Multi-faceted singer, fiddler and songwriter Eithne Ní Chatháin creates a space with her music that draws the listener in to experience beautiful and soulful sounds both old and new. A performing artist whose singing, music and song-writing is as unique and expressive as it is ancient and traditional. Presenting her own contemporary songs alongside sean-nós singing and traditional fiddle playing, Eithne’s musical journey is one of honouring the richness of her tradition and of exploring her own voice and expression.
Hailing from Kilcock, Co. Kildare, Eithne is a true exponent of her tradition. In the words of John Brophy, Irish Music Magazine,
“I often think that since it took political demolition, a famine and centuries of sustained racist snobbery to rob us of the language, what will be needed to get it back to us? After meeting Eithne, I think I found some of the answer. It’s by having people for whom the singing, dancing and poetry are natural to the point of being instinctively one.”
Indeed, Eithne draws deeply from the well of music, song and dance of her country and is a fluent Irish speaker but is not bound to this tradition alone. She draws from many influences – folk, Scottish, Appalachian, contemporary, Indian and has been developing and exploring her own style of song-writing both in English and in Irish.
As most things do, it all started off at home! Eithne comes from a very talented family of singers and musicians. She remembers being taught how to hold a ¼ sized fiddle by her Grandad at the age of four. She later learned from many teachers at formal lessons at home and at summer schools. Macdara Ó Raghallaigh was her main teacher.
Eithne’s gift for singing became apparent from an early age and she found herself being attracted to the sean-nós style of singing at the age of ten, learning from her own mother, from records at home and from Máire Uí Raghallaigh. Máire gave her guidance in this unique style of singing, a style which is not commonly heard in North Kildare where Eithne grew up. She became the All-Ireland sean-nós singing champion by the age of 15. Much travelling was done by the family all over the country to lessons, festivals, competitions and house parties and in this way, Eithne’s talent for performing publicly and communicating through her music developed quite naturally and organically.
Meeting fellow Kildare singer/songwriter Luka Bloom in 2002 was a big stepping stone in Eithne’s career as a singer.
“I heard Eithne sing in Kildare a few years ago and was blown away by her voice. I was so taken by her singing I wrote a song for her. Its on 'Before Sleep Comes' and is called ‘She sings her songs with open eyes’. Eithne is blessed with a very pure and true voice, which is very haunting and beautiful.”
Eithne began to do some gigs with Luka and this experience gave her a real taste for performing at this level. Luka asked her to sing some backing vocals and to play fiddle on his album ‘Innocence’.
Soon, work began on her own debut album, ‘Eithne’ which was produced by Eithne independently. This gem of an album was released in 2006 and was very well received by the media and by audiences at home and abroad. Siobhán Long of the Irish Times said of the album:
“Ambitious and eclectic, debutante Eithne Ní Chatháin stretches herself to her outer limits, cherrypicking from some of the finest songs and tunes in the English and Irish tradtions. Sweet echoes of Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss haunt Pretty Bird.”
Guest musicians on the album include Luka Bloom, Eithne’s sister, Nóra and concertina player Ciarán O’ Grady.
In recent years, Eithne has been collaborating with Liam Ó Maonlaí, playing with him at the Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Co. Laois 2008 and at a number of Dublin dates as support act and guest singer and musician. Other recent collaborations include playing with fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and touring with Dublin-based traditional band Slide in the USA and Holland.