The Kaje talks “Sing” to Maria Doyle Kennedy

Regular readers of The Kaje will have no doubt grasped the notion that we feel Maria Doyle Kennedy is a musical gift from God. Having been foolishly unaware of Kennedy’s earlier recordings, our senses were awakened when we first received  a copy of “Am I Choosing Right”, the lead single to her sensational new album “Sing”, which is now a constant on the office stereo. Rather than waste time waxing lyrical, we will let Maria Doyle Kennedy speak for herself, after a taste of the track that whet our appetite….

You have managed over the years to garner success both as an actress and a musician-which passion came first?

I have been singing since I can remember (mostly in my bedroom as a way of explaining surly teenage-dom to myself) and I never spend a day without singing.

Have you, at any point along the way, had to prioritise one career path? if so, how did you reach that decision?

Music comes Before acting always. The children come before anything.

You are probably best known these days for your screen work-have you found increased success as an actress has opened pathways as a musician?


You have been working away on your latest album – “Sing” – can you tell us a little bit more about the record?

It’s the best thing we have made. It took some time but that’s ok, good things do. It’s a simpler, more  stripped back album than “Mutter”, focusing on the power of a voice and the beauty of a guitar.

The collaborations with John Prine, Damien Rice and Paul Brady were an extra slice of joy to add to the mix.

The album has been co-written with your husband Kieran, how well do you work together?

We work pretty seamlessly as we’ve been creating music together for a long time. We have built a way of working that suits us and that we don’t have to talk about…. Just do.

Over the years you have collaborated with a number of musicians-what is the secret to a successful collaboration?

I would only collaborate if I had a song or project that needed the particular talent (voice or instrument or whatever) that the other person had….. It’s important to know why you want to work with someone….what you are hoping to achieve.

What has been your favourite collaboration to date?

It was sort-of amazing to hang out and sing with John Prine for “Yes We Will” which is on “Sing”.

Who would it really excite you to be able to write with?

Mimi Parker from Low. One of the most beautiful voices in the world.

The lead single off “Sing” is “Am I Choosing Right”-how did you select this as the lead single?

I asked everyone what song they thought would be a good single …… I’m no good at choosing…… All the songs become like children to me and I find it hard to separate them.

What are your current goals with the music?

To get the world to hear “Sing”.

What else does 2012 have in store for you?

I think it’s just going to be “Sing”, “Sing” and more “Sing”-ing for the foreseeable future…. But that’s only good.

The Kaje talks realisation to Young Peculiar

Sheffield’s Young Peculiar have been busy building their reputation on the local circuit since January 2011, and their dedicated approach has seen them rewarded with a growing fanbase and raised profile. However, after nearly a year and a half of test-roading material,Young Peculiar are finally ready to reward their loyal following with their eponymous debut EP and here at The Kaje we can confirm that beats all expectations out of the basket. Sheer musical gold, Young Peculiar prove that they are more than an exciting live prospect, as on record they an edgy pop project that demands attention from radio stations up and down the country. With the band launching the EP at The Hop, Sheffield on Wednesday the 15th, we caught up with vocalist Bernadette Dales to find out more…m

You must be pretty excited for the launch of your debut EP-can you tell us a little more about the journey to release…

We are very excited – it’s been a long time coming, seeing as Young Peculiar first came into existence in January 2011! But we’ve had line-up changes and a transition from being an acoustic band to an electric band so the timing was never quite right until now. Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

The EP contains four tracks-how did you select these songs?

We picked them because we felt they best summed up the first chapter of YP’s life. They are some of the first songs we wrote together, and the ones that our fans sing along to when they come to our gigs! In a way it feels like we needed to get these songs out there in the open before we could move on to the next ‘phase’ and write more tunes.

Can you tell us a little more about each one…

Hmmm… well from a musical perspective we tried to explore as many musical styles as we could during the composing process. Variety has always been a major part of our group’s sound. “Way With Words” was the first song Mike and I ever wrote, and is particularly special and personal to me; without going into too much detail, I wrote it about surviving physical and emotional abuse. My theory was that if I wrote a song about it I could take the shitty experiences and turn them into something positive that would make me a stronger person. I like to think it worked!

“Red and Gold” and “Chemical Comedienne” are more upbeat, thankfully. “Red and Gold” is about that relief you feel around three months after ending a relationship and realising how terrible you felt the entire time you were with that person!

The first three tracks were recorded and engineered by Mark Mynett (Mynetaur Productions) but the bonus track “PGRS” was recorded by Young Peculiar’s very own Mike Hukins as part of his undergraduate portfolio. Mike has a really original style when it comes to production, and it was great to be able to play around with our sounds in the studio and see what we could come up with!

If you had to pick one song as an introduction to the EP, which would you suggest and why?

I think I’d probably pick “Chemical Comedienne”: it’s loud, upbeat, danceable… it shows off my bandmates’ awesome instrumental abilities through their solos and the vocals are still gritty and personal.

You are well known for your quirky covers-were you tempted to include one?

We do love doing covers… we knew we couldn’t put any on our EP though to be honest. We didn’t know what the rules were for recording someone else’s music and making money from it so we decided to just stay out of that legal minefield! In the near future we will be recording our covers and allowing people to download them for free from out bandcamp page – it’s next on our to do list!

What, in your eyes, makes a good cover?

In my opinion, it takes a delicate balance of making the cover as original as possible, without losing the passion and musicality behind the original version of the track. My pet hate is watching acoustic artists strip a brilliant song down to its bare bones and making it dreary and lifeless…

If you could pick any act to cover Young Peculiar-who would it be and why?

Somebody entirely unlike us… like a death metal or reggae band or something!

With the EP ready to go, what is next for Young Peculiar?

More songwriting! And hopefully traveling the country a bit more – we’d love to get some gigs in different cities and support some great touring bands.

Young Peculiar play The Hop, Sheffield on August 15th.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks dynamics to The Ex-Senators

The Ex-Senators first came to The Kaje‘s attention with their politically charged romp “Start A Fight”, but really won our hearts when he heard their sincere and diverse eponymous album. Having hung out with D-Mac and Van in Central London for an acoustic session in the park, we decided to use the opportunity to also find out a little bit more about what makes The Ex-Senators tick, and how they source inspiration for their songs. BE WARNED: The Ex-Senators are far more than just a riotous political act! Exciting!

First things first-how have you pieced together the record?

D-Mac: Some of the songs on the record are started with Van, who is really my writing partner, he will throw down an idea. Several songs on the album start with him writing something.

Van: I will send D-Mac my demo and if he likes it, he will get back to me right away with an idea. If he doesn’t like it, then I show up to rehearsal with my head hung low. They will just act as if I am not there.

D-Mac: Generally I like what he sends me, so the songs that work like that are always the same. They start with what he sent me, usually a guitar loop and a drum part, then I write the verse, the chorus and together we come up with a bridge. I often write a lyric in my car. I write a lot in my car. When you are driving, you are thinking about the road, then your mind gets loose and all of a sudden lyrics just start to flow. That is one way that I write.

Some of the other songs, like “Start A Fight”, they just appear. I wrote one of the songs, “Disappear”, the last song on the record, I wrote that the day after my best friend past away. I wrote it in a hotel room. The demo I did on my phone is almost exactly the song that is on the record. We just re-recorded it and added bits in.

Some songs come to us in five minutes, others we are constantly working on and reworking as a group.

There is no defined method. Would you say it is more a reactive process?

D-Mac: There are a couple of songs on the album where I would say that happened. They are very immediate reactions to things. Consciously sitting down and being pissed off at something I saw or read, then writing my response. I try to find a solution. Those songs come out very quickly.

The interesting thing is that those songs tend to be the most open to interpretation. What I am saying is not always what people are hearing. They interpret what I say in terms of they feel. That is one of the most interesting and exciting things about music.

You have all worked in the industry in various forms over the years, what prompted you to get together on The Ex-Senators?

D-Mac: Va and I have played together in various things and we did an acoustic thing together, which we recorded in a hotel in LA and toured for a while. But the impetus for this band came in 2008, we were writing some songs and he had just moved back from LA to Chicago. A mutual friend of ours, my best friend, Kyle, had passed away unexpectedly, he committed suicide. So we had an Irish Wake, Kyle had a hell of resume from playing with people, everyone from John Mellencamp to Dinah Carter and George Jones, and everyone showed up in this club. So the core four guys in the band-all knew this drummer so we got up and jammed.

A few months later Fabulous called me and said let’s do this. So we were all in, then Brian came along a little later on. We went through a couple of guys playing bass, and Brian just fitted in. We had already recorded half of the record, then he came along and we went back in to re-record and made a huge difference. It was an organic thing. It all rose out of a tragic situation.

It is very easy for us doing this together, and it is nice that everyone already has a career outside of the band. We are not all competing.

Van: We all come from different musical places. We are not going to approach it all in the same way. We are not bloodhounds playing for attention.

Does the friendship at the core ensure there is no room for ego?

D-Mac: There is no one wanting to write all the songs. What I love about “Angel” is that it is the first song that everyone wrote together. It was just a matter of throwing things around and it locked in.

Van: With the other players in the group you have to have respect for where the others are coming from.

D-Mac: What I love about being in this band is that in rehearsal everyone will do something that makes me laugh as it is just so good. I am just a basher, I can do things with my voice, but not with the guitar. I just look to the others to make things good.

With the album finally released, will you be heading over here again for some live shows?

D-Mac: We will be over again in October for a full tour with the whole band. We want to do most of the UK and try to figure out Ireland as well. We are talking about Dublin and Cork.

“Ex  Senators” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks happiness to Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is happy again. That much is apparent from her latest release, the sensational “Human Again”. Having clearly hit a low-point during the pre-production period of 2009’s strangely uplifting “Everybody”, “Human Again” sees Michaelson return to record with open eyes and a new found optimism. With lead single “Blood Brothers” a statement about human interaction, here at The Kaje  we have fallen head over heels with the touching introspection of “Ghost”. With such diversity of subject matter covered, we caught up with Ingrid Michaelson to found out what has triggered her new approach to composing her material.

It has been a few years between albums, but the general tone this time feels very different. While “Everbody” was a very personal break-up record, “Human Again” feels a lot broader in its subject matter. Was this a conscious decision?

That is basically what happened. I got married last year, so I met the love of my life a few years ago, I think that influenced my writing. With my previous records, whether they are break up records or not, they may have had happy undertones, with the music being happy, it was always me feeling sad, wanting to be happy again. This record is me having been through the darkness, having had the pain and now I am coming out the other side and I am ok. Even the songs that are from the present point of view, there is always a glimmer of hope at the end. I think I just have a more positive outlook on love than I had in the past. That is kind of where the title came from, it is that feeling of being whole again, not feeling empty anymore. It is a celebratory record for me in so many ways.

Given that your compositions are deeply personal, do you ever look back at a song and wish you had not said something so publicly?

I am thinking about it now and I am cringing. The very first record I ever wrote, which I took off iTunes, I just hate it. I was so young and I had just got out of school for musical theatre, so it was very theatre-y. So there are a few songs that I wish I had not written, more than a few probably. It is like looking back at photographs, seeing a hairstyle you had in the 80s and being embarrassed by it. It is just evolution, we change and we find bits embarrassing. I can take it down off iTunes but it is still going to be in the ether. People will still get it. There is no way I can erase my past work. The idea is to just keep it in the present, to keep creating things you like. It all comes out in the wash.

Are you ever surprised by how a song is received?

I think the public make the song in to what they want it to be. One of my songs, “Be Ok”, is incredibly sad when you listen to the lyrics, but everyone says that is the happiest song in the world. They say it is about being ok, but I tell them it is about needing to be ok, it is about being so broken down and sad. But people will see what they want to see, they transform it, and that is the great thing about music and the great thing about art. It is great, but maybe also egotistical, you take it and see it how you want to see it and you let it affect you how you want it to effect it. While I do feel that I am “baring my soul”, I never feel nervous.

At the very beginning, when I decided to be a singer/songwriter, I was scared as I knew I was going to be singing about my emotions and if people don’t like it, then they really don’t like me. But at this moment, I don’t feel anything that other people don’t feel, I am just saying it. If half the people hate it, then fine, half the people will love it. I don’t care about that anymore, I just say what I want to say now.

Would you ever be tempted to return to your Musical Theatre  roots?

It would have to be a certain kind of musical theatre, because a lot of it is so funny to me now. It is so strange to just break out in song. But certain musicals are pretty rad. I went to see “Peter and the Starcatcher” in New York, it just got a load of Tony Awards, it’s sort of a musical. It is just so interesting and amazingly well done, that I would love to be part of something like that.

I would also like to explore elements of writing. I wrote a pilot with a friend of mine and we are in talks about getting a full pilot produced. The acting thing is definitely there, but the musical thing, I am not sure as it just feels so disconnected. I think it is because I come from a singer/songwriter world where I am singing about my heart, so to go and pretend and sing someone else’s words might seem a little odd to me. Then to break out into a dance would be even odder.

You must have written a wealth of material over the years, how do you decide what warrants release?

I have a team of people around me who help. My producer, David Kahn, he was one of my team mates, my manager, my A&R guy at my label, my friends, my band mates. I just try to surround myself with people that I trust. There are some songs I did not want on the record that made it, and some I did want on the record that didn’t.  But I am in the middle of it, so it is really hard for me to separate myself from them, so I do need other people to step in and help. We came up with the perfect amount and looking back now, six months later, I am really happy with the songs that made it and those that didn’t.

“Human Again” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams.

The Kaje talks public perception to Christian Scott

Christian Scott is without any doubt one of the world’s most highly respected contemporary jazz musicians. While jazz is far from household name material these days, Scott has managed to cross over genre borders and bring his trumpet centric compositions to the mainstream. With his eighth album “Christian aTunde Adjuah” boasting a phenomenal 23 tracks, Scott is being celebrated for his journeys through the personal and social. Having fallen in love with the Grammy Award nominated composer’s earlier recordings, hear at The Kaje we jumped at the chance to hang out backstage with Scott as he prepared for a show at the Birmingham Symphony Hall…

A lot of critics are hailing “Christian aTunde Adjuah” as your most personal to date, was that an intention of yours?

It is interesting because a lot of people are saying that about the record, but I don’t think it is. All of them are personal. It is like saying which child is the most personal kid of yours. To me it is a little absurd but I understand it. People feel that way because of the name of it. The name completion. They  see that and automatically it makes them think the record has to be more personal.

People are maybe reading more into the title than was intended…

Of course they are. There is nothing wrong with that. I understand it. That is definitely what happened.

On the record it is not just the personal that you deal with. There are many tracks dealing with social and global issues. So from that point of it is not necessarily a personal record…

I learned a long time ago that you can use music as a vehicle to address the issues of your time. Things that need to be changed. Things you would like to see different. Things you would encourage people to engage more energy in changing. I don’t have the mind that says when I see an issue that it has to be completely different, some issues come from the situation that lead to them. Sometimes you can have the greatest minds of the world reaching a consensus yet the same shit happens. I like to use my music to address these things without telling people what to think. I just think it is important that people think.

It is almost challenging people…

Yeah, I am just saying “what do you think?” I don’t have the personality type that thinks my way of approaching things is right. That is absurd. But there are a lot of things going on in our time period that are pretty bad.

I grew up in New Orleans and that has always been a victim of the power struggle. Some people have to starve damn near to death just to survive in a place like that. There are some people out there going through some really difficult shit and there is a whole world of people out there who don’t care. That’s heavy.

Do you feel as someone with a public profile, that you have a responsibility to use it wisely and raise due attention?

Lots of people have a platform, but they don’t always think about what they are saying. In music a lot of people are speaking about the things they see. But having met a lot of artists, I am not necessarily sure that you want to have these people telling your children how to think or what to feel. Some of the stuff that comes out of their mouths as artists is scary shit. For me that is part of the reason I attack or deal with any issue, I am always very careful not to superimpose my entire feelings on it. They are not the most important feelings. I have a voice and an outlet and I try to study these issues and dilemmas, but I am in no way trying to dictate to people how they should. I just want them to deal with them somehow.

With your public profile constantly growing, do you feel extra pressure when creating new music?

I think a lot of musicians in this era they get really weary because you could make 2 or 3 records in a year, now most guys are lucky to make one every 2 1/2 or 3 years. We have been lucky enough, if you count this double record as 2, then it is our 9th record in as many years. I think at this point my body of work speaks for itself. Anyone who has listened to my music knows that I take a lot of chances and that doesn’t mean I succeed all the time. Everytime I fail at something I can learn from it.

I try not to operate from the space of fear. That doesn’t mean you don’t have fear, everyone does. But I don’t let it dictate the music I make. It can’t come out musically as this is what I am most prepared for in life.

Has your ambition always just been played out through music?

I grew up boxing. My Grandfather was big Chief in the Black Indian tradition. I watched him as a child in front of hundreds of people, so there are different things you develop over time. Watching someone being that big and important, I learned to adjust different facets of my personality. Being in a situation where I was surrounded by some many people and having to approach those people with care and compassion. Music is what I do but it is not the medium that speaks exclusively for who I am as a person. It is probably to best known frame. There are always more layers.

You have in your career worked with so many great talents, which collaboration has taken you the most by surprise?

Thom Yorke is the one I never saw happening. I have always been such a huge Radiohead fan, ever since I was in High School. It wasn’t a very popular band for blacks in New Orleans. People were just like “what the hell is this?” So I had to fight those battles. It is interesting as it was actually quite hard to grow up having to deal with that.

I know this is a little off path, but it makes me think of all the times I had to defend these different types of music to my peers. It didn’t ever matter what type of people they were as it would even happen at Berkeley-whether it is defending Radiohead to black kids in New Orleans or Kid Ori to white kids at Berkeley-there is always something. But turning people onto something that they think they hate, I do not use that word liberally.

Somebody that I haven’t worked with that I would love to work with… This is going to sound crazy but I want to work with Rakim. Just because I am the Hip Hop generation. What he did to Hip Hop is Max Roach and Baby Dodds or Chick Webb. I don’t want to say it is jazz but his rhythms are so creative, This guy invented flow. I like artists who do something in music that no one has done before, but they don’t get talked about a lot. Rakim did something that changed music. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Rakim is the God MC.

“Christian aTunde Adjuah” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

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