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Fighting with my family

Cork singer-songwriter Meghan Ali told David Hennessy about coming from a family of ‘writers or fighters’, her new track that was written for MMA fighters to walk to the cage to and why she took inspiration from I Don’t Like Mondays.

“We’re a family of either writers or fighters,” Cork singer-songwriter Meghan Ali says of the Maguire family she comes from. Of the children in the family, Meghan is the only one who is not likely to choke you into submission in the MMA fighting cage.

Her 29-year-old brother Arann is a professional MMA fighter and coach who owns his own gym, MMA Cork.

Jack, 25, is also a professional MMA fighter.

Her 19-year-old sister Fiadh and 24-year-old brother Callan also fight.

“All my siblings do it really. I can’t beat them physically. I can’t pick a fight with them. The only way I had to win a fight with them was through words and music.

“Both of my parents are probably like, ‘Won’t one of you get a nice nine to five job?’”

Meghan has released her debut single Mystic Forest and the follow-up Whiskey Neat in recent months. Both have been well received. Next she will release her track The Battle which was especially written for MMA fighters to use on their walk to the cage.

The Cork fighter John Mitchell, who fights out of her brother’s gym, will walk to the cage to The Battle when he fights in Abu Dhabi on 19 June. It will be the song’s first official airing and comes in the week of its release.

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“It will be lovely to debut the song.

“I wrote this song because I’ve been to many MMA fights and they’re huge events. They really are and the song plays a really key role in hyping them up before the fight.

“I’m actually really excited. I’m actually really proud of this one because we actually managed to record this one over lockdown.

“I’m really excited now for the 19th. I hope to God John Mitchell wins.”

Meghan says she can often be seen around her brother’s gym but definitely on the outside of the cage.

“I wouldn’t be in the ring anyway. I won’t be picking any fights with anybody.”

Is it hard to watch her brothers and sisters fighting? Would she worry about them getting hurt? “Like anything, when you train so hard for something you’re well able for it. They can literally roll with punches, I’m too precious. I wouldn’t want to be in there but each to their own.

“I think I’m so used to seeing my brothers’ fights that when I watch MMA, I actually find them easier to watch than boxing.

“For some reasons I hate hits to the head. With MMA, you have a lot of ju-jitsu and wrestling so I think when I watch it it’s not as gruesome but I think that can change from person to person.”

From Rathpeacon in Cork, 27-year-old Meghan comes from a very musical family and has already co-written and sang with her siblings and mother.

“I remember going into a guitar shop in Cork and I picked out a guitar for myself as a Christmas present from my parents. I was 12 and I  just haven’t put it down since.

“My mother and my brother Arran would be great writers. We have songs in no time. We do a lot of collaborations.”

When she was unable to play with her regular band because of lockdown, Meghan picked on a capable musician she happened to have at home with her in her brother Callan who stepped in on guitar and vocals.

“I forced my brother to sing the song Whiskey Neat and it was gas because I knew he had a good voice but that song really brought out the best of his vocals. He can actually sing higher than me so I’m very jealous.”

Meghan may stay out of the fights but she opens herself up to a potentially bruising experience when she releases her music to be dissected by all and any critics.

Thankfully this has gone well for Meghan so far.

Described as a mix of blues and folk with a pop sensibility, Megan has gained praise for her catchy singles that explore the darker themes of self-doubt and hope amongst hopelessness.

Following her debut single Mystic Forest earlier in 2021, Meghan returned last month with Whiskey Neat, a song whose serious message about addiction can be obscured by the deceptively upbeat feeling it has.

“It’s lovely because Whiskey Neat and Mystic Forest have been very different songs. I’m a big Fleetwood Mac fan so I think Mystic Forest is definitely inspired by that kind of music.

“I think that song is funny to me how it came about. In general, I try and write something every day. Some days you have good days. Some days you have bad days and it could be a sentence, could be a word, could be two pages. God only knows, it could be nothing.

“On one of those bad days, I kind of opened it up and I was like, ‘No, feck this. I’ll come back to it another time’. But as I closed the journal, I saw a girl running through the forest and next thing I knew, I had the journal back open and I was writing a song.

“It’s funny because some songs you can write quite easily and others take time. I’ve been really lucky with both Mystic Forest and Whiskey Neat, they both were songs that just fell into place. Before I knew it, the song was written.

“I wrote the song Whiskey Neat with my brother Arran and what we wanted to portray in the song was a conversation between two people, an addict and I suppose the person who is trying to look out for them.

“It’s a conversation of hurt but I guess it’s like that song I Don’t Like Mondays. It’s so dark but it has that upbeat melody so you maybe bypass the darkness of the song. You skip the whole meaning of the song until you actually zone into the lyrics. That’s what we wanted to create. We wanted to create a really upbeat song about something that was quite dark.

“I think it’s a song that a lot of people relate to because of addiction and alcohol and everything.

“They’re miles apart but from each single release I’ve gotten different people following me and lovely messages from people. I think in the climate that we’re in with Covid when live music hasn’t been there, I think I’m doing well. “I’ve moved my music online and people have been listening. It’s a new platform for me to share my music.”

How has Meghan found the last year with the complete absence of live gigs? “I think I was really lucky because I was in a position where I did have a nine to five job and I was doing music at the same time so I certainly wasn’t hit as hard as many other musicians.

“All these single releases are going to build up to releasing an album. So much goes into creating an album, which I’ve learned along the way, that when it came to Covid, I was in a good situation because I had nine out of ten songs recorded and the last song to complete the album was The Battle. We were able to do that socially distanced because there were only three musicians involved.

“I think I got lucky with my situation but other musicians definitely haven’t.”

Meghan’s full-time day job is as an environmental scientist.

What is it going to be like to get to perform her new material to a live audience? “It’s going to be lovely. As much as social media is great to share music and promote your music, I think there’s nothing better than live music. There’s something very intimate about it and I guess the song recreates itself again because when you play it live you’re never going to play it the same way every time. It will be nice to get back to that.”

Highlights of Meghan’s performing career so far would be sharing the stage with Bagatelle and John Spillane.

“I actually got to play for Bagatelle in the INEC and that was fantastic. It was New Year’s Day of 2020 and I was playing. January 2021 Liam passed away so it was a real honour to be able to support Bagatelle considering his time was cut short unfortunately.

“He was a legend and a fantastic songwriter.

“My last gig actually was with John Spillane. It was gas.

“He’s fantastic. I’ve had a few gigs with John Spillane. There is something about his live show. You can play John Spillane songs on your phone or in the car and they’re fantastic. I love going to a gig because you get the story behind it and he’s a fantastic storyteller. There’s something special when you go to see him live.”

The Battle by Meghan Ali is out now.

Whiskey Neat by Meghan Ali is out now.

The album Judgement Day is due later this year.

For more information, click here.

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