Music Editor Aoileann Kennedy sat down with eccentric up and coming Irish artist Farah Elle to discuss music, diversity, solitude and Trump.
When you hear Farah sing, it can come as a shock that such a powerful voice comes from such a small frame. Once you get chatting to her it makes complete sense. Farah is a singer/songwriter, pianist and recent BIMM graduate. I first came across her at a gig in town in September, and was awestruck. At the moment she is based out of her home in Meath where she is working on her debut album. Farah comes from a Libyan background, something that adds an Arabian influence to her sound. Tracks like ‘Silk’ marry that influence with alternative-pop to create something very unique. Her heritage came up in our chat in the context of Trump’s Muslim ban, something which affected her directly. A planned trip to Disneyworld Orlando with her friend had to be shelved as her place of birth meant that she would be denied entry to the US.
One of the first things Farah and I talked about was diversity within the Irish music industry. Not necessarily diversity of person, but diversity of sound. Farah thinks that there is lots of diversity within the Irish scene, citing a newly formed hip-hop collective and an influx of jazz artists as prime examples. The music is out there, it’s up to us to find it. The industry itself is small. Farah does see herself leaving Ireland someday, more so to broaden her own experience and enrich her music. She feels that this particular moment in time is exciting. There is a sense of revolution within the music and creative industries. She tries to provide a voice for people who share her outlook, but she won’t consciously create overtly political music. Hyper-reality, specifically people’s emotional response to it is something which influences her song-writing. In an age of Instagram perfection, consumerism and spin, she has a very valid point. She has had this feeling for a long time (she wrote a song called ‘Modern Life Is Boring’ at age 14, denouncing Bebo and mobile phones).
Solitude is something that is very influential for Farah. She feels it’s difficult to find. As she explains, our generation have to make the conscious decision to be alone – switch off the phone, logout of Facebook, disconnect. She went as far as Florence to find that elusive quietness. Her hometown on the North-Dublin/ Meath border provides her with some sort of peace. She lives in her family home near the sea, close to nature, creating an environment where she can have the silence required to write. Solitude provides her with clarity, something which was hammered home recently when she broke her phone and had a few blissful, distraction free days. She was able to write a song which flowed organically from her. Her song-writing process has evolved as she has grown. As life has gotten busier, she now doesn’t always have the luxury to sit down at a piano and write the music first, so she had to alter her methods. She constantly keeps notes, and she is adamant that ideas never die. She finds writing to be a very healthy and cathartic exercise. Empathy adds to her music. She feels that musicians have the ability to translate emotion to music. They are a vessel, not a master. The song-writing process is something which is happening to you, so staying humble is something that is very important to her. It is a gift which you should share. Being empathetic is not an obstacle to assertiveness, something she tries to be at all times. Assertiveness is essential in the music industry. Emotional intelligence is something Farah greatly values. She likes to document emotion, even her own. When she meets new people, one of the first thoughts that come into her head is ‘How do they feel?’.
In terms of live music and performances in Dublin, Farah cites Sin É, Workmans and The Grand Social as a few of her favourite spots in town. She is a huge fan of other Irish acts like Planet Parade, Too Fools, Zapho, Fiona Hart, Little One and Claire Z. She is full of praise for the quality of fellow up-and-coming artists at the moment. For me, Farah is one of the most interesting and engaging voices out there right now. Her voice is strong and sweet at the same time. Her songs are powerful and emotional. I for one am eagerly anticipating her new record.
Catch Farah Elle at The Sugar Club, March 8th , The Chester Beattie Museum March 19th and The Workmans Club March 24th . Listen to her music on Soundcloud @ www.soundcloud/farahelle