Evening Echo – Cork, Ireland (24 July 2008)

July 24, 2008. The Evening Echo – Cork, Ireland.
Searching Farrell and Wide for Inspiration
By Don O’Mahony

“Head down to the water, take a walk on the tracks. Going to jump on a boxcar and never look back”

So sings Vancouver songwriter Farrell Spence on the title track of her debut album A Town Called Hell , and proving the adage that you can never go back, Spence has moved to Cork to begin writing her second album.

“I get asked a lot if the album is about Winnipeg , where I grew up,” she says of her debut. “When I wrote the song I wrote it about some of my experiences growing up in an environment where you feel a little frustrated or you’re not sure where you’re going to go in life. But I think in total the album and the title track is more or less about a state of mind. It’s about being in a place in your heart – a place that so many people find themselves when it comes to love and life and friendship, … that sort of thing.”

A Town Called Hell , which has only recently been made available on this side of the world, uses Americana/folk ballad tradition to explore a restless time where wounds were still raw. Spence embellishes this intense experience with ambient sounds and textures to suggest a very specific time and place. One feels consumed by this record, as one would feel consumed by a fever. It is not something, however, that could really be repeated.

“No,” agrees Farrell. “Most definitely not. It was a product of a time in my life and some experiences that I went through. And that was it and it’s touched a lot of people and I’m happy that it has but the next album I think, I hope, will be a little bit brighter.”

Three months back she decided on a change of scene and just three weeks ago she shipped up in Cork . “I’m on the verge of writing my second album,” she explains. “So, in Vancouver , I was thinking about it for a while and I woke up one morning and thought ‘I don’t want to write it here. I want to write it somewhere else,’ and I recalled what a wonderful time I had had last summer and how inspiring it was to be here and see the music scene in Cork and in Ireland in general. It’s very much alive and very inspiring.

And I know people here and I know musicians here so I decided that this is where I want to write my next album and play music for the next year. I’m definitely in a different place, emotionally, than when I wrote A Town Called Hell . But I wanted a new environment around me. I wanted new experiences, new people to influence my work, new surroundings. So here I am. I am going to see what lands in my lap with respect to music, melodies and lyrics and what happens really remains to be seen. I have three songs written already.”

Farrell spent some time in Cork last year and played a date in town and in Ballycotton. The previous year she spent time in Dublin . “I enjoyed stepping out every night and going to watch sessions or live shows as well in Dublin and Cork last year and seeing how the community supports it and seeing how local musicians support each other. They leave the house after dinner and make arrangements to see shows instead of staying in glued to the TV sets. I thought it was fantastic. It really feels like there’s a lot of support and a lot of enjoyment in Cork and in Dublin for live music. I’ve been here three weeks already and I’ve had some fantastic experiences and seen some pretty amazing shows. I think something good will come of it. I was thinking today that I’ll call the next album A Town Called Cork . Then I thought ‘Nah, that’s not going to work.’”

Having come here with quite an open mind towards how her new record will take shape, she has already found her approach to recorded ambient and environmental sounds much to whet her appetite.

“I’ve already started recording the sounds of my neighbourhood,” she reveals, “and things I notice in the street, the sounds of everyday life that grab me that can then inspire a song; or even just hearing something that somebody says is enough to make you wonder who they are and what their story is…. And then something will develop from there.”

Farrell will be playing with Luke Cosgrave at the Pine Lodge, Myrtleville tonight and then at The Blackbird, Ballycotton on Friday the 25th.