Talks with Esther O'Connor
CEV: Music tends to start at home for most of us so my first question for you is how did your home environment contribute to what would eventually become your own passion for music?
EO: I was brought up in a house where we were constantly surrounded by music. My Dad has played in bands his whole life, and went on to Join Wet Wet Wet when I was about 3 years old, so we got to tour with the band sometimes and we also had musicians come and hang out at the house lots, before the Wet's my Dad was in Jazz bands and I remember hearing wonderful jazz guitar playing emanating from the lounge in our house and thinking it was magical!
CEV: Considering your familyís background in music was there ever any doubt that you would end up in music in one form or another?
EO: It does feel like a family trade of some description. It really helps you to hone your craft when you have family and the people that surround you in the same vein of work, they give you advice, critisism, tips etc that all help you to develop as a songwriter and performer.
CEV: When was it that you started to write your own songs? By this point did you already know that you were going to pursue singing as a career?
EO: I got a guitar for my 16th birthday and was getting in to listening to lots of 60's and 70's singer songwriters. I had come across Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Carol King and was inspired to start to write.
Also I was supposed to be studying for my exams so to write songs also gave me a good reason to put off work I was supposed to do.
CEV: Beyond family, how much of an influence did your hometown have on what you wrote and the styles of music that you decided to pursue with your songwriting?
EO: Glasgow has been the host to great songwriters that have had international success, so I think there is something about the city that inspires a kind of soulful style of music, with a bit of an edge. It also has a very vibrant organic music scene with bars and clubs that have great live music most nights of the week.
CEV: Tell me about your experiences with being signed and subsequently released from your record contracts and what you learned about the music industry during that time.
EO: Mmmm, well it was a time that was a huge learning curve for me. It was a time of real mixed emotions, some real highs and lows, fun and stress, so glad that I had the experiences that I had in the time. I think overall it has left me a bit more savey about the music industry, contracts and what I wanted from a career in the industry.
CEV: Where does the inspiration for your music come from?
EO: I write about how life shapes what we become, and how relationships and life's ups and downs make us into the people we are. (I write about more light hearted stuff too!)
CEV: Your new CD is called Right Here. Tell me about what fans will find on this CD in terms of the types of songs that are included.
EO: It is a real mix of upbeat pop songs and a few stripped down, guitar vocal ballads. I describe it as perfect music for taking a road trip on a sunny day.
CEV: If you had to pick a theme that sums up Right Here what would you say characterizes most of the songs on this CD?
EO: There is a theme of hope and positivity that runs through the album. One of the comments I seem to get from folk that have listen to it is that the album is uplifting and musically and lyrically.
CEV: When you are writing songs for an upcoming CD like Right Here do you consciously or even unconsciously tie them together with a theme that runs the length of the CD?
EO: This was not conscious but it is something that I am really pleased with about this album is that the whole thing fits as one piece, there are various influences of pop/ folk/ rock but it all sits in one camp and has a common thread running through it. It is an album I am extreamly proud of. (no fillers on there either in my opinion!)
CEV: How much of you personally shows up in your compositions? Is it difficult for writers to bare their emotions in the songs that they write and then share them with others when the songs come out on CD? Or especially when you have to perform those songs live to an audience.
EO: I think that can be a real challenge, the more honest you are, the more exposed you are! and that can be a very scary thing indeed. I feel that it is a good journey to be on because when there is increasing emotional honesty I think that both live performances and recordings can have an amazing power to communicate. I feel that is is something I want to always increase in as I move on in my career.
CEV: Do you ever consider what you do a job in the sense that it is something that you are trying to make a living at?
EO: It does feel like a job sometimes when I have been working really hard and need a break. However I do feel very lucky to wake up every day and know I love doing what I do. I am so grateful for that.
CEV: With the advent of MySpace and Facebook and the web in general do you find yourself closer to your fans than you would have been without all the technology? How do you feel about this immediate connection with your fans?
EO: This is so true and I get emails from people every day who have found and connected to my music through myspace. It is great to be able to chat to people over these mediums. It is also a great place for me to discover new music.
CEV: Most people donít think too much about having a worldwide audience for their music but with the internet it is entirely possible that your music can travel around the globe. What are your feelings on having fans from around the world who can enjoy or purchase your music?
EO: It is a fantastic feeling to know you have people across the globe buying your music, I think we have sold CD's in so many countries now. it is exciting to think that folk can access it. (Means I can stay most of the time in Bonny Scotland which I love!)
EO: I am in the studio all the time during the recording sessions and I have strong opinions (as do the rest of my production team) so we can have a few head to heads in the studio. Think that energy helps to make a good album though because you know you all care about the outcome.
CEV: What are your immediate goals for your musical career? Long term?
EO: At the moment it is promoting 'Right Here' for the rest of 2009 with 2 more singles being released in the U.K. I am also in the process of writing and recording my 3rd album so that will be out either late 09 or early 2010. I am going to Norway in March to gig, and we have a European tour planned for mid summer. I would love to get to the U.S.A for some promotion and gigs and do a deal in America to get my album out over there.
CEV: How do you feel about doing live shows? Love it, hate it or something that you have to do.
EO: That again has been a journey for me. I love it now although it still takes courage to stand up and sing and be honest. It is worth it though, any anything worthwhile usually takes courage.
CEV: Do you have a song youíve written that is your favorite? What is the song and what makes it your favorite?
EO: I do like them all for different reasons. On right here it would have to be 'Hope' for me as it was written about my Zambian friend Hope and meeting her. Tim and I travelled to Zambia last year. it was the first time we had been to Africa and our friends out there are so amazing and have such a great view on life.
CEV: In regards to your live audiences how do you tailor a show so that each audience can feel like the show was for them and that the go away with a personal view of you?
EO: The most important thing is to stay as engaged as you can and also to tell stories about your songs so that people can connect to what you are taking about. Good to keep it light hearted too and there are always funny things going on at gigs you can make reference to and have a laugh together. That helps everyone to stay connected.
CEV: Do you ever see yourself writing social/political songs and if so what causes might inspire you enough to write about them in your music?
EO: I normally write from a more personal perspective rather than tackling issues at large, not that I don't do bits when things are in my mind. I have written a couple of songs about street kids in developing parts of the world as it is something that effects me. I have a number of friends, one a guy called Gareth Davies Jones and a girl called Esther Sparks, they are both amazing social justice songs that bring me to tears. It way well be something I do more of in the future.
CEV: Who else is involved with your music to take it from idea in your head to finished CD? (engineer, producer etc)
EO: I work with my Dad (Graeme Duffin), Sandy Jones who is the other writer producer and also my brother Jamie is a producer and we have a home studio so we work together too.
CEV: Whatís next for Esther OíConnor?
EO: That's a good question. I am working hard, keeping my eyes and ears open so I am alert to opportunities and enjoying the process.
CEV: I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us at CEV and we wish you the best of luck for 2009 and beyond. Take care.