This stage of lockdown, and all that attends, really makes a music journo think about the time frames in which we measure events. In recent weeks, projects that started as lockdown distractions have progressed to second albums, while artists and bands that found their plans stymied by the sudden pause in live activity have begun plotting their way into a post-pandemic future.
A year can be a longer time for some than we appreciate, and in the case of Cork-based Kerry native Lorraine Nash, the first year of lockdown presented opportunities as well as challenges - releasing her debut EP ‘Wildflower’ after the realities of the situation became apparent, she made inroads to national radio, including copious play on RTÉ Radio 1, played Cork Opera House as part of a live stream, and capped it off with an agreement with Leeside label FIFA Records.
“It was after the gig at the Opera House, with Paddy Dennehy, Malojian and Niamh Regan, where one of the FIFA lads saw me and took interest. They got in touch, and we’d a few chats about how it would all work, and we went from there!”
That big year, happening as it did, is representative of the struggle of a lot of artists in Ireland to keep going through the current circumstances - long periods of inactivity or uncertainty, interrupted by highlights like online live appearances or new releases overseen digitally and via mail order. Nash talks about how she’s managed.
The release of an EP at any time is an uphill struggle, much less amid a global pandemic - all of the mechanisms of promotion, from gigging and touring, to in-person radio appearances and sessions, are gone, and have been for some time. Self-promotion, and keeping the momentum up, has been the order of the day.
“A lot of gigging for me would have been things like support slots, and I’d a few things planned which we couldn’t do, so it was a lot of live-streaming, to engage with your audience online, which brought me out of my comfort zone. Even before I went into music, I was a massive social-media person, so it does put you in the place where you have to be. There’s so much out there, and it can get a bit saturated, but you have to get out there and engage with people.
“I did a song about Covid, did it all up in a day and did a timelapse video as a way of announcing the EP’s postponement. I did a lyric video with visuals from a local walk, because that’s all we could do. The gig at the Opera House was amazing, because I hadn’t much experience, bar maybe my own stuff and my college gigs, which is college experience. To go from that to the Opera House was unreal. It escalated quite quickly from that.”
Single ‘Winter Sun’ in particular did well, thanks in no small part to the aforementioned radio playlisting, which came right at the same time as the greater #WhyNotHer conversation of gender equality on Irish airwaves, instigated by publicist and plugger Linda Coogan Byrne. For Nash, it wasn’t only fortuitous: it was deeply inspiring.
“Seeing that a song that was released in November did so well in the overall picture in 2020 was encouraging. There is a massive problem with gender disparity, but it was a small victory to see Radio 1 go 50-50 on that balance. My next single, ‘Sing with Her’, releasing on April 30th on FIFA, is very much inspired by this whole thing. It’s very exciting to have something to contribute to the movement, because it’s something that I strongly believe in.”
The single is a koan to the efforts of collective organisation and conversation that the #WhyNotHer campaign has set about, and the tangible change in gender-balance that’s been accomplished in six months, including RTÉ stations like Radio 1 and 2FM reaching parity. Nash talks about the impact of it all for her, personally.
“As a listener, even from when I was young, there’s a lack of female representation, especially in certain genres, I think. For a lot of the music I listen to, I ended up listening to a lot of male singer-songwriters, because of that lack of representation, they weren’t being seen. But then my idols became people like Wallis Bird, Lucy Rose, Laura Marling, women that were very open about being songwriters, bringing that femininity and things they have to say about being women.”
The arts will be a different place in Cork, come the end of the Covid crisis - surviving venues and spaces will be adjusting to new realities, while the housing crisis and a lack of publicly-funded performance and practice spaces also present obstacles to the health of the scene overall. Nash discusses what she’d like to see change.
“I was just beginning my journey when the pandemic hit, so there isn’t a lot I’ve seen firsthand myself. That whole chunk from the first single to the pandemic, was my pre-pandemic experience. It’ll need funding and support.
“It’s so sad to see places like the Kino close because of the whole thing. Those small venues, if capacity is going to be an issue, how are people going to come around that? Those gigs, they’re what we rely on for income, because streaming doesn’t provide as much, even as the selling of a CD or merch after a gig, which is part of the excitement of it all. At this stage, it’s weird that there’s no other compromise on things like streaming.”
Lorraine Nash’s music is available on streaming services now. Follow FIFA Records on Twitter: @corkfifa.