Mayo native Tracy Gallagher has been bouncing around the Irish music scene for a few years now. Touring the country in her van—affectionately named ‘Mags’—Tracy cultivated the sounds and the songs that comprise her first studio EP. Ahead of the release, Tracy Gallagher took the time to discuss her personal influences, and the key inspirations behind The Fallen.
As someone who has embraced the “on the road” lifestyle of the musician, how do you think travelling around the country has impacted your songwriting?
I have the van just over two years now and it has mainly served as my own form of a songwriting retreat. Travelling around the country I get to discover Ireland as I had never known it before and I am constantly being re-inspired by the many places and landscapes that I come across. I spend a lot of time on the West coast and being from Mayo that’s probably not surprising!
I love going down to West Cork as well and, in fact, the last song on the EP was entirely imagined and completed in one sitting while in self-imposed exile on Mizen Head on one such songwriting retreat. I didn’t allow myself to leave the van until I had finished the song, regardless of running seriously low on supplies at the time!
Listening back to the record now, what are the main influences you hear coming through?
When I first sat down with Anthony (Gibney of Audioland Studios) I wasn’t really sure what direction to go in with the EP. We had a few starter ideas based on some singers and musicians that I greatly admire like Laura Marling, Iron & Wine, Declan O’Rourke, Aimee Mann to name a few, but really it just unfolded organically into it’s own thing in the studio—under the guidance of Anthony and along with the influence of the great musicians I had the fortune of working with. I am also hugely influenced by the vocal mastery of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell and I hope my appreciation for their artistry comes through in my own songs.
What was the decisive moment that made you commit to your music career wholeheartedly? Or was it more a combination of factors?
Well in my former life I was a secondary school French teacher and I think I can rather confidently say that I probably spent more time looking out the window daydreaming of being a rock star than any of the students did! I had some serious health concerns back in 2015 and it really made me reassess my life and where I was going.
I realised with a bang how fragile life is and how little time we really have, so I decided to step away from the teaching and focus on following my dreams and making a career out of music. I’ve been fully supporting myself as a musician for the past three years now and, while it can be challenging at times, there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing.
Do you have any plans for an LP in the near future? Or are you just focused on enjoying the EP and the upcoming tour for now?
Oh for sure, every new song I write is earmarked for a future album! It’s definitely something I am working towards in the background and with each new song it develops more and more of a personality. For now though, I am so happy to be releasing the EP and getting these songs out into the world finally, they’ve been a long time waiting for their time in the sun!
I’m so looking forward to touring it as well, with a fabulously talented bunch of musicians and friends. The first gig is the EP launch night in The Cobbelstone on March 20th where I’ll be joined by Dave Keegan on drums, Pat Daly on Violin, Elaine O’Dea on vocals and Tony McLoughlin on bass.
Thematically, is there a unifying message you wanted to express with The Fallen?
Well each of the songs have their own story to tell, whether it’s documenting the romantic mishaps that can “rip our seams” as in ‘Paper Dolls’, or learning how to handle your fears and emotions as in ‘Sit With Me’, they each have an aspect of life to portray. There is an overall theme of the EP though and it is summed up in the title track ‘The Fallen’.
The theme is one of personal growth and trying, while often failing, to be a better person. While I’m not religious myself, I appreciate the mythology and imagery of the bible and ‘The Fallen’ tells the story of Adam and Eve and is a reference to human beings being ‘fallen angels’ in a mythological sense, and how we can always choose to embrace the better sides of our natures.
The titular track ups the tempo a bit after the folky opening songs, harking back to 70s rock in the vein of Fleetwood Mac. Was it a deliberate choice to pick up the pace around the midpoint?
Funnily enough, in one of my early conversations with Anthony about bands that we loved, we realised a lot of my influences came from the 70s and The Fallen is a deliberate ode to this era of musical greats! Apart from it being my favourite fashion decade, I’m completely enthralled by the songwriting genius of James Taylor, Carole King, Kate Bush, Queen, Joni Mitchell, Blondie, The Rolling Stones and, of course, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. I can probably thank my Dad for these influences! I also wanted the EP to show a few sides of my musical interests, from folk and indie to pop and rock, and I think The Fallen characterises some of that diversity.
And finally, who is your dream collaborator?
If I could sit down and jam/write a song with anyone, it would have to be the inimitable Thom Yorke. I’ve been a huge fan since back when I was a moody teenager, and I just think his musicianship and skill as a songwriter somehow keep getting better and better with each passing decade—he’s a living genius.
The Fallen is out now and Tracy Gallagher will host an EP launch on March 20 in The Cobblestone, Dublin. Tickets are available from Eventbrite.