by Levi Soulodre
August 6, 2009
A person’s appreciation of any artistic work or creation usually precedes and is directly correlated to building traits of admiration, which then absorbs or positively reflects that person’s own sense of artistic aesthetic in a progressed, uniquely personalized and consequently passionate state. Saskatoon folk/pop singer-songwriter Eileen Laverty exhibits a sincere admiration not only for passionate people in the artistic medium, but in any way or form. “I love being surrounded by passionate people. If you can do that in any kind of work, people will be drawn to you, because I know I love being around those types of people, regardless if they’re a musician or a plumber.”
Often in the professional music sphere, the key to an artist’s success relies heavily on the ample balancing of their natural creativity and abilities, with the equally important connective portrayal of their persona-selves in a positive and exuberant manner with everyone - be they fans or media. If these features are balanced (and the latter un-neglected or pushed aside due to the risk of exploding egos), these artists will not only gain the appropriate attention they deserve, but will, as in the talented and good-natured Laverty’s case, create a lasting impression on their public or fans, propagating their symbiotically sound union of being and music to even greater heights.
In her song "biding my time", a deliciously palatable piece of folksy turn-of-the-corner pie structured in a pop plate off her brand new album Ground Beneath My Feet, Laverty sings in a delicate and soothing tone, “Promise I’ll take the next opportunity...” while a breezy violin line permeates the song. Laverty has undoubtedly kept this promise, having pushed her passion for music and people to the next level. And, she doesn’t plan on stopping to sit by the wayside anytime soon.
Sitting with Eileen Laverty for just less than an hour, the Belfast-born musician (whose family immigrated to Canada when she was 6 years old) not only gives off but glows in an air of self-confidence, sincerity, positivity and, most importantly, happiness. Still bearing a taste of her homeland’s accent, she immediately opens up about her music, family, and art, and how a co-existence of inter-connectivity exists between all things important to her. It is also evident, through her confident and comfortable mannerisms, that she is from a strongly communal, work-willed family. Laverty’s traits are intimately connected to her family’s manners, stating that “The Laverty [family] judges the quality of the day by how much we get accomplished.” On her first album, the self-released and very well-received Dancing With Angels, she credits her uncle Desmond with having introduced her to the energy and joy of music, while unintentionally keying open her artistic lock by unleashing a passion which has now bloomed into a full-time, professional music career.
Laverty began performing in a Celtic band in the '90s, spreading her wings in 1995 to pursue her own musical direction. “I got a taste of it, and just wanted to do more.”
As such, Laverty’s presence and music isn’t the result of some corporate televised music competition or time-worn image-built pop campaign; she’s as real, honest and organic as singer-songwriters go, and that is what makes her new album both audibly appealing and attention-demanding. Recorded at the well-known Saskatoon facility Audio Art with Glenn Ens engineering, the album was released on March 1, 2006 with an official CD performance at one of Saskatoon’s most prestigious venues, the Broadway Theatre on April 25.
The album closely follows the lines of Laverty’s debut, as both albums were produced by Greg Hargarten, who also performs on both albums. The same philosophies were applied in making the album, all the while “enjoying the whole process,” Laverty explains. One thing she asserts that was different for this album was the time and attention given to each song. “It was great; we just had a ball. [The emphasis] had to be on what remained right for the song. This one took a lot longer to put together. We wanted to have certain people play on it. Otherwise, what’s the point?” This includes instrumental expansion and an even greater number of musicians and contributors, with John Reichman on mandolin, the talents of Jason Fowler on guitar and (returning from Dancing With Angels) Kimbal Siebert, of whom Laverty is a huge fan.
For both her album and live performances, Laverty is happy playing her Yamaha L-Series guitar, which she purchased second hand and which bears “a wonderful tone.” She says (perhaps too modestly) that she is still relatively inexperienced when it comes to the more technical and applied perspectives of guitar work and studio-guitar related applications.
Fortunately, Laverty says, she is surrounded by a fantastic support team of musicians, friends and colleagues who have helped her develop her ideas into her own sound. “I’m just amazed at how my group of musicians can fix and put everything together, in terms of the sounds, tones and levels.” She is, after all, in very good company; producer Greg Hargarten is a prolific member of Saskatoon’s music scene, who heads his own rock group Ricasso besides working with Laverty. Just this past month, the pair was featured on the cover of Saskatoon’s local arts paper Planet S. Like Laverty’s first album, Ground Beneath My Feet was mixed by Jared Kuemper, successfully delivering a delicate and poignant take on Laverty’s voice, instrumentation and songs. The album was sent to Toronto’s well-respected Lacquer Channel Studios for mastering. Laverty adds that Ground Beneath My Feet’s Canada-wide distribution will be again handled by Festival Distribution.
With her first album having accumulated many accolades, why should the people and processes be changed, and risk tampering with success?
Ground Beneath My Feet’s music and lyrics are a definite natural progression for Laverty, and overall, her lyrical landscaping has grown even more meaningfully.
Laverty has confidently built herself a musical niche, finding herself more comfortable than ever nurturing her themes of love, dreams and travel in song. Concerning her lyrical content, Laverty finds herself lost in a sea of sincerity and at an impasse concerning the way she would want to explain them and their purposes. However, she is strong on associating her relationships and influences regarding the people that surround her (be they, friends, family or school students), and is very enthusiastic in the appreciation she exudes from her influences, which include anyone from former students, to plumbers, to the largest singers on the planet, in triggering her writing muses. This reflects the experiences, stories and teaching from others that are so infused in her songs. “My observations are based on interactions with other people, and I find them most interesting.” She pauses, reflecting, “maybe from the way I teach; I am very much inspired by those I teach.” She adds, “I’ve been very overwhelmed and quite humbled about how people read and react to my lyrics.”
This is something Laverty should not only be proud of, but should revel in, given that her positive and hopeful words are able to mediate any yearning soul from song to song. She might have to ready herself to receive this praise much more once her new album begins being distributed and sold.
Concerning her sound and what inspires it, passion and emotion of story and music remain strongest in Laverty’s mind. Interestingly, Laverty certainly doesn’t limit herself purely to music for inspiration. “There has to be a strong emotional connection. I’m very inspired by other art forms, all mediums, especially [painting], watching a film, reading literature.” When asked whether it is her intent to mesh traditional, folk & Celtic-based styles and those of her more contemporary, rock and roll/pop vibes, she reasons that “It’s certainly not a conscious thing - I come from a Celtic background. That is who I am, and will always, intentionally or not, be a part of what I do. On the other hand, sometimes I want to be the rock-chick,” she laughs. “In all, I want to try and achieve a different sound and feel for each song, and make them my own.” This mirrors the way she sings: “I know I have to think about what I’m singing, rather than thinking about the way I am singing.” This stands as Laverty’s testament in establishing her song catalogue and albums as non-generic and meaningful.
Her accomplishments haven’t come without some form of sacrifice. Laverty gave up a full-time teaching career in order to follow music, something many other aspiring musicians might not feel worth the risk. “I really feel so privileged…to consider I even have the opportunity to give up a full-time teaching career, I’m certainly not complaining!” It was a decision of huge proportions, but in the end, she says that her heart kept reminding her, “I have to do this.” She also reasons, “I’ve found it a real challenge to take care of business and then try to find time to be creative. So I’d like to focus my next few years on working and developing things from a creative side.” Admitting that organizing her promotional campaigns while trying to allot time for writing and instrument-learning was simply becoming too large of a task for her, she excitedly announces that just recently she has teamed up with former SaskMusic director and mentor, Marian Donnelly, who has taken on the role of Laverty’s manager and business director. “I was very fortunate to work with (Marian), having her as a mentor for ten years, so it seems like a natural progression to have her as a manager.” Laverty is now excited about attending songwriting workshops, and perhaps taking guitar lessons, rather than giving the full extent of her time to music management and business plans. However, as a professional, she always makes it known that it is important to cover all bases within the field, business or creative.
Having arranged her priorities and now committed on focusing on the creative aspects of her work, she is ready to deliver Ground Beneath My Feet to the masses. The album features eleven new songs, and keenly follows up on her debut’s nicely woven blend of folk, adult contemporary, rock/pop and traditional Celtic themes, all the while resonating in Laverty’s reflective, pensive and positively-laden lyrics, which always bear a good story. Once again, in "biding my time", there is a resonant line where Laverty confidently sings, “It’s never too late to conquer regret.” This is a mentality Laverty will continue to stand by, as she says, “It’s never too late to create change and do what your heart wants to do.”
If her CD release was any indication, Laverty is extremely optimistic about her future. “I was just overwhelmed,” she exclaims. “Saskatoon has been so supportive. I was in my element.” She also finds the support she has received from internationally-known artists to be extremely encouraging. She focuses on Mary Black, whom she had the opportunity to tour with, and who has a “beautiful voice, and [is] a beautiful person.” She pauses, and reflects, “When I stop and think about it, it’s overwhelming.” This sincerity and honesty never leave Laverty’s side, and that is exactly the type of mentality any musician should entrust to and live by in hopes of attaining not only a certain level of commercial success, but of personal and musical growth and happiness.
Asked about how she would encourage budding singer-songwriters or musicians, she says, “You have to enjoy what you’re doing every single day. This is it. If you’re waiting to be happy when you get your big break, then it might not be right.” She adds, “And challenge. You have to keep challenging yourself.” Although conscientiously focused on allowing herself more time to write, Laverty will begin touring in the fall, with dates in progress. As for the summer, she will be making an appearance at Moose Jaw’s Festival of Words.
Ever enthusiastic, she concludes, “This is a very exciting time. I don’t know what I did in my previous life (to deserve this), but I’m having a ball!” With her attitude and outlook on life and music, there is no doubt that Laverty’s soccer ball (being a player herself) will keep striking the back of goal nets for a long time.
Visit her website, www.eileenlaverty.com, for additional news and to find out how you can purchase her albums.