New York based, Cork born songwriter Niall Connolly has released 8 studio albums, a live album and an EP. His latest album ‘Dream Your Way Out of This One’ features collaborations with his long term NYC band as well as guest appearances from Glen Hansard (Once, The Frames, The Swell Season) Javier Más ( Leonard Cohen’s band) and Deni Bonet (REM, Cyndi Lauper, Sarah McLachlan). Connolly has toured all over Europe and the US including festival appearances at Glastonbury, CMJ, Prague Fringe Festival, Acoustic Festival Düsseldorf, Cork Folk Festival and Cuala NYC. He has opened for Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, Lucius, Evan Dando, Eugene Kelly, Lambchop, Mick Flannery, Wallis Bird, MisterWives and many more. He is the founder of Big City Folk Collective. Big City Folk hosts over 100 events annually throughout New York City and State as well as a biennial music festival.
NM: What’s it been like for musicians like yourself over the past 12 months? Any silver linings?
NC: It has been very strange. I've spent much of my adult life travelling the world singing to strangers in small rooms, so obviously, all of that is on hold. It has taken some reimagining. I know I am very privileged and fortunate to be able to say that I have also been afforded many silver linings in this time. It is very hard to justify taking time off, or slow down when you work for yourself, so whilst it has been unnerving to have everything suddenly change, I have also welcomed the chance to slow down. I have had more opportunities to write and I have had more family time. I feel quite a bit healthier for those reasons. I have a two year old who keeps me on my toes and it's been beautiful, exhausting and inspiring to have so much time with her. In fact, I feel like my 2020 reading has largely been divided between the horrors of the news and reading children's books. Dr Seuss pairs well with US news headlines. So, yes, there are silver linings, I truly appreciate them, especially in light of the extreme suffering, loss and hardship that so many are facing right now.
I've been performing live-streams twice a week throughout the pandemic. I never performed a live-stream before mid-March. I played my 77th one today. I have been surprised by how intimate they can feel. You definitely can't beat the real thing, the sensation of singing in a room, sharing an evening with people in the same time and space, it cannot be beaten, but, I have found much more of a sense of community in my live-stream series than I would have expected. I have also been blown away by the support I´ve received through the live streams and my patreon page.
NM: I´m guilty of having not been able to tune into as many as I had wished, but they seem to be going well. Do you think these are just temporary tools or will musicians be able to incorporate them into future gigs and tours?
NC: I hope they are never a visible component of future gigs. I don't want to see someone performing at my favourite venue also interacting with people online, but, simultaneously broadcasting, why not, maybe, I don't know? I suppose, I don't know, is the only true answer there. They have been extremely helpful for me in terms of staying in touch with fans and in terms of staying on top of my game, performance wise, in terms of staying sane. From a personal point of view, it has been hard not to travel and see my family in Ireland, so I have again, really appreciated the technology that allows me to see and speak with them regularly. Though I think my daughter now believes that, 'Can you hear me now? What about now? Can you hear me? I can't see you? I can see you but I can't hear you? Can you hear me?", I think she believes this is just the way calls are supposed to begin.
My father remembers electricity coming to their childhood home, amazing to think that many of his generation have lived from that time to the age of zoom calls and live streams.
NM: Tis indeed. I have no idea how we are going to explain this past year to our kids in the future. But anyhow - you released a single - Maybe Next Year - during the pandemic… Does that mean there’s a new album on the way?
Yes. It will be out in the future. Definitely not before then, hopefully for quite sometime after. Watch this spacer, I mean space for more news. www.niallconnolly.com
NM: No Cause For Alarm has been my anthem for the pandemic - Are there any other songs or albums that you’ve been listening to during these times because they’re uplifting or resilient?
NC: Thank you. I've been listening to the 2016 album Case/Lang/ Veirs a lot while in the car recently. It's an excellent collaborative record between Neko Case, K.D. Land and the wonderful Laura Veirs. Very uplifting melodies and well crafted songs. It's a great driving album. Ger Wolfe is never far from my playlist and I'm looking forward to hearing his new album. My friends Mick Flannery and Warren Malone put out great music this year too. Now that the Christmas lights are up in our house I revisited Low's 1999 'Christmas' album the other night too. It's a beauty. I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this year too. Readers, please share what you've been listening to too?
Do post your answers to that questions and, in the meantime, click on the image below to be carried off to Niall`s Bandcamp page where you can listen to tracks and, hopefully, buy some albums.
Sylvia Petter is an Australian based in Vienna. She writes short, long, serious, sexy and fun. Her work has been widely published and much is available on Kindle at her Amazon author page. Her debut novel is available on Kindle but will only be widely available as a paperback in April 2021. In the meantime, advance copies can be purchased at Shakespeare & Company in Vienna, or directly from Sylvia via the contact form where she blogs. For every copy she sells directly, 5 Euros go to PCs für Alle.
NM: You’ve certainly had a strange start to the year - fires raging around you this time last year and then (I’m guessing) flights cancelled due to Covid... has 2020 interrupted you as a writer or fueled creativity?
SP: Indeed. We went to Sydney to be with our daughter and her husband for Christmas and were due back mid-March when Vienna closed its airport. So, there was a fair bit of frustration with flights getting cancelled until we eventually could fly back to Vienna early July. We had to have a COVID test and in Vienna the army guys checked the paper proof that the test wasn´t older than 4 days. So, we had fires, floods and pestilence, but no locusts. Interestingly, in Sydney lockdown, I got a fair bit done – a story published in Stories of Hope to aid bushfire relief, an intro to using zoom run by the Australian Society of Authors, submission of three chapters of a work in progress to a multimedia compilation called Outer Space / Inner Thoughts edited by David Reiter of IP (Interactive Publications), Australia.
NM: Your latest book "All the Beautiful Liars" - was recently published. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
SP: I´ve been working on the substance of All the Beautiful Liars for more than twenty years and ideas on it have come out and been published as short stories. An early draft got me my agent in Australia to whom I dedicate the novel as thanks for her nurturing and support over the years before moving on to other pursuits. But it was a mentorship with the late Timothy Findley through Humber College in Toronto that helped me pull things together. Tiff said it might take twenty years to find the way to tell this story. And he was right. Working with him was a key experience on my journey as a writer.
NM: Wow - that´s a helluva journey for one book! There are elements of fantasy, history, biography, love, travel, loss ... all fluidly combined by the narrator. Now, I’m not going to ask how much was based on personal experience, but, on an emotional level, was this a difficult book to write?
SP: Yes and no. My day job in Geneva at the time allowed me “home leave” every couple of years, so Mum would see chapters of the work in progress. Before she died in 2009, she gave me the greatest gift she could give me as a writer: “We’re all dead now. Do what you like with the family history.”
NM. Amazing - and the backstory makes the book all the richer. So, let’s imagine Covid has been eradicated- are you going to travel and do a series of launches, or are you embracing the new medium of digital launches?
SP: I don´t really feel like travelling anymore, but I would like to see certain people again. I have so much to keep me in Vienna. I´m supporting PCs für Alle and their Facebook page is serializing a novella-in-flash that I´m rendering in German, inspired by their work and called Romeo und Julia in Corona. I´m also heavily involved as fiction editor for WordCity Monthly so if you or your readers have any pre-published work that might fit that you´d like to share, please consider our submission guidelines. I recently kicked off a series of conversations with writers at Arab World Books, and I´ll be reading recorded excerpts from my novel for a course conducted by the Canadian Darcie Friesen Hossack at the IHRAF workshop (International Human Rights Arts Festival) early spring. And I hope to do a proper launch at Shakespeare and Company in Vienna.
NM: What are your plans for 2021 ?
SP: In January there´ll be a piece in Women Writers, Women´s Books, my anti-fascism novelette in flash called Winds of Change will be published by a small US publisher, and there´ll also be a piece on the flash genre coming in the Spring issue of World Literature Today. And I´ll be revising another novel (on smell this time), as well as working on another novelette in flash on telepathy as the next frontier beyond telecommunications, inspired by my Geneva career in international telecommunications. So, yes. Lots to do in 2021, with some things maybe keeping me out of mischief ;).
I highly recommend All the Beautiful Liars - as mentioned, if you are in Vienna call Shakespeare and Company (Sterngasse 2) and reserve a copy and support your local business, or click on the book cover below to get to the online shop.
Anyone who knows me will know that I couldn´t possibly host a series of interviews on my blog and not include Stephen Murray. His influence on me as a poet and me as a person have been massive. His two books of poetry, House of Bees (2011) and On Corkscrew Hill (2013) were published by Salmon Poetry, and he is also the brains, charm, charisma behind Inspireland - a series of creative writing workshops for secondary schools in Ireland.
NM: What are you working on at the moment?
SM: Firstly, being a parent to two very young agents of chaos, who refuse to cooperate with anything else that I am suppose to be working on. Then, there's my digital learning platform: an online creative writing project aimed at encouraging young people to engage with language, by teaching them to write about the things they love. I have recently finished my third collection of poetry - 'The Sleep Thief'. It's about becoming a parent. Due for publication in 3D holographic imaging for download direct in the cerebral microchips, which is where we will be at once all this shite is over and my publishers backlog is cleared.
NM: Emmm. Yeah. How has it been for you in terms of integrating technology into work/creativity?
SM: See above answer. I think it is very exciting. So many people are telling each other you cannot teach online. In-person is much better. Are you serious? Have you smelled me? I think the problem is not a failure of technology, but a failure of the imagination. We can do anything with technology. Up your game. Make shit happen. Creatively produce each lesson like a pro. Entertain and teach at the same time. I am producing my live online lessons using open broadcast software. I can seamlessly mix in media, text, memes, music, video clips. What is more, I can do it to as many classrooms as I want. It is magic. Sensational. Everybody gets to fart. Nobody minds. I can teach in my underpants. Hell, I can teach in my wife's if I want, and I do.
NM: There’s been a lot said about how the post-COVID world might be different in how we do business and how we travel - how do you think the landscape of the arts will differ?
SM: Well, much depends on how the entertainment bounces back. It's at a real crossroads. People need the arts more than ever. We are going to be socialising less and suffering because of it. Art validates our suffering. It is the existential looking glass that normalises and indeed glorifies the madness. The truth is, I do not know. Poets will still be broke, but so will everyone else. Covid has been a real leveller.
NM: Yep. Thanks for reminding me. So, what would you like to see happen in 2021?
SM: I would like to see the wearing of face-masks when sick becomes the expected norm for all of us. Love not having a cold this winter. I would like to my business take off. My underpants taken off. Brexiteers pissed off. Space rockets lift off and people to start forgiving each other and stop fearing each other and start believing that almost every single person in the whole world is innately kind. People need to stop believing that people who are different to them are evil. We need a new human narrative. Nuanced and balanced. Less fire and brimstone. More cake with fresh cream and juicy strawberries. Amnesty for kiss chase. Oh and can someone please bring the word freedom back into the light. Freedom to hate is like weaponising a butterfly.
NM: I just saw an advertisement where David Beckham had been digitally aged to make it look like he was speaking from the future about malaria… If you could speak to the young artists of this generation from the future, what advice would you give them?
SM: Be honest. Be yourself and believe in magic. Everything is just as you imagine. You are conjurors skilled in evocation. You have the ability to summon and possess. You make the darkness beautiful. Make art for the sheer love of it. Harmonise with everything inside and around you. Listen your conflict, there be dark angels in there, full of blazing light. Everything is gonna be okay. Walk the blessed path you were born to. It ain't easy, but it is beautiful.
You can learn more about Inspireland and the courses and summer camps that Stephen and his team offer by clicking the image below:
David Rynhart wandered up to me in a wine bar in Galway 16 years ago and politely asked whether he could play a song at an open mic that I was hosting. The rest is history. We collaborated. We toured. We had fun. Then he moved back to Colorado and released two full solo albums - A Passing Comet and By the Hollow Tree. For the past decade, he has been part of the hugely popular Denver-based band Chimney Choir. Now, he is back doing his own stuff and has just released two EPs - Long Shadows and Lucid Dream.
NM: What’s it been like for musicians in Colorado for the last year?
DR: I played a pretty spectacular NYE show at the Mercury Café in Denver. There was wild choreography and huge shadow puppets and acrobats. Shortly before midnight, we began a blissfully ignorant countdown to 2020. (If only we knew what we were counting down to, we would have counted backwards) And I haven’t performed since! I lost a ton of gigs, but was able to continue work in a limited capacity by making scores for some immersive shows that didn’t require performance and a few commercials. Most musicians here recognize that performing gathers crowds… and even though they want to (and have to) perform, it feels irresponsible to gather people right now. So, life is recording projects, practice for the unforeseeable future, and releasing songs to various streaming platforms.
NM: We have seen how Zoom and Facebook live have come in handy... so do you this these are just stopgaps or will musicians integrate these tools into future tours, gigs etc.?
DR: Zoom for music has mainly been for teaching or feeling awkward. FB live though, I think that is a great way to share an event or performance, and it is exciting to see how creative people can be with it.
NM: For the past decade, since your last solo albums, you’ve been part of the band Chimney Choir - are you on a break or ....?
DR: Well, one of us moved to Tucson, Arizona. No doors have been closed, no bridges burned! But, we’ll just need a bigger paycheck in order to make anything happen with Chimney Choir.
NM: Your newest solo EP is out now. How did that come about?
DR: The idea to do this came about when my band was not active anymore and I noticed there was a void. I have to write music. If I don’t write music, the world gets really small and grey and intolerable. So I have resigned to it. Writing music without sharing or releasing it is numbing. The cycle needs to be complete. So this was my solution- to attempt to write and release an EP once a month. Look out- the next one is uploading as we speak! (are we speaking?) Also, it’s pretty marvelous to get reacquainted with my own voice after so many years in the band. I’m looking forward to collaborating and experimenting with people on a project basis.
NM: That’s great. And is that how you plan on spending 2021, or is there anything else you would like see happen?
DR: Right... 2021... I'm doing another soundtrack for an immersive circus arts show with a collective called Rainbow Militia, and it will be a very collaborative effort. I like that, and would welcome more soundtrack work. I'm also interested in learning about creating animation, and in working with Ableton and Arduino to make light and sound installations. I like songwriting, but I am also exploring making more ambient music and would like to release that. Outside of music, I'm in school- and will eventually practice cognitive behavioral therapy (though probably not in 2021!). I have thought about learning cranial sacral therapy as well. There has been a desire to learn about mental health and healing. So for 2021 I see a swirling vision of all of that!
David Rynhart´s music is available on iTunes and Amazon, and his latest singles can be listened to here.
Eva Mühlbacher was born in February 1990, started writing at the age of ten and hasn´t stopped since. She studied German philology in Vienna in which she completed an MA in 2016. In her year abroad at the University of Cambridge she also starred in a play and won a college prize for excellence in creative writing. Eva lived in Rome and Verona, marvelling at red wine, orange sunsets sparkling in the river Adige and the stars above the piazza Navona. In 2019 her second novel "Der Momentesammler" was published, followed by "Zeitreisende" in 2020. Eva wrote for the blog of the Sprachenzentrum der Universität Wien, in which she combined both her love for language teaching and her love for travelling in two different blog series. At the moment she is working on her PhD thesis in history of the Middle Ages.
NM: Your book “Zeitreisende” has just been published - can you say a little bit about it without telling us who the killer is? :)
EM: “Zeitreisende” is a journey through German literature from the romantics to the end of the First World War. It is the first volume of a series of three that will go back in time, covering the Baroque and Goethe era before heading on to the Middle Ages.
Most people seem to refer to literature as “boring” or “dry”, but in fact it is full of lively, erotic, stunning stories that are worth reading. I’ve written the book to prove this! The focus lies on the emotional aspect of different times, following author Hugo von Hofmannsthal into a small hut close to the sea where he enjoys an erotic encounter with a hidden lover, for example.
And for everyone who loves Netflix shows: chapter 9 links the motifs, stories and characters to the present day: What do Guzman in Elité and “der Graf” in Arthur Schnitzler´s play Reigen have in common?
It is a playful, yet historically correct approach to German literature.
NM: You launched during the lockdown - what was your experience with a digital launch?
EM: It needed a different approach in presenting the book. I’m used to reading out loud for people and they usually love it because they like my voice. When I had readings of my novels people kept telling me they had my voice in their heads even when reading the book later on. This was not easy to adapt (and we are still working on it). Doing the online reading and the interview was great fun though. (the interview can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBM8vrcMEWI&t=10s )
NM: Are there any silver linings in this pandemic? For example, did you have more time to work on creative projects?
EM: I think there is always something good to be found in negative times. That’s part of a positive approach to life in general. So yes, sure they are. To me it was definitely the time for writing everything down I’ve experienced in the past year without ever having found time to put it down in words. My journey to Jerusalem, for example. And of course there was time to get fully immersed in the literary world of the romantics and fin de siècle artists.
NM: History seems to be one of your main muses... is that a fair observation?
EM: Yes, it is. History can be inspiring in so many ways. It can enrich our lives in discovering thoughts and feelings of past times. From an academic perspective it means we can always learn something new about the ways people were organized or about how our own emotions link us to those of our ancestors. From a creative perspective it opens up an endless playfield of settings and inspiring characters.
NM: What’s the next plan? After the lockdown will you do some more readings or launches, or are you already working on the next book?
After the lockdown I’m definitely going to do readings. I would have also read at the book fair in Vienna this year so hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to be at the next in 2021. And the second volume needs to be written. In other words: Goethe is waiting for me at the piazza del popolo in Rome…
NM. Finally, what´s your favorite chapter?
EM: Hard to say, I love them all. But I’d say I particularly love the 4th chapter since it deals with different shades of the feeling of love and lust. I believe we experience a lot of those feelings in the span of a lifetime and sometimes we are insecure about how to deal with them because they don’t fit into schemes. I’m sure they are what make us human beings so they should not be dealt with as being “wrong”. This chapter also contains Schnitzler´s Reigen. I starred in this play when I studied in Cambridge so it means something to me on a personal level too. It was quite an effort to resist the temptation to again dress up and recite my lines.
Zeitreisende is available to buy here