Singer-songwriter Maija Sofia to perform at Coughlan’s in Cork City and Prim’s Bookshop in Kinsale 

With new music making its way into the world in the form of new single ‘O Theremin’, Galway singer and songwriter Maija Sofia follows her recent Cork Opera House appearance in support of Sharon Van Etten with gigs at Coughlan’s in Cork City and Prim’s Bookshop in Kinsale. MIKE McGRATH-BRYAN finds out more.
Singer-songwriter Maija Sofia to perform at Coughlan’s in Cork City and Prim’s Bookshop in Kinsale 

Galway singer Maija Sofia has built a strong following on the back of constant gigging and her album ‘Bath Time’.

Over the past number of years, Co Galway singer and songwriter Maija Sofia has been garnering a growing and appreciative following around the country, off the back of consistent gigging and a keen pen for storytelling, as heard on 2019 debut album ‘Bath Time’, which shirked no heaviness in relating tales of mythology, defiance, hurt and feminist icons made unmute by her work, and her ability to weave worlds with her lyrical prowess.

Then on came lockdown - a residency at Cobh’s Sirius Arts Centre was spent in relative solitude, but yielded inspiration and a field-recording piece informed by the circumstances, diarising a town getting out for a walk for a bit amid the stress. That sense of isolation also informed new single ‘O Theremin’, released last week and accompanied by a new music video, casting Internet rabbit holes and research as portals to history - and looking at trauma in the aftermath of collective experiences.

“I wrote it about the man who invented the Theremin (instrument), it was a man called Leon Theremin, it was named after him. I was just struck by the strangeness of the instrument. I'm really interested in experimental music and electronic music and that's where it all began, the way it seems otherworldly, like a channel to the supernatural world, like he's channeling the supernatural with his arm, and it's kind of like an antenna to the spirit world.

“Which I find really fascinating, because he invented it just after the First World War, and after the First World War, loads of technological advancements were happening, but they were all tied up with the spiritual movements because they endured so much loss during the war. So many people were getting involved in séances and there was a huge rise in spiritualism, because, I guess, there were so many grieving people, so that a branch of this technology is also tied up with a rise in supernatural activity.”

Last time Maija was in Cork, it was also part of something of a spiritual event following a societal trauma - opening for US songwriter Sharon Van Etten on the final night of her own first post-Covid tour, as part of a Cork Midsummer gig co-presented by Foggy Notions’ Leagues O’Toole. She speaks of her admiration for Van Etten, and getting on the fabled Opera House stage.

 Maija Sofia on stage at the Opera House. Pic: Shane J. Horan
Maija Sofia on stage at the Opera House. Pic: Shane J. Horan

“That was a really wonderful night. I loved that show. I love Sharon's music, I just find her really inspiring, as an artist and a person. She brought her son on tour with her, like, her infant son, and that was really inspiring to me, because a question you often get asked as a woman, people are always assuming that you're going to, like, settle down and be a mother or something, eventually.

“It's really wonderful to see someone enacting a life in which motherhood and being a touring musician are not mutually exclusive, and she was managing to do that. She's also an incredibly warm and caring person. So that was really inspiring for me. A really wonderful, pretty genuine person.”

Maija has a pair of gigs coming up at Coughlan's in Cork City and Prim's Bookshop in Kinsale this month, as part of an Irish tour to promote the single. Aside from being another excursion into gigging amid the post-Covid circumstances, it also represents a live musical milestone for the songwriter.

"I'm really looking forward to it. The one in Kinsale is going to be solo, because it's quite a small venue, but the rest of the shows in Coughlan's will be my first time touring with a full band. Usually I just toured alone, or with one or two other musicians, so I'm excited.

“[I'm also excited] because we filmed the video for 'O Theremin' in Kinsale, the amazing Zoe Greenway, who also plays in that band M(h)aol, she's from Kinsale, so we went to her family home, where we filmed it the day after the Sharon gig. I'm really looking forward to it, I love it there.”

‘O Theremin’ exists as a standalone, non-album single, but talk of a second long-player isn’t far from the conversation when it moves to the not-too-distant future and what lies ahead.

“Writing new songs, working on this album, working on trying to get it out in the world somehow, which hopefully won't take too long. There's gonna be more stuff coming, but I just don't know when, just yet, but yeah, I'm always working away, always writing, recording. There will a new album. Yeah, we'll see (laughs).”

Maija Sofia’s new single ‘O Theremin’ is available for download now on https://maijasofia.bandcamp.com/.

She plays Coughlan’s Live on Douglas Street, Cork on Sunday August 14 in a full-band show, and a solo gig at Prim’s Bookshop in Kinsale on Monday August 15; tickets available from https://linktr.ee/maijasofia.

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