September 4, 2019
Belonging to Each Other, a Falmouth non-profit that helps provide housing, food and other needed services to homeless people, will hold its third annual benefit gala on September 12 at St. Barnabas Church in Falmouth, featuring a performance by Cork singer-songwriter Clare O’Riordan. In the past five years, O’Riordan has put together a steadily growing gig resume while drawing interest for her soulful, gritty songs about homelessness, the refugee crisis, addiction and other social injustices and concerns; last fall, she released a single, “On the Streets,” across digital platforms to support Cork Simon Community’s efforts to aid homeless people.
So what brings O’Riordan all this way to perform for Belonging to Each Other? As it turns out, she has a couple of connections to Massachusetts – Cape Cod in particular – as she explained recently in an interview.
[Note: The Belonging to Each Other gala is sold out, but donations are welcome. See http://bteofalmouth.com for information.]
Q: You recorded an album on Cape Cod not long ago. How did that happen?
O’Riordan: Yes, I recorded my sophomore album “Outside” in Orleans. I heard about this great producer Jon Evans – he played bass and guitar with [singer-songwriter] Tori Amos – through my sister. She has musician friends on the Cape who had recorded with him and I had always been a fan of Tori Amos. I did a bit of research on Jon and I really liked the sound of his approach, so I got in touch with him. He loved the tracks that I sent him from my debut album, “Shelter,” and we decided to work together. I recorded the album with Jon over the course of 10 days and it was a spontaneous and highly creative experience.
Q: Talk about this concert, and how it came together.
O’Riordan: After recording “Outside,” I came into contact with Belonging to Each Other and [its president] Paul McAdam. I always try to highlight the plight of the homeless through my music, but I was particularly drawn to help this charity when I learned that Belonging To Each Other is run by volunteers and that they provide housing, food, transportation and social services for the homeless in Falmouth during the cold winter months.
Q: Where did your interest in issues of homelessness come from?
O’Riordan: I remember being a young child, listening to “The Streets of London’ by Ralph McTell on the radio and I was deeply moved. In Cork city and in Ireland in general, homelessness has become a huge social issue after the economic crash. After encountering a homeless man in Cork myself, his image and vulnerability stayed with me, and as I wondered about his life, my song “On the Streets” came to me. I wanted to give him and others like him a powerful voice by articulating the unspoken thoughts and feelings a homeless person may have: “My world is breaking, is the love you are making, not going to save a soul like me/I lying here shaking in the time you’re not taking and so our world will be, hiding empathy.”
My hope now is that “On the Streets” will further enhance awareness of this pressing issue.
Q: Are you from a musical family? How and when did you start playing?
O’Riordan: There was always music in the house where I grew up. If it wasn't one of my four older sisters or my father playing their instruments, there was a record playing. I went for piano lessons in the local Cork School of Music at the age of seven, where I studied for all my grade examinations, and was involved in drama classes and singing from an early age. I started writing songs seriously in my 20s. I had been listening to a lot of Van Morrison and Nina Simone at the time and I really believe they also helped me to find my own unique voice. It took me a while to fully understand my creative process and what I needed to do to write songs. Intense emotional experiences, absorbing other people’s creative works and truly immersing myself in nature are all necessary for me to write.
Q: How did you come to realize that music didn't have to be only about entertainment, that it could delve into issues of society and humanity?
O’Riordan: Growing up listening to Nina Simone, I instinctively knew that her lived experience was reflected in the delivery of her songs. Likewise, Luke Kelly’s honest interpretation of folk songs with political messages captivated my soul and mind and made me think. “Imagine,” by John Lennon, made me both dream and believe that a more tolerant, conscious world where all human beings could live in harmony with one another was possible.
Q: It seems that some of your work in general talks about being in states of vulnerability. So in this context, "home" is not just about having walls around you and a roof over your head, but where you can feel safe and, hopefully, loved. Would you agree with that?
O’Riordan: Yes, “home” for me is a beautiful word that conjures up ideas of safety, warmth, self-acceptance and love. “Being home” I believe, is the ability to see and feel the love that is both in and all around you. As I said in my song, “Home”: “I’m learning how to find, find love, and it’s for you and me, it’s just the dance of our hearts beating free.” Having a loving home, I believe, is both an essential human right and a basic need for all people and I believe we should all strive to create a world where we can all feel “at home” wherever we live.