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Cara Dillon Interview

Jo Cox


With a latest solo album about to be recorded and a number of UK dates starting this week, Cara Dillon talks to More Than The Music.

MTTM: During your solo career you’ve often opted to perform and record traditional songs as well as ones you’ve written yourselves, what is the reasoning behind this and how do you choose what you’re going to record?

CD: Well my roots are in traditional song and music so that’s something that’s always been very close to my heart. I think I’ll always sing traditional songs. When I was 19 I got signed to Warner Music and we got put in touch with lots of different songwriters and producers and we were encouraged to start writing our own songs. The song writing skills developed over many years of being in that situation. It depends what kind of mood we’re in when we’re making an album whether it’s going to be really traditional. If we’re in a song writing mood we’ll sit down and have a go at it ourselves so there are no rules to it really!

MTTM: One of the songs that I think gets the biggest reaction live is There Were Roses. Did you appreciate when you recorded it quite how emotive it could be for people?

CD: Well I never realised how successful that song was going to become, I just recorded it for the TV series for Billy Connolly. When I was recording the song I was really moved by the lyrics and the melody and I thought gosh, this is really powerful. But I’ve recorded lots of different things and some things happen, some things don’t. I thought it’d be great if people could hear this properly but chances are nobody will ever get a chance to really listen to it. The BBC were inundated with calls about it so people were really moved, and as you say whenever we do a concert it seems to get the biggest reaction. I’m really proud of that song and proud that I got an opportunity to sing it because I think it’s really important, it kind of crosses all barriers and boundaries. We were in Japan and I performed that song and it got a big reaction, people seem to appreciate it wherever we go.

MTTM: When I see your band play it’s always as if they’ve known each other forever. Do you always play with friends and people you know or do new musicians come into it via any other means?

CD: Well usually it is just people we know who are our friends. The folk music scene is quite small really and so everyone kind of knows everyone anyway, so we’re very lucky in that everyone becomes friends. The last few years we’ve tended to use the same musicians generally. We tend to just stick with what we know really.

MTTM: You’re releasing a new album this year, the second on your own record label. Will it be more of the same simple and traditional arrangements like on Hill Of Thieves or do you feel like you’ve got more freedom to explore second time round?

CD: That’s something we’ve just started working on. I had a baby about four months ago so things have kind of been put on the back burner for a little while but we’re going to get back into it. Like I said earlier I think we’re just going to see how it progresses naturally. We never really sit down and decide what it’s going to be like, the music just takes over, so I’m very excited about it. I’ve always got so many traditional songs because it’s just where I’m from in County Derry, that particular area, it’s saturated with songs. If the local people back there ever find I’m doing an album I get loads of songs sent to me and people are digging up all things that their uncle sent them from America so I’m very privileged, very lucky.

MTTM: You’ve been involved in quite a few collaborations to date, is there anyone you’re still burning to work with or perform with?

CD: I’m a huge fan of Kate Bush and I would love a chance to talk to her and just find out a bit more about her, the real Kate Bush and what inspires her. Apart from that Paul Buchanan from Blue Nile, I think he’s a great songwriter. I’ve got great respect for a lot of songwriters and musicians so every time an opportunity comes up where you get a chance to work with someone , providing they’re good at what they do, we’re always really pleased to have a go at it. I think you learn lots from other people.

MTTM: Do you think that your musical influences have changed as you’ve got older. You’ve been playing since you were really young, do you have different influences now than you did then?

CD: Well it’s funny you know, I started out listening to nothing but traditional music and then when I got to my teens I started getting really in to retro seventies – Fleetwood Mac, Janis Ian and things like that. I listen to quite a lot on the radio as well while I’m in the car, while I’m in the house, but I find myself right back to my roots again. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m reminiscing of when I was growing up, whether it’s me sub consciously trying to put my influences on my children, who knows, but I find myself going back to the real traddy stuff again.

MTTM: What advice would you give your children if they came to you and said they wanted to pursue a career in music?

CD: I think I’d be really happy with whatever they decided to do. I was very lucky when I was growing up that I didn’t have pushy parents, so I wasn’t ever told you have to do this, you have to do that, you have to practise and I think that’s why it really worked and why I have such a great love of music. Actually one of my twins, they’re four, told me the other day that he wanted a violin, and that wasn’t because I had ever encouraged him. In fact I would always call it a fiddle, so the fact that he referred to it as a violin was quite interesting. We had to go and get him one and he completely loves it, even though he’s only four. You have to be very encouraging no matter what they want to do.

MTTM: Do you ever find it difficult, now you’ve got three children, trying to juggle touring and recording? Do you think they’ll ever come a point where you’ll want to stop?

CD: *laughs* That I’ll spontaneously combust? It is quite a challenge to be honest. The boys have been to America with us six times on tour and they’ve got their own visas. They’ve been to lots of festivals and they love it. I quite understand what you’re saying, getting organised, getting everyone out the house and getting everything like that sorted, and actually the music is the most relaxing part because we all enjoy it so much. It’s a time when we’re all really bonded as a family so I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever have to think about giving up because I get so much joy out of it. Because Sam and I are married it’s a chance for us to travel all over the world together so it’s like a break if you get the chance to go away and do a couple of concerts. Lots of women out there have babies and they start back at their jobs, it gives them a sense of reminding you who you are and what you’re all about again, that you don’t just change nappies.

MTTM: Hill Of Thieves did well at the folk awards. Does it make a difference to get that kind of recognition or is not really that important?

CD: I think it’s made a huge difference because winning album of the year is the one I think everyone would like to get. Your album is a whole body of work which you want everybody to be proud of and it’s made a huge difference obviously with sales, which is fantastic because it gives us a chance to continue what we’re doing and put money into our record company, Charcoal Records. As a result of that we’re just about to sign a band called Winter Mountain so it’s been brilliant, it’s opened up loads of doors for us.

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