Walk This Way: Marlene Enright

"In the middle of chaos you can often find yourself at your happiest"
Cork's Marlene Enright takes us on a tour through her new record...

Cork singer/songwriter/piano player Marlene Enright releases her first solo album, Placemats and Second Cuts, on 24th March. Ahead of the album hitting shelves this Friday, Marlene walks and talks us through the brand new release, track-by-track.

Marlene Enright: This song was one of the last songs written for the album. In fact, I only finished it the night before we went to record it. I had the bones of it and the lyrics but there were some sections I wasn't totally happy with so Davie [Ryan - drummer], Hugh [Dillon - guitarist] and I sat down with a bottle of gin that night and worked on it for about two hours, it was a good laugh. The album has a few themes running throughout, self-acceptance is one of those and this song is largely about that and finding your steel when you need it most. The chorus says "I'm hanging on a wire, I've come around to muddling through the mire, this is my playground."I guess what I meant by that is in the middle of chaos you can often find yourself at your happiest.

Bay Tree
This song was one that I wrote over a few weeks and it's safe to say that it's pretty dark. I was feeling very confused about a lot of things during the course of writing this album, about how I felt about certain things and what certain things ultimately meant to me. To tell you the truth, it's rare that I realise what I'm writing about until I'm finished a song, I've removed myself from it and a few months down the line I look back on it. Hindsight can bring so much clarity to periods of time when your mind has felt foggy and you don't know your head from your elbow. This song was one that was written in the midst of much fog! It's about indecision, confusion, doubt, feeling crippled by all three. The title is part of the bridge of the song "Love will crown no one from the Bay Tree, it will give you a fire to stoke in the cold / It will pull on your hand and cushion your soles". Wreaths of laurel/bay were used in ancient Greece and Rome to crown a victor. Here I was just trying to get across the idea that you don't always feel victorious in love or elated but rather comforted and supported.

I think I was in need of something a little light and bouncy after writing a a few heavy songs. 123 is one of those songs that I wanted to have a lot of fun with. There's lots of percussion on it, Davie layered lots of different parts to create the drum track. It's got a bit of a swagger; I kind of had Mr. Soft from the Trebor softmints ad from the 80's in my head when we were putting this together as a band, thinking "would Mr. Soft bounce to this?!" It's a song about waiting for the right time to do something and realising that there is rarely a right time to do anything and often the reasons we don't go ahead and do something is because we don't actually really want to, we should just stop torturing ourselves for not doing it.

This is the first song that I wrote for the album, I think I finished it just before a support gig to my good friend Jack O'Rourke in October 2015.  When we put it together as a band it developed an R'n'B vibe, it's pretty chilled out. The chorus of this goes "I am not shiny, I see the world in blue, I'm pinned to the collar to take a different view" - that's the central idea of the song really and in many ways I think it's a sentiment that's at the heart of this album.

I don't think this song needs much explaining except to say I was a bit apprehensive about putting this on the album. It's a little different to the rest of the album and it's the most raw and exposed but it got in there in the end. The track on the album was the second take that we did of this, the guys had never heard it before and therefore familiarity didn't have time to effect anyone's playing. Slim Slow Slider on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is one of my favourite songs of all time and it very much inspired the feel of this song, very free, almost improvised. I was recently lucky enough to come across some work by David Begley, a Wexford-based artist who creates, amongst other wonderful things, animations from charcoal that he makes from driftwood. David worked on a video for this and I'm really looking forward to putting it out there sometime soon.

Little Things
I had bits of this song for about a year and a half before I finished it. Like anyone who writes music or songs I'd imagine, I have hundreds of recordings of ideas on my phone from over the years. Some are terrible, some have potential but I always hold on to everything to listen back to if I'm feeling uninspired. This was one that I had shelved and came back to after I had an idea for a bridge that I thought would work well on the verse and chorus of this. After recording it we were listening back in the control room and the bridge just felt incomplete, I felt like it needed a bit of a kick in the arse. Rewind a few hours earlier and Feno [sound engineer Brendan Fennessy] and myself were having a chat about Celine Dion's 90's hit Think Twice, as you do, saying how killer it was (it is and don't pretend that you think it isn't! - also, apologies Feno, I'm bringing you down with me!). There's a drum breakdown in it that is in equal parts super cheesy as it is class and I love it. When the bridge was in need of a little TLC, it got the Celine Dion treatment!

When the Water is Hot
This was the first single I released from the album, before the album was recorded in full, in March 2016. It's more folk than pop. I love folk and country, someday I would really like to record a folk or a country album. I wrote this song over Christmas 2015, I had been listening to quite a bit of Joanna Newsom at that time and I think her sound inspired this song. For the live gigs we've changed this up a bit, we'll attempt it a capella!

This is another swagger song, it has a bit of a 70's vibe to it. I love the Bee Gees and I had been listening to them a bit around the time that I wrote it.  Hugh gets his inner Barry White on in this (if you listen closely you can hear a REALLY low harmony in the pre-chorus, courtesy of Hugh). It was the second single that I released from the album, again before it was recorded in full.

Home (Shiny reprise)
I wrote the lyrics of this mid 2016. Watching the refugee crisis unfold further and entire families dying trying to get out of their warn-torn countries was heartbreaking to watch. I found their plight difficult to comprehend as someone living in a country that thankfully is by and large a safe place to live. I'm fortunate enough to have never known hardship, especially in that way, and I could never imagine being forced to leave somewhere that I called my home. The 'Shiny reprise' title is just a nod to the fact that the melody of Home borrows a little bit of the melody of Shiny.

We Were in Trouble
I had the seven verses written for this over a few weeks and realised that I didn't want it to be a ballad throughout, though it starts like that. I had the idea to introduce the hits in each verse, but in varying places each time, to inject a bit of erraticness and a touch of frustration - this song is about a bond between two people that has been fractured, about life's way of passing you by if you let it and a plea to oneself to not become a bystander in your own life. The title of the album is taken from a line in the outro of this song. Once I had this finished I knew it was going to be the closing track of the album; it has a sense of finality.

Holy Moly (Hidden Track)
It occurred to me that there are lots of songs written from the perspective of someone who has had their heart broken by someone else but not as many from the perspective of someone who has broken someone's heart. I guess sometimes those roles are not always so clearly defined and both people can play both roles, heartbreaker and heartbreakee. Often it's down to chance as to who pulls the trigger in the end, sometimes leaving that person with far less shoulders to cry on. This song is written from their perspective.

Placemats and Second Cuts by Marlene Enright will be released on 24th March. Watch the video for 'Alchemy' below.

Upcoming Marlene Enright tour dates:

  • Friday 24th March - The White Horse, Ballincollig
  • Saturday 25th March - The Mariner, Bantry
  • Wednesday 5th April - The Spirit Store, Dundalk
  • Thursday 6th April - Whelans, Dublin
  • Friday 7th April - Dolans, Limerick
  • Thursday 13th April - Coughlan's, Cork
  • Friday 28th April - St. John's Theatre, Listowel

For more on Marlene Enright visit:

- Marlene Enright's Placemats and Second Cuts is available from all good Irish record stores from 24th March 2017

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