OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS with Christine Tobin
Celebrated for her nonconformist musical spirit and golden voice, Dublin-born songwriter and vocalist Christine Tobin will soon be touring her latest work 'Returning Weather'. Ahead of her performance at the National Concert Hall on March 1st, we went behind the music with Christine and asked her the important questions about her exciting new project and what she has coming up.
Could you tell us about the inspiration behind Returning Weather?
I was inspired to write the Returning Weather song cycle after moving back to Ireland having lived abroad for many years. It wasn’t a planned homecoming but a move that crept up on me by surprise. Sometimes we endeavour to navigate the routes we wish to follow but other times forces beyond our control steer us on a particular path. I was swept up by those forces and delivered to Northwest Roscommon, a part of Ireland I wasn’t familiar with, but as soon as I set foot there, I knew something big was happening and that I was coming home. Returning Weather charts my journey and the process of reconnecting with a cultural background, reshaping a sense of identity, finding home and belonging. The music is also inspired by warmth of the people, the quiet beauty of the landscape and boglands of that area, and the impact it has all had on me.
Musically speaking, how do you go about taking the steps from initial inspiration to a finished piece?
I don’t really have a map or a specific formula that I follow. When I’m inspired, it’s like getting a message that I have to decode. I approach it like a private investigator or sometimes I feel like a hunter or a dog on the scent. I have to tap out the first bit I’ve been given and see what it says and where it leads, then follow that till I find the next clue. Usually it’s a musical figure, or a fragment of melody, where one snippet will lead to another after I’ve absorbed it by playing it around and around. Other times it’s more like a jigsaw puzzle where you can have many musical fragments and you continuously play through them to discover the overall shape and where each fragment belongs and fits into place. After that it can be a long or short process of revisiting the piece, refining and rejigging it, getting a distance from it, then returning to it with fresh ears, back and forth until it feels complete. Further along, when you take it to be played by the musicians, it really comes to life and that in itself is the beginning of a new journey. What is the most important thing to you when making music?
I think music is a soulful language that comes from somewhere deep within. It can address what we are feeling on a very subterranean level. There’s a primal quality to music that enables us to feel connected to other beings and nature. That communion makes us whole, both in the complete and healing sense of the word. I think it’s important to make music that is authentic and speaks to that deeper level.
What would you like listeners to experience when listening to this music?
I hope they will feel the joy, apprehension, strange romance and magic that has been the whispering backdrop along the journey of this returning emigrant
How would you compare Returning Weather to projects you worked on in the past?
It’s informed by everything I’ve learned from my previous projects but Returning Weather documents a major landmark and new chapter in my life. It’s the twelfth album I’ve made under my own name and while previous albums focussed on my musical settings of poems by WB Yeats (Sailing To Byzantium), poems & lyrics by Paul Muldoon (PELT) and new arrangements of Leonard Cohen (A Thousand Kisses Deep), this project marks a return to my own lyric writing. Also, it’s a crossover project that has elements of Irish Trad in some of the songs and recurring themes. That cultural reference is more strongly expressed in Returning Weather than in any of my other work, because of the subject matter. This is my first time to have Uilleann Pipes in a band and also electronics. Since making the album, I’ve written spoken word passages that will be incorporated into the live performances which will also have a visual dimension with projected images.
What are your artistic plans in the near future?
I’m super excited about taking this new music out on the road with a new band of amazing musicians. We have a great nine date tour all around Ireland at wonderful venues starting on March 1st, so that’s in the near future! I would also dearly love to collaborate with an artist from a different discipline such as, a choreographer, a director, lighting artist. I want to explore presenting music in a multi-dimensional format. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time but it’s really come to the fore now with Returning Weather. I went to see Michael Keegan-Dolan’s MÁM with Teac Damsa in Boyle a couple of months ago with Cormac Begley and Stargaze. It was so inspiring and I would love to collaborate and create something in that sphere with like-minded souls!