Big Hassle Media
“I love you baby ’till the parking ticket runs out,” sings Ciaran Lavery. “Until the lights in the street are as bright as the stars…”
The award-winning singer-songwriter from Aghagallon in County Antrim, Ireland may be decorated at home by the Northern Ireland Music Prize (for his 2016 album ‘Let Bad In’) and might have totted up over 80 million streams on Spotify during his five-year solo career, but it’s the unrivalled knack he has for a poetic heart-stopping lyric that’s set to earn him wider recognition as a treasured singer-songwriter.
‘To Chicago’ is one of the singles from his forthcoming third album ‘Sweet Decay’; a collection of strummed acoustic fragility that’s as comforting as it is at times devastating. Beyond the classic melodies, however, it’s the storytelling that sets him apart, one that can be as brutal as Angel Olsen and as delicate as Neil Young.
Whether exposing his most vulnerable mental health battles on ‘Beast At My Door’ (“There’s a beast at my door, better not let in/Though it cuts a fine figure of someone I could put my trust in…”) or carving a romance novella into a mere few verses on ‘Two Days In Savannah’ (“Two days in Savannah with your name in my gut/On a bed full of crossed out line and cigarette butts”), Lavery explores the human condition across a myriad of escapist themes on ‘Sweet Decay’. Not just for Lavery but for listeners too, it’s a means of coping with the pressures of our modern world. Fall down the rabbit hole with him and find yourself caught up in another universe, even if for a few moments. That’s what Lavery was intending.
The title track itself is a paean to romantic love, exploring the hope and desire to make it last a lifetime despite that voice in the back of your head that tells you it might not be forever. When Lavery first set out to make ‘Sweet Decay’ it was the lyrics that were his main focus. He’s spent the past five years developing his earthen, folk-y sound, but in terms of words it was important that he didn’t limit or curtail his creativity by trying to force one particular narrative.
“I didn’t wanna have any weaknesses lyrically,” he explains. “It had to be more mature. This album had to be a step up, but not a leap. Everything had to be foolproof.” For Lavery, this is a body of work representing the point he’s currently at in his life. It was a long recording process – over a year – spliced between tours. Although arduous, the drawn-out nature of the work contributed to the songwriting itself, particularly when Lavery found himself inspired by his on-the-road bedside book collection.
“One of the best things I had for provision of sanity were short stories, different kinds of manuscripts that I could dip in and out of. I always find it difficult to write on the road so I tend to collect ideas and these gave me a different focus. I discovered the joy in them.” Lavery was pouring through Denis Johnson, Joy Williams, Raymond Carver, JD Salinger, Castle Freeman Jr and many more. “They were my almanac,” he laughs. “I’d constantly lift those books.” The admiration for the detail, emotional heft and pace these writers could fit into such a short space gave Lavery pause to think about what he could achieve in individual songs. “I thought about trying to create a space for people to find a connection.”
In the themes of religion, sin, Heaven and Hell, Lavery found himself in an intriguing mode of self-reflection. Brought up in a small church village, he’s permanently fascinated by concepts of shame and forgiveness. “The older I get I become sceptical and question beliefs instilled in me about life and love and all of that.”
After getting off the road, he’d head into Camden Studios in Dublin and put down his ideas. The songs are full of questions, but don’t often offer many answers. It’s open-ended. You can hear a man struggling with personal growth. “I acknowledge the darkness inside of me, one that has the potential to let people down and make the wrong decisions,” he says.
In the studio, Lavery was able to invite a whole host of session players and musicians in to build out those little worlds to gorgeous effect. “There were some great players coming in and adding their parts,” he recalls. “Saint Sister provided vocals, Rory Doyle drums (drummer for Hozier, Bell X1), Joe Furlong bass (bass player for James Vincent McMorrow) … I got to work with some fantastic Irish musicians.” The results make for an even more luscious and transportative listening experience. For Lavery, it’s the sound of pure catharsis. “I’ve become braver over the years,” he says. “There’s been a darkness all of my fucking life, and I was trying to openly deal with my mental health issues; the doubt and the way it’s affected me growing up.”
With ‘Sweet Decay’, Lavery will be heading out on his biggest tour to date, across Europe, the UK, US, Ireland and Canada. Probably with a fine collection of short story books in tow.
Ciaran Lavery Unveils video for ‘To Chicago’
Watch the video here
“Lavery has the kind of voice that draws you in to the song and the emotional honesty of the music.” – Huffington Post
(New York, NY) Ciaran Lavery has unveiled the video for his single ‘To Chicago,’ taken from his upcoming third album Sweet Decay, set to be released on the 13th April.
‘To Chicago’ was premiered by Billboard to coincide with the announcement of Sweet Decay and was included on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist in the UK and US – racking up over 130,000 plays in only a few days – with support at radio for the track coming from Phil Taggart at Radio 1 and Radio X.
The video for ‘To Chicago’ was directed by Kris Platt, who has previously directed the videos for Ciaran’s singles ‘Everything Is Made To Last’ and ‘Wells Tower,’ and was shot by Jamie Neish at Jamie’s family home.
Speaking about the video, Ciaran says: “What was special about this video was that it was all shot in one entire take without edits or any of that post production magic. This was something we all felt strongly about so it not only flowed but there was a sense of realism about it that could not be achieved from many angles or cuts.
“The creative idea was that we were making a music video & letting the viewer in on this. In essence it is a video within a video. The purpose of the characters represent the very real concept that on an average day you are likely to unknowingly walk into or through so many complete strangers lives.”
Ciaran has also announced details of a UK and Irish tour starting on album release day – 13th April – in his native Northern Ireland. The full list of tour dates are:
Friday 13th April – Belfast Empire Music Hall
Wednesday 18th April – Kilkenny Set Theatre
Thursday 19th April – Dublin Whelan’s
Monday 23rd April – Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms
Tuesday 24th April – Glasgow Glad Café
Wednesday 25th April – Newcastle The Cluny 2
Thursday 26th April – Manchester Castle Hotel
Friday 27th April – Leeds Hyde Park Book Club
Sunday 29th April – Liverpool Buyers Club
Monday 30th April – Birmingham Hare & Hounds
Tuesday 1st May – Cambridge Portland Arms
Thursday 3rd May – London Sebright Arms
Friday 4th May – Bristol The Crofters Rights
Saturday 5th May – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Tickets are on sale now and available from http://ciaranlaverymusic.com/tour
Hailing from the village of Aghagallon, 20 miles south of Belfast, Sweet Decay is the Northern Irishman’s third longplayer, and is a record deep in emotional honesty, exploring the human condition in all its guises, and follows his sophomore album Let Bad In and debut album Not Nearly Dark that featured ‘Shame,’ a track that now has nearly 40 million Spotify streams.