THE INDIE film screenwriter Mary Case is well known for her phrase “No pressure, no diamonds.” It’s true. Sometimes you need a bit of pressure or stress to force you into action. One woman who can testify to this is Brigid Power Ryce .
Galway based singer-songwriter Brigid Power Ryce will mark the launch of her debut EP You Are Here with a gig upstairs in the Róisín Dubh on Tuesday at 8pm.
Brigid was born in London to Irish parents who moved back to Ireland when she was 12. In both locations there was always music in the house.
“My mum’s side are really good singers and there was always music on, such a wide range of trad and rock from Mary Black to Jeff Buckley,” Brigid tells me as we sit for the interview on a Thursday afternoon.
Initially Brigid was more interested in football than music. She was a keen supporter of Arsenal and spent much time converting the family to the Gunners’ cause. While they stuck to the Arsenal, Brigid, by her teens had drifted away from the beautiful game and found her attention being drawn more and more to music - particularly to the power and possibilities of singing.
“I only started singing when I was 17 when I heard Robert Plant, Jeff Buckley, and Aretha Franklin,” she says. “I was fascinated by what they could do with their voices and they were the first that made me want to sing.”
Brigid wanted to sing, but, by her own admission, “procrastinated” about actually making a start on getting gigs and developing a career. However one un-nerving aeroplane journey put things into perspective for her.
“I kept putting it off and procrastinating about it,” she says. “Then one day I happened to be on a flight coming back from New York and the plane hit some very bad turbulence. Everything was going crazy, the stewardesses were screaming, things were falling off the overhead lockers, and people were becoming frightened. I didn’t think the plane was going to crash but it made me realise I have to start singing and stop putting it off. That experience got me moving.”
Brigid played her first gig at an open mic night in London two years ago. Eventually she arrived in Galway and at the Róisín Dubh one night she met Keith Wallace, who runs the independent Galway label Rusted Rail. Impressed by her “captivating, hypnotic, and transcendental” music, he encouraged her to record an EP. On February 1 (St Brigid’s Day, appropriately ) this year Rusted Rail released You Are Here.
The EP comes in a 3” format in a handmade sleeve and features five tracks. It was recorded in Philadelphia with American acoustic guitarist Eric Carbonara and in ToeRag studios in London. ToeRag is run by Liam Watson, the Grammy Award-winning British recording engineer best known for engineering and mixing the White Stripes’ 2003 album Elephant. How did she get to work with Watson?
“I emailed Liam - I might have been drunk at the time - and asked if I could record with him,” Brigid says. “I sent him a song and he liked what he heard. He gave me a date and asked how many songs I had. I said I had only one and he told me to ‘Come back to me when you have seven’. I had to come up with the rest quick.”
Again, a pressurised situation helped produce artistic goods and Brigid’s EP, featuring just her voice and guitar is a haunting, hypnotic experience, with ‘Lost Night Girls’ its stand out track.
Brigid’s music is strongly folk influenced and owes an audible debt to the great Tim Buckley. However she has a discernible style of her own, where, over languid guitar strums, her large, strong voice muses, rises, and drifts, often becoming an instrument itself.
“I feel it suits to sing more like an instrument being played over the music,” says Brigid, and she acknowledges the impact Tim Buckley has had on her. “I first heard Tim Buckley when I was about 16/17 but I didn’t get him at the time. When I heard him again when I was 19 everything he did just made sense to me. He doesn’t sing in a restrained manner in any way and that’s what I felt I was missing in my voice. Tim Buckley just cleared that for me.”
Like David Bowie (particularly in his Space Oddity and Hunky Dory days ) Brigit’s weapon of choice is the 12-string guitar. “I just picked one up and I liked the sound,” she says. “It has a much bigger sound than a six-string and on it a little can sound like a lot. The mistakes you can make while playing a 12-sting actually sound ‘nicer’ than on a six-string. I like that you can get away with that.”
Support on the night is from Rusted Rail label mates Yawning Chasm and The Driftwood Manor. You Are Here will be available on the night and through www.rustedrail.com See also www.myspace.com/bpowerryce