CMAT into a wave of very real momentum ahead of Cork show

She’s the reigning and defending queen of country, infusing a strong Dolly Parton influence with traces of pop and disco, wrapped up in a post-millennial sense of humour and some incredible music videos. Ahead of her March 9 gig at Cyprus Avenue, Mike McGrath-Bryan gets a chat with Dublin singer and songwriter CMAT.
CMAT into a wave of very real momentum ahead of Cork show

CMAT: The reigning and defending queen of country plays Cyprus Avenue.

“I don't think there is any normality, like, because nothing has really returned to the way that it was before.” Thus speaks Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, the Dublin singer and songwriter better known to her loving and devoted fanbase as CMAT, as she joins your writer via Zoom from her palatial residence in Brighton.

While any of us might be forgiven for feeling upended by the current circumstances, CMAT re-emerges from the pandemic and into a wave of very real momentum for herself and her audio and visual collaborators, spurred by a succession of earworm country singles and their equally engaging promo videos.

Last week, new single ‘Every Bottle is My Boyfriend’ emerged to a rousing reception, ahead of the release of debut album ‘If My Wife New, I’d Be Dead’, set for a March release and to be accompanied by Irish, UK and US dates. With so much ahead of her, it’s unsurprising that Thompson has barely had time to stop for a breather.

“I don't think there is any normality, like, because nothing, nothing is really returned to the way that it was before. I think things have gotten a lot better. I think it's great that we're able to be out and about, and like doing shows and doing gigs, and things.

“But for example, on the Irish tour. We have to be bubbled for the whole thing, because we're flying to America, and we can't afford to get Covid. And it's just, y'know, things like that.... I just don't think things have gone back to normal, but things are good, though.”

CMAT’s debut album: ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’, is accompanied by Irish, UK, and US tour dates.
CMAT’s debut album: ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’, is accompanied by Irish, UK, and US tour dates.

After surviving and even thriving in the most trying of circumstances for artists, Thompson is well within her rights to take said breath, and find encouragement in the good reception that her most recent single, and its predecessors in ‘No More Virgos’, an italo-tinged pop mover, and ‘Lonely’, a ballad brimming with character and pathos.

"I just forgot that music criticism was a thing for a while. So when the reviews came in, I was like, 'oh, interesting'. But like I said, luckily, they've been really nice about it so far. And then to be honest, if they weren't nice about it, I would also understand. So it's not as much of a muchness for me. It's also kind-of funny, doing press and stuff, and talking about this album so much, because the master of it was finished in August of last year.

“I've written so many songs since then, I've been working on all this other stuff since then. I kind of kept forgetting that it wasn't out yet. The way songwriting works is like, 'I already don't know how to write an album like that anymore'. You're kind of changing things, you're always moving things along. So the fact that people are like, 'wow, this album is so great', I'm like, 'oh, interesting, I couldn't make it again, but, like, cool'."

It’s interesting to hear Thompson talk about her music in the context of a long-player and all that attends - one of the Irish scene’s most prominent ‘singles’ artists at present, people are far more familiar with the self-contained stories and messages of her songs to date, and their incredibly detailed and considered videos, than with the idea of an overarching concept over the course of an album.

And as it turns out, so too is Thompson herself.

“I think I did a good job of putting an album together that runs like an album, as opposed to a collection of singles, and I think that maybe the reason I did a good job, is because I actually don't listen to that many albums.

“So I think I literally was Googling, like, 'what is an album?' and really working off the basic bulls**t of how an album is supposed to go. You need a couple of this kind of a song, you need a couple of this kind of - and it needs to, like start on something that's airy, and soft, that brings you in, and then the second song has to be huge, and all this kind of thing. I was like, 'okay, I'm just gonna paint by numbers and write the songs that apparently I need to have in an album. Honestly, it sounds so stupid, but that is literally how I approached it.

I literally didn't see or speak to anyone in real life, for like a month and a half, and I went mad

"I finished the writing of the album in Lisbon in January 2021, in complete isolation, because it was a full lockdown, and I was in a studio there. I literally didn't see or speak to anyone in real life, for like a month and a half, and I went f**king mad. I got it done, because I wasn't thinking about anything other than the album. And it worked, I think, to literally not know how to make an album, and just, like, paint by numbers, or something."

After a successful excursion to Cork in a Live at St Luke’s headliner, CMAT returns on March 9 at Cyprus Avenue, in a full-band show that will be her first within the venue’s recently-renovated walls. Not that her recent success has been the wannabe cowboy’s first rodeo with the city by the Lee, of course.

 New single ‘Every Bottle is My Boyfriend’ emerged to a rousing reception, ahead of the release of debut album ‘If My Wife New, I’d Be Dead’
New single ‘Every Bottle is My Boyfriend’ emerged to a rousing reception, ahead of the release of debut album ‘If My Wife New, I’d Be Dead’

“Let me tell you something about Cork City. I do, as a Dubliner, truly believe the real capital of Ireland. Dublin doesn't have the sauce. I've spent loads of time in Cork City. I was always a Cork city girl. One of my best friends is a lady called Aisling O'Riordan. I think I met her at Castlepalooza in, like, 2015 or something, and just asked if we could be best friends. I just used to go to Cork on the bus and stay in Shandon all the time. And because of that, because of my historical relationship with Cork city, as the legend that I am, I've only ever spent legendary times in Cork city, on my absolute best behaviour. And by best, I mean worst.

“I played Live at St. Luke's (in 2020) and it was the first proper big show that I did - sold out, the weekend of the Cork Jazz Festival. And people were jumping - it was only me and a guitar, and it's a f**king church - people were in their going-out clothes, the heels, the fake tan and the eyelashes and extensions. Everybody was jumping up on the pews anytime I played a song that was even slightly upbeat. And I just kind-of feel like Cyprus Avenue is going to be that, with a little bit more of a license to actually do that shit, because I have a full band now. I feel like it might be a f**king mad one!"

CMAT’s debut album, ‘If My Wife New, I’d Be Dead’, is available on CD, vinyl, cassette and digital formats from tomorrow. She plays Cyprus Avenue on Wednesday March 9, with remaining tickets on sale at cyprusavenue.ie.

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