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Caoilfhionn Rose: The musical path to joy...

Discover the beautiful and thoughtful conversation I had with Caoilfhionn Rose whose new album "Constellation" is out this May!


1) Dear Keelin, thank you so much for joining me here on the Balearic Breakfast blog. Listening to your music feels like experiencing an ongoing discovery. There is always an element inviting the listener to search beyond, even if it's unconscious. We feel this very much when listening to your second album, "Truly", which was very well received by the critics, with the track "Paths" being included in Colleen's first "Balearic Breakfast Vol. 1" compilation. How did you start composing music? Sometimes, artists discover their talent by accident. Was it your case, or did it happen gradually?

The process of creating music feels like an ‘ongoing discovery’ to me too, so I’m glad you hear that in the music I make. I could talk about a number of things unfolding which led me to start writing and performing my own music and believing that this was something I could pursue long-term. 

I have always enjoyed music and am grateful to have had piano lessons with a really lovely, encouraging teacher throughout my childhood and teenage years. After a period of illness, when I was 17, I discovered the healing and therapeutic nature of music. I began writing my own songs on the piano and gradually built up to performing them at open mic nights. I decided to delay going to university for a year and earned a diploma in Music Production and Audio Engineering. This was very inspiring and enabled me to create my own demos of the songs I’d been writing. 

I also met Matthew Halsall (musician and Gondwana Records label owner) before I went to Newcastle to study. He’d heard one of the little self-produced EPs I’d put on my Bandcamp page and was interested in working on my debut album with me to be released on Gondwana. Matthew’s belief and support were really encouraging and put me on a path to pursue music in a more serious and dedicated way. 

2) You have your own "Sound". Of course, your voice, which can't be forgotten by the listener, but also, that free and open-minded approach, the tight and not overwhelming bass, and that kind of "eternity" to it, enhanced, I feel, by the beautiful equilibrium found in the several echos and reverbs used for the recording/mastering of your records. The guitar plays a dominant role in this sonic picture. How do you work with your team (bandmates and sound engineers) while you're in the studio?

My approach to making music is quite experimental at times, and I don’t really follow any one process. I self-produced ‘Constellation’ with my husband Rich Williams (who also plays guitar in my band). We worked together at crafting the sound-world of the album and constructed the songs in different ways. 

Mostly, we employed a collage-type method, starting with the core of a song some chords, a vocal melody and gradually pieced it together, building layers on top, working with other musicians adding their parts. Sometimes, we stuck two song ideas together, reworking and reimagining as we went along. 

We recorded a lot of stuff at home in our shed and also had a lovely studio session at WR Audio in Manchester. In this session we invited bandmates Alan Taylor on drums and Gavin Barras on bass to jam out ideas and craft them together some more. The song ‘Rainfall’ came about through improvisation over an ambient sample created by trumpeter and producer Aaron Wood. 

The new album also features my good friend Jordan Smart (Mammal Hands) on saxophone. His parts were recorded remotely sometime during the lockdown. We sent over a bunch of songs, and Jordan interwove his beautiful melodies over the top.

I really enjoy working with other musicians and, when making ‘Constellation’, I really opened myself up to collaborating, sometimes in person, sometimes remotely sending things back and forth. I find it really exciting to find new ways of working and exploring new sound-worlds. 

3) Your new album, "Constellation", will be out in May. Two tracks are already available to listen to on the streaming platforms, and your Bandcamp, "Rainfall" and "Fall into Place", played by our dear Colleen on the 165th episode of Balearic Breakfast. Though you keep your "ethereal" nature, even giving it a wider range, one can feel a slightly more solid approach to sound; realism seems more present. What did you want to convey both musically and spiritually through this new album?

Musically, I wanted to veer off into a bit of a new direction from my first two albums, ‘Awaken’ and 'Truly’. I did this by using different instrumentation, singing in different ways, writing about new things, being playful with song structures, and collaborating. The whole album was quite patch-worked together, so I’m not sure whether there was ever an overarching plan or concept.

‘Wandering Mind’ was the song that sparked the idea of the album’s sound-world. It was the first song I was working on where I thought: ‘yes this is where I want to go’. It felt like I’d unlocked a new soundscape and style. 

Spiritually, I hope the music is felt and understood in whatever way is helpful. The album’s meaning seems to reveal itself to me more and more as time goes on. The songs resonate in different ways at different times. I hope it can do that for other people, slotting into their lives when they need it. 

4) While watching your album covers, I was surprised by how much they share a close pictural element (I won't tell our readers which one it is; of course, they'll have to look and find it for themselves, laughs!). How do you choose the path to take when working on your album covers? Can it be that just one song brings up the idea, or is it generally the album as a whole that leads you to propose the final vision?

The artist Daniel Halsall designed the covers for my albums ‘Truly’ and ‘Constellation’ and the cover of my first album ‘Awaken’ is a photo of me taken by my husband Rich Williams. Daniel Halsall designs a lot of the album artwork for the Gondwana Records label and has a way of connecting to the music and bringing that music to life in visual form. 

The decision to create and choose album artwork is quite collaborative between me and Gondwana Records. It involves a lot of moodboard making and listening to the record as a whole to highlight themes and imagery. 

I went to Daniel Halsall’s art exhibition last year and was really inspired by his line drawings and use of composition. Serendipitously, the style seemed to correlate with the constellation theme, and so I asked if he could design something of that ilk, incorporating some imagery from the lyrics of songs from my album. 

5) You like to share thoughts on some of your songs on your socials, and one can feel you're a positive person. This contrasts with the more balanced tonalities of your songs, which, at first listen, lead the listener onto a more reflective path. Where does your soul guide you, Keelin?

I really like this question! Hmm, I’m quite a deep thinker, or well, I am an over-thinker… I try to be positive but often I am overtaken by worries, both of the future and dwelling over things. When I’m writing songs it’s often done in a sort of self-talk way, advisory and with care. The messages I want to send out are of kindness and warmth, with hope and resilience. My soul guides me to constantly work on myself and to be a good person.

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