The Spanish-Irish singer, Núria Graham, unpacks the elements of her latest track, named after a cultural region in County Galway
Half-Irish half-Catalan composer Núria Graham published her debut album First Tracks in 2015. In just over two years, she followed up with EPs Bird Eyes and In The Cave and her second LP Does It Ring a Bell?, an album that positioned her on the national scene as an essential artist to understand homemade folk-pop.
But she didn’t stop there. After a tour that took her to the stages of the most relevant festivals and venues across Europe – and joining Spanish singer Amaia’s band as a composer and guitarist – Núria Graham returns again with new material.
Her latest album Marjorie captivates with a heady mix of confessional lo-fi pop and dark abstraction, and – as we learn below – her new single Connemara evokes a sense of nostalgia and longing for the region in Ireland…
I always feel that the songs that represent me the most are stories that don’t talk about me and are focused on someone else’s story. They are songs that come out very easily and without thinking too much. In a way, this is what happened when I wrote Connemara. I think the idea must have been inside me for years, because I am very connected to that place, but the day I wrote this song I was just waking up from a long nap at my parents’ house and I woke up with the chords, the melody and the lyrics in my head.
I’ve been going to Connemara my whole life because of my Irish family, and my aunt lives there in a beautiful house in the middle of nowhere. I’ve been visiting a lot these past two years and there is something magic and tragic about this place that I feel represents me a lot.
The lyrics talk about the last images a person sees before leaving this world. I don’t specifically talk about death in this song, even though it does talk about a suicide, but I try to relate it to the very wild nature of this place more than the act itself.
It’s just a series of images that came to my head just as if somebody had sent them to me. Some things I haven’t seen, because as far as I am aware, I’ve never been in the sea with dolphins, but for some reason, I felt it made sense in the story.
I feel compassion and understanding for a character that I never met, but had seen and been to the same places as me. My favourite part is the chorus, for me it’s like an ode to life.
Lately, I’ve been using a lot more the piano to write and compose. This past year I would easily spend hours and hours every day trying to write something. The melody of the song is very simple and my voice is very low, and I feel very comfortable singing like this. The song was built around three chords at first, but then in the studio, we changed the final chorus to build it up towards the end.
In The Studio
Connemara was one of the first songs we started working on in the studio. In fact, it was the one that gave us a direction and an idea of what the record was going to be. I’ve been working with my friend, bass player in the band, and co-producer Jordi Casadesus in the studio this past year just trying out stuff and searching for my own sound.
In this case, Connemara was written on the piano, so we started recording the acoustic piano and we had the idea to add a drum machine (through the space-echo machine). Then, we started working on the keyboard sounds, and what we’ve been using is basically sounds from the Memotron (amazing old sounds like flutes, strings, etc) and the [Roland] Juno-6. Then, we recorded drums and the base through the space echo too. There are some guitar sounds on the track with a lot of reverb which, for some reason, make me think of seagulls.
The voice you can hear on the track is actually the first one we recorded when we were doing the demo. In fact, the demo stayed the way it was, so it became the song itself!
Connemara is one of my favourite songs on the new record, maybe because it was so easy and so special to write and record. It was all very natural to me and I feel this song represents me. It has a kind of tragic optimism, it’s enormously nostalgic but at the same time there’s some hope, I like the fact that I sing “I love you life but I am out of here!” happily, when really it’s quite a sad thing to say.
Núria Graham’s new single Connemara, taken from her new album Majorie, is out now through Primavera Sound Labels/Universal Spain. Find out more at nuriagraham.com