Ciaran Lavery
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Ciaran Lavery

Aghagallon, N Ireland, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Aghagallon, N Ireland, United Kingdom | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Ciaran Lavery – Not Nearly Dark"

Having forged his emergent songwriting credentials with Lurgan indie folk quartet Captain Kennedy, Aghnagallon singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery has been gradually, ever so convincingly plotting his musical extrication for a while now. Whilst his 2011 EP You Will Be A Stranger Now hinted at something altogether revelatory in nature – stripped-back folk odes propelled by an acutely aware storytelling tongue - Not Nearly Dark convincingly distils Lavery’s craft over the course of a full-length release.

Opener ‘Little More Time’ sees an introductory smattering of drums yield to a sublime descending chord progression in Bb reminiscent of Eels circa Daisies of the Galaxy, Lavery’s huskily intoned truths betraying a knack of wisdom far exceeding his young age. “I like to think I’m not a complicated man but then again I can’t be sure,” he teases as verses dwindle confidently à la early Dylan and Van Morrison, the song unwinding from mere guitar and vocals to accommodate the whims of swooning brass lines, warm organ chords and hushed vocal harmonies courtesy of Edelle McMahon.

Track two, ‘Lovers Who Make Love’, embodies a much more melancholic air. With verses evoking U.S. slowcore pioneers Low and early Azure Ray, its final chorus – an upbeat thematic buoy in a lake of meditation – dissolves into a subtly crushing breakdown, Ellen Turley gossamer-like saw work conjuring stunted banshee cries, the song petering out pensively without nosediving towards unambiguous despair. Truth be told, there’s a practically permanent state of optimistic conviction in Lavery’s earnest delivery throughout.

As the record progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that Lavery does not dabble in the realm of aimless rumination. With the release’s artwork illustrating images of the past and the workings of memory – half-seen things, half-said thoughts and half-remembered moments – it’s all but impossible not to recall the romantic wanderlust of Glen Hansard, Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne on early highlight ‘Shame’, Lavery’s voice the pedestal from which his words, borne from a strong grasp of the human condition, hit home. Utilising (both lyrical and musical) space to the song’s advantage, he joins fellow Northern Irish songwriters Katharine Philippa and Our Krypton Son in delivering acutely conscious odes spurred on by spiritual deliberations of youth that simply demand an unwavering ear.

Of course, like all the very best solo outings, Not Nearly Dark is something of a collaborative affair, Lavery’s band boasting some of the finest session musicians in the country – a few established in their own right – who collectively lend to the album’s cosy, familiar air. Whilst it isn’t a flawless work of genius (after all, very few releases can attest to that) the likes of the waltzing, gently wistful ‘Three.Four’ passionately underpin the magnificent polarity intrinsic to Lavery’s songwriting vision. Just as Algerian-French writer Albert Camus was intrigued with the ever-present “thin line” separating the laws of solitude and solidarity, Lavery’s music confronts the darkness whilst never neglecting the light. They are realities entwined – neither stalk alone.

Despite competition, ‘American’ is perhaps the album’s true high point. Reminiscent of Red House Painters’ exquisite ‘Take Me Out’, Lavery feels closer than ever in this track – a knowing whisper in one’s ear – before its follow-up, ‘Awful Love’, sees eager drums courtesy of Mojo Fury’s Mike Mormecha burst forth as Lavery poetically intones the meandering echoes of his soul. At the end up, the paced ‘Turning To Rust’ sees Lavery’s plea of “let it be me” refine the whole why-ness of singer-songwriterdom to a brief mantra before album closer ‘Follow You Down’ (beginning just like ‘Bye’ by Elliott Smith: a door closing; approaching footsteps) segues from major-chorded acquiescence to an abrupt one-minute silence prior to a wonderfully bittersweet, Sparklehorse-esque final breathe.

As young, naturally gifted, not to mention hugely promising Northern Irish singer-songwriters go, Ciaran Lavery sits comfortably, ever so modestly, with the very best. A mercurial full-length debut suggestive of yet finer things in the works, Not Nearly Dark is the songwriting equivalent of Lavery holding out his hand to those who cling from the cliff of existence by virtue of merely existing. Quite frankly, it would be foolish not to take hold. Brian Coney

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- AU Magazine

"Ciaran Lavery l Kosher EP Review"

When it comes to musical creativity there seems to be a certain je ne sais quoi about certain regions which continuously produce a specific genre defined talent.

For example, when we look cross-channel it tends to be England’s harsh and industrial North which springs to mind – Liverpool and Manchester historically at the forefront. On our side of the pond we only need venture across the border to tap into the natural spring of musical inspiration, whether by way of wonderful geographical quirk or genetic twist which emanates outward from Belfast, they just have it – it’s in the blood.

Ciaran Lavery hails from the sleepy country hamlet of Aghagallon. With two successful EPs in the shape of You Will Be A Stranger Now and The Making Of Things, plus the highly acclaimed Not Nearly Dark album already under his belt, it’s blindingly clear to see that wherever this pool of inspiration is, it ain’t about to run dry anytime soon.

Lavery, described recently as an ‘alt-folk troubadour’, has just released his third EP, Kosher – a superb five-track collection which highlights beautifully exactly what the Northern Irishman is all about. Wonderfully upbeat, laced with those summary clanging guitar sounds and the trademark hushed vocal, Kosher will leave you wanting to know more about its origins and the man behind it. It’s the kind of music which more than lends itself to the festival scene – it has an overriding expressive quality which becomes a raw, captivating charm when performed live. And when it comes to expression, look no further than the video for lead track Left For America. Starring the brilliant Ro Graham, its functionality springs from the fact that it is (from perhaps a sideways view) completely relatable, and the same can be said for every track in terms of delivery and meaning.

The EP feels extremely personal from start to end. Lavery writes from his own perspective, but more than a lyrical master class, there’s a unique flow to his writing which suits his soft, hushed – almost regional tone perfectly. The result is a chemistry which is quite resounding. Stand out track Orphan rounds off the record with an energy and excitement which has been building from the onset. It’s upbeat, uptempo and to the point – perhaps the perfect illustration of the artist.

And so, if Kosher does indeed leave you wanting to know more, then it’s a case of mission accomplished for Ciaran Lavery. And as we wait expectantly for the next offering, Live and Die in Music have managed to track down the Aghagallon man to get his take on the EP, video and everything behind both!

Here’s our Ciaran Lavery interview in full:

LADIM: We really enjoyed Kosher! It feels wonderfully descriptive and personal. When you compile an EP such as this, do you sit and write with a direction in mind, perhaps following on from your previous work? Or is it more a case of seeing where the record takes you?

CL: There were a few certainties that I had before I went in to work on Kosher. One was that I wanted it to sound different to anything previous, the other was that it had to make people’s head nod or feet tap. The songwriting was already different, brighter than anything I had before. Months before going in to record, I knew whatever songs made the cut for Kosher had to all be beat driven. I was on a strict diet of hip hop and Beck during the whole process just so I didn’t stray from the original idea.

LADIM: If you were to reflect upon Not Nearly Dark, You Will Be A Stranger Now and The Making Of Things, where do you think you are now in terms of your development with regard to writing and performing, especially when it comes to the new EP?

CL: I guess I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I always admired artists who didn’t have a filter on their lyrical content but never thought I was ever brave enough. It doesn’t bother me now – although I’ll likely never release anything as close to the bone as Sun Kil Moon’s Benji. I spent a year playing solo shows, really homing in on working with an audience and using space to my advantage, and now working with a full band the sound is a whole lot bolder. So I try to marry both elements of what I’ve been doing. If anything, that’s interesting!

LADIM: I’d like to ask you about the video to Left For America. Many of us will relate to the opening and closing scenes as we sit daydreaming in offices and classrooms around the country! Was that an idea which came from a personal experience of your own?

CL: I think everyone can relate to that kind of situation at some point in their life. As a songwriter I live a lot in my head anyway, so it’s not alien to me. I just wanted to work with a simple idea that could hold people’s attention for three minutes to be honest – the response has been overwhelming!

LADIM: The video is wonderfully expressive, everything from the dancing right through to the tattoos. Can you tell us a little about what the video means to you? Also, I wondered if the mirrors carried any significance?

CL: The star of the video is Ro Graham, no doubt about that. The way he expresses himself is class. The work done by him and director ROC was first class and I’m entirely indebted to both lads. I think it’s wonderfully expressive, and though it has no direct link to the lyrics of the song, they do work perfectly together – perhaps it has a lot to do with how it’s shot. I’d love to say there’s a hidden meaning behind the use of the mirrors but it was just another angle to capture Ro’s slick moves!

LADIM: We touched upon how personal the EP feels to the listener, but just how personal is it to you? Are you writing from your own perspective?

CL: To some extent I am, it’s hard not to. At the same time I rarely sit down and plan consciously, say certain things. Kosher is based a lot around memories I have of growing up and there are references here and there. I have to leave a little bit of mystery in there too of course.

LADIM: You come from a part of the world which keeps on producing musical talent, this has to be more than coincidence! What’s in the water up there?!

CL: I have no idea but I agree with you 100% – music up here is very much going through a purple patch. What’s even more interesting is the fact that a lot of it is based outside of the city. Being based in the country, there’s a certain amount of pride in that too.

LADIM: Finally, you already have a hugely impressive body of work under your belt, but what can we expect from Ciaran Lavery in the future?

CL: I will be busy with festivals over the summer and likely adding shows to the schedule over the next few months. I like to stay busy, so recording won’t be too far away either! - Live And Die In Music

"New Music"

The Antrim man’s current “Kosher” EP is a fine showcase for his tender, fragile, occasionally cracked voice and his strong, crafted, hugely engaging songwriting. Formerly with Captain Kennedy, Lavery’s solo stirrings are well worth checking out - Jim Carroll, Irish Times

"Ciaran Lavery goes Kosher with new EP"

For a musician who seems to have rarely taken a break from recording or touring over the past few years, singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery has a relaxed air about him when we meet in Café Harlem in Belfast to chat about his new EP, Kosher, a follow-up to both his debut album, Not Nearly Dark, and his collection of cover versions, Other People Wrote These, both released in 2013.

Those familiar with the work of the flame-haired and bearded troubadour from Aghagallon, County Antrim, may be surprised by the record. In contrast to the stripped-back splendour of Not Nearly Dark, the new songs have a decidedly more commercial feel to them.

‘As soon as we finished recording the album last year, I knew that when I got back in the studio I wanted to concentrate on something more upbeat,’ Lavery admits. ‘With the album it was about experimenting, using the room as another instrument. This time it was based around percussion. Everything was more beat orientated.'

During the process of writing and recording Kosher, Lavery was listening to a lot of hip hop, as well as the early records of Beck, and was inspired to try out various percussive sounds. ‘I knew that I wanted something like the flipside of what the album was, something brighter, leaning towards commercial, even just as an experiment to see if I could do it,’ he admits. ‘How would it sound? Would it work?’

Produced by Barrett Lahey, Lavery is joined on the EP by Mike Mormecha on drums and percussion, Conor Scullion on piano, keyboards and synths, Paul Wilkinson on guitars and ‘sounds’, Marty Young on bass and double bass, Robert Holmes on slide guitar and Katie and Evie Holmes on vocals.

Lavery worked closely with Mormecha, frontman with rock outfit Mojo Fury turned solo artist, on the percussive instrumentation. ‘Having Mike on drums was great,’ Lavery says. ‘You don’t really need to lead him into anything. You just give him some sort of direction to start from.’

In the lead up to the release of Kosher, a promo video of opening track ‘Left For America’ was released. Directed by Richard O’Connor, the promo – which features Dublin actor Ro Graham – is a joy to watch and listen to, and proves that Lavery's latest offerings are songs with rhythm.

‘I said going into the recordings that I really want people to either tap their feet or nod their heads to every single song on the EP,’ he says. And why the title, Kosher? ‘I love that word. I was trying to work it into a song and I couldn’t so I gave up on it and forgot it. Then, when we were finishing up the record, it came back to me.

'Kosher to me always means it’s legitimate and that’s what the record means to me. It’s one hundred per cent authentic because I’m basing a lot of it on memories from either childhood or recent. It’s all based on things I like to think I know or have happened to me in some shape or form.’

Although the music he has released so far as a solo artist can roughly be tagged as ‘alt-folk', Lavery listened to a wide variety of music during his formative years, and is keen to thank his brother-in-law for his eclectic taste.

‘He used to live across the road from me and he would send across albums for me to listen to. They’d have a post-it note on them saying, “Reference songs two, three and nine. Don’t come back to me until you’ve listened to them.” I was 12 or 13 and he was sending me Stone Roses albums, and some things I didn’t like but I’d tell him I did. I guess it was brainwashing in a non-threatening way.'

It seemed a natural progression to play music himself, but Lavery didn’t find it easy at first. ‘I remember really hating it, thinking it was far too hard to learn,’ he remembers. ‘It was becoming really depressing.

'I was learning things like ‘She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain’ and I couldn’t do it right. After struggling for a couple of months I put the guitar away and then I came back to it a couple of months later and it seemed easier. I was more determined, I think.’

A friend had started to play drums at about the same time and they used to jam together several times a week. Before too long another friend joined them on bass. ‘The three of us used to play with nobody singing because everybody was too shy to sing,’ Lavery laughs.

‘We set up the mic but everybody just looked at it. Nobody would have a go. This went on for a year or so, and then my brother-in-law came along one day and said he’d like to do a bit of music and that’s how we started with the band. It was always pretty organic.’

The band became Captain Kennedy, who developed a loyal following and much critical acclaim over their seven years together before their momentum slowed and the band came to an amicable end. ‘I’m still friends with everyone in the band,’ Lavery says. ‘I’m thankful for all the years we had together, all the hard slogging and the hard gigs. Whenever you do gigs on your own you still have that knowledge behind you.’

Wasting little time, Lavery struck out as a solo artist, playing gigs all over the country and working hard to establish himself once more. ‘As a solo songwriter people were paying more attention to the lyrics and not relying so much on the sound of the music,’ he explains. 'I don’t really miss the band but it was difficult playing on my own at first. You didn’t know if anyone would know you and there was nobody beside you.

'You were operating on a smaller stage and the sound was so minimalistic but I really enjoyed it. I learned some things. Now, though, it’s great playing with a band again. They’re always thinking about your songs, hitting you with different ideas and stuff. It felt like the right time to bring people in again.’ And that he has done, with perhaps his most successful and accessible recording to date. As a solo artist, Ciaran Lavery is most certainly kosher. - Culture NI

"Ciaran Lavery"

Ciaran Lavery has been described as an ‘alt-folk troubadour’ and his latest offering off his ‘Kosher’ EP certainly fits within this ilk. Sparking sounds of Joe Purdy and Josh Ritter, Lavery’s ‘Left For America’ is a fragile yet impassioned plea for a greater freedom that perhaps escapes most of us within our daily lives. A warming and tender vocal line guides the listener, which is matched by warbling strings and driving percussion, resulting in a track that inspires imagined scenes of a quiet, crisp Mid-West evening and a level of dissuading domestic disharmony. - The Tipping Point

"Alt Folk singer wows at Hard Working Class Heroes"

Hailing from the small Irish village of Aghagallon, alt-folk troubadour Ciaran Lavery’s biography says he has channeled the quiet despair of isolation into timeless songs of beauty and heartache.

He’s already released a number of critically acclaimed records including the stark and beautiful Not Nearly Dark.

Last night he stunned listeners at Hard Working Class Heroes in the Grand Social where we caught up with him to find out about his latest EP.
How long have you been writing music?

I guess I have been writing songs for the guts of 12 years now all in all. Some terrible, some good.
What’s the new record about?

Kosher is very much a nostalgic record for me personally. It’s based strongly on memories I have from my childhood and growing up to the present day. I reference a few things at home which I’m happy I managed to slip in without any major fuss. I am forever influenced by where I came from, how I got to here. In that way I seen the record as being pretty much 100% genuine, or, in other words ‘Kosher’.
Describe your music in one sentence.

Almost impossible to summarise.
How did you get into music?

I have been listening to music since before I even remember. I have a lot of friends who have been raised in session music, I wasn’t like that, though I was always jealous of them. I guess I spent a lot of time in my early life listening. By the age of 13 I was deeply into hip hop and rock, I was like a sponge after this point. I listened to everything from every genre, there was no filter. I picked up the guitar at 15 and after that embarrassing period of not being able to play the thing, it all started to click
What has been your favourite moment as a musician so far?

Every show I play, every new area and meeting new people. It’s hard to top this feeling, and harder to single out a single moment. Can I say the next one?
What Irish acts do you rate?

There is so much good Irish music out there, it’s almost frightening at times when you start to scratch beneath the surface and almost impossible to list every one that I rate. From playing live shows with I have been blown away by acts like Ian O’Doherty, Silences, Anthony Toner, The Emerald Armada, John Blek & The Rats, Triona and Kate O’Callaghan among so many more. This question is too tough to answer
What are you listening to at the moment?

Lately I have been listening a lot to Nashville artists Liza Anne and Sam Pinkerton. I was lucky enough to meet them personally and see/hear them live while I was there. I do most of my listening in the car to and from gigs so scattered around the seats are some Kanye West, the new Ryan Adams record, some Tom Waits and Strand of Oaks... it’s a rotation system I operate with
What do you hope for from playing HWCH?

If I can make some more people aware of my music through my performance at HWCH that’s all I can really ask for – anything else is a bonus - Irish Mirror

"Rising Irish Artist"

Five track EP 'Kosher' has been developed by the prolific songwriter from a much quieter 'remote' sound to intensely emotional tunes that hit hard on the very first listen.

Hailing from the tiny village of Aghagallon in Co Antrim, the former Captain Kennedy frontman uses his isolated homeland as inspiration for his timeless songs of beauty and heartache.

Displaying talent beyond his 27 years, his music has been described as an amalgamation of Bon Iver, Tom Waits and Ray Lamontagne. -

"Ciaran Lavery. New Record. Kosher"

Motivation for creating content on a blog comes in waves, sometimes little ones sometimes big and sometimes none for weeks. The none for weeks happens when real life outside computers is far more important I recently got engaged so that added to spending all day working on a computer leads to not wanting to sit at a computer in my spare time. That said when you get emailed lots of music constantly it takes something special to get your attention and give you motivation to write something.

Ciaran Lavery did just that, the Belfast based solo singer is set to release a new record “kosher” on 19th June and from what I’ve heard it sounds excellent.
I often say no one writes heartbreak or loneliness like Ryan Adams, Ciaran Lavery does a damn good job and being mentioned beside Ryan Adams in any sentence I consider to be extremely high praise so check him out here but if you need more convincing read on.
Lavery delivers a perfect balance of real heartfelt lyrics and imagery through his vocals coupled with interesting and complicated melodies and structures. Drawing comparisons with Ben Howard for his style evoking such strong images of his songs through his lyrics without sacrificing the need for a strong hook or big chorus. - ItsATangent

"Stendhal Festival of Arts 2014"

Immediately afterwards in Woodtown, just ahead of a full-band performance in the Main Stage tent, Aghagallon singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery forges his exceptional acoustic folk reveries with some of the finest, crowd-pleasing banter you’re ever likely to hear at a festival. Rather than recite any of his quips - you had to be there, frankly – it remains a fact: Lavery is very easily in the top three greatest songsmiths in the country, if not the most naturally-gifted Northern Irish voices of his generation. Shades donned, stood with an acoustic, he is an imposing and authoritative figure in the clandestine, arboreous alcove of Woodtown. With introspective folk masterstrokes ‘Shame’ and ‘Left For America’ seducing a sizable, engrossed audience, a spellbinding rendition of ‘Into The Mystic’ by Van Morrison seals the deal for a set that proves totally immersive and entrancing in equal proportion. - The Thin Air

"Ciaran Lavery Live In Belfast"

Regular readers here will be no stranger to the works of Craigavon man Ciaran Lavery. We’ve been enjoying the new EP ‘Kosher’ on repeat and tonight sees the record get a launch party down in The Black Box. Lavery’s on stage with a full band, the bass and drums pounding out a steady four-four, driving along the Americana openers ‘A Ragtime Song’ and recent single ‘Left For America’. Barely pausing for breath before launching into ‘Sophomore Rising’, a tune that would be a stand out on anyone else’s record but somehow manages to be outshone by Ciaran’s own high quality writing elsewhere on the EP.

Slowing it down some, the band find their groove and ease effortlessly from one track to the next. A gapless interlude between the beautiful folk tinged ballads ‘Awful Love’ and ‘Turning To Rust’ only highlights the dexterity of the live performers. With tenderly finger-picked guitar and wailing harmonica it may well be early Thursday evening but it’s the sound of a Sunday morning coming down as Lavery enjoys a solo song on stage.

When you drop a tune like ‘Left for America’ so early in the set you give yourself quite a mountain to climb but luckily there are a few more aces up this man’s sleeve. Going back to last year’s LP ‘Not Nearly Dark’, we’re treated to a fairly upbeat version of ‘Shame’ and a rowdy hoe-down stomper in ‘Orphan’. The latter being a real alt-country stormer; the sound of spilled beer on the straw and someone smashing a chair off the bar while the band segues into one of the most compelling and oddly beautiful Lionel Richie covers imaginable.

With toes still tapping to the faint strains of ‘Boxer’ we step out into the cool night air, onto stubbed out cigarettes on stony streets leaving America and heading for home - Folk & Tumble


Not Nearly Dark LP (2013)

Other People Wrote These EP (2013)

Kosher EP (2014)



Ciaran Lavery found his musical voice through the simplest of means
“…listening to old 80s singles on my sister’s record player.” Cutting
his young teeth in various (often noisier) incarnations over the last
decade – that voice is now as soothing as it is timeless. Ciaran crafts
heart-on-sleeve acoustic pop in the vein of ‘29’-era Ryan Adams; full of
passion and meaning, “I come from a tiny village; you could literally
drive through Aghagallon in thirty seconds, but it’s jam packed full of
characters and real, genuine people. It’s the type of place where if
you’re being an idiot someone will tell you. That’s just how the
environment was. I guess that sort of honesty comes out in my music.”

Band Members