Bronagh Gallagher : The Story so far...
Amidst the production talents of John Reynolds and the spectacular arrangements and instrumentation by Brian Eno, "Precious Soul" is a marriage of classic Nashville Country and Memphis Soul.
Well known for her roles in many acclaimed films, Precious Soul sees Bronagh in a very different light as she plays drums and sings her own songs.
Bronagh has been quietly gigging for the past year and a half with her band working up the set which has now become 'Precious Soul'
"I didn't really have a huge plan of action. I just wanted to record my songs in a simple style and it kinda just happened when it was meant too.Some of the songs on the album are 13 or 14 years old and have been growing older with me, they¹ve been hanging around politely waiting to be recorded. It was just a case of being ready, having no other work commitments and having the right team of people around me."
Bronagh began acting 15 years ago, since then she's worked with some of the most respected directors in Film and Theatre, Alan Parker (The Commitments), Quentin Tarintino (Pulp Fiction), George Lucas (Star Wars the Phantom Menace), Stephen Frears and Michael Winterbottom. She's also worked on four different productions with the internationally acclaimed theatre director Simon Mc Burney and Theatre de Complicite.
So when did the album come to the focus?
"I've always been surrounded by music, my parents being big fans of soul, country and blues. I¹ve always written songs about my life experiences and things I've or close friends of mine have gone through. Then about 7 years ago I took up drums, more for fun really, from there the album just took on a life of its own "It was when I was living in London, I decided to have a break in early Jan 2001 and go and do some traveling in the States with friends, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Keiron Kennedy and their two youngest children. We had hired a huge camper van and set off from L.A. to drive through the desert and down to New Mexico. What fun we had! We would park up in the evening after driving all day and make some food open a few beers and have a sing song. It was there that Keiron said I had some great songs and that I should record them when we got back.
So, that's what we did.
"The first set of recordings took place in West Cork at a friend's empty holiday home, Kieron set up his portable studio and we worked for about 5 or 6 days on the 7 songs I¹d written. We¹d both worked on an album the previous year with Andy White, produced by John Leckie and recorded at Realworld Studios. So we had a good idea how we¹d like to work and the kind of atmosphere we¹d liked to record in. I was delighted with the results we got although we hadn¹t mixed the tracks.
We ran out of time and Keiron had to get back to Dublin and I to London. When I returned to London my friend John Reynolds (producer to Damien Dempsey and Sinead O'Connor) dropped in to hear what we¹d recorded. He liked what he heard. He believed that some of the songs where perfect soul songs composed in the exact way old soul classics where written and was very keen for me to finish mixing the record and complete the project. But life in London soon became very busy again with acting work. Keiron was busy touring with Maria Doyle Kennedy who had just released her own album, so the recordings we'd done where gathering dust in my London Flat.
By the end of the year still nothing had been completed, it was then that John made the suggestion to finish or re-record the songs at his studio in London as he was very confidant that there was a great record in there. I was really chuffed that John wanted to help out, we're great friends, we had the same passion and love for old soul music and drummers. So we decided to go for it.
I mentioned the idea to Brian Eno, a mutual friend of mine and John's. I told him in a taxi on the way to a party, that John and I were going to make the record, he got very excited! He said "Oh can I be involved? I could do some singing and play organ or something?" I couldn't believe it, he just offered and it was so cool. As I would never have had the nerve to ask!
Later the following year, with an array of brilliant musicians, including Clare Kenny on bass and Josie Doherty on backing vocals the team started recording the songs at Johns Studio 18d in London. The whole project was about keeping the sound as clear and simple as possible and using all authentic guitars and amps from the late 60s and early 70s. Bronagh played John's old Gretch cherry wood kit and for the recording all the players kept to a very laid back strong soulful groove, but still beautifully melodic.
When John and Bronagh where happy with the recordings they handed the wheel over to Brian Eno who very carefully listened over and over to the songs and slowly added just the right amount of backing vocals sang by himself, and with the help of his violinist friend Nell Catchpole they created wonderful strings on "Hooks" and added the brilliant finishing touches to the record.
So they chizzled away on it and finally almost two years later Precious Soul is complete. "Im so happy with the way it has all turned out and it really did just take on a life of its own".
All the music I love Aretha Franklin, Emmy lou Harris, Candi Staton, Lorreta Lynn, Al Green, Otis Redding, The Meters, I think you can hear them all on this record. But hopefully it will be fresh o people too, they can enjoy and be comforted by it or simply just have a good dance around their kitchens!