is a link definitely. Music would evoke a lot of emotions in me and I kind of seek music depending on my mood and things so I think there is a link and certainly it helps de-stress. You can see the effect music can bring to people.”
The band have been lauded with Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerry saying theirs was “a beautiful version of Don’t You Forget about me”.
The Irish Independent said theirs was “a stunning interpretation of U2’s hit…. the latest in a collection of breathtaking interpretations of some of the world’s best loved music. ‘’
The Irish Daily Mirror said, “This Irish group’s rendition of Ed Sheeran’s All Of The Stars is out of this world.”
Hot Press said their version of an Irish classic was ‘’Thin Lizzy’s Classic Song ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ like you never heard it before..a brilliant interpretation of a classic rock song.’’
The Irish World said ‘’New Airs are making a name for themselves live and online.. Something unique..‘’
Rachel has been pleased with how their cover versions have been received and also believes it is their live style that strikes a chord with people.
“We’re very delighted with that. I think it’s the live element that people like too. That’s the way I like to operate anyway.
“If I was a film director, I would probably be Clint Eastwood because he doesn’t rehearse. He would just record because magic just happens and you can miss the moment.”
Rachel illustrates the point by explaining how their version of Worry Not with Liam Ó Maonlaí was completely unrehearsed.
“That was an amazing experience. It was totally improvised. I think we had a quick run through just to have a general idea of what’s going on but after that, I think one take was over seven minutes and I think that was the take we used. It was just so natural even though I was very nervous, It just taught me to be so confident with what I’m doing. I really took that away.
“Especially the song Satisfied Mind that was released recently. We didn’t rehearse whatsoever and John my guitarist goes, ‘You’re crazy’. But I just wanted to see what would happen and even though we did five takes, the first take was the one we used. It didn’t get better than that. The magic happened the first time and we couldn’t replicate it but there’s something to that, I think: Just going on your instincts.”
Have the band had any reaction from U2? What would they say if Bono walked in and, impressed with their take of With or Without You, wanted to record with them? “Wouldn’t that be amazing? We did an instrumental With or Without You. I think it’s the most successful one we’ve recorded. I think it’s got a quarater of a million views so I was happy with that and Glen has also worked with Symphonic Waves Youth Orchestra and Bono actually funds the youth orchestra in Ireland. I don’t know, maybe he’s keeping an eye on what we’re doing.
“Oh my God. I hope they like our stuff. That’s all I would say. We have definitely benefitted from their amazing music, that’s for sure.”
However, Rachel admits to being apprehensive of how their cover of When You’re Gone by The Cranberries will be received due to Dolores setting the bar so high and sadly being no longer with us.
“That one I’m nervous about, of course. It’s a big favourite of Irish people around the world. There’s a lot of pressure there.
“Her vocal is such a unique vocal and also the song has been around for 25 years or something. It’s so in your head that you don’t want to replicate anything she did- And you can’t.
“It’s a simple song but beautiful. It’s one of my favourite songs. I’m looking forward to it being released but like I said: A little bit nervous.
“I would have loved to have met her: Such a talented artist.”