MU Times Artist Profile: Alice Kiernan

So this is an interview for the MU Times, artist’s profile of students involved in artsy things, what’s your name, what do you study and what sort of stuff do you do?

My name’s Alice Kiernan, I study media studies and I’m a singer songwriter.

When did you first decide to start doing music, do you come from a musical background or is it something you just picked up?

I originally started playing guitar in primary school, my teacher taught us after school. After that, I was around 15 when I did my first competition and I was like “ok, this is actually kinda fun”, so I started doing gigs then after that from when I was like 16. I just did then around like where I’m from and then I moved on to doing them in Dublin, and then I moved on to doing them around Ireland.

What was the point where you realised things were taking off as regards that, like was there ever a big moment where you were like “this is something I actually can do fairly well, I’m gonna keep this up” as opposed to “nah, fuck this, too much effort”?

It kinda comes and goes. So there’s moments where you’re like “this is class, this is gonna work out!” and then there’s moments where you’re like “this is never gonna happen, what are you doing?”. So I think it is when the big gigs happen, so like I supported Ham Sandwich and I was like “yes!”. Or like, I played on Spin 103 and was like “this is awesome!”. But if you’re sitting at home one day and you realise you have no gigs lined up, that’s when you’re like “Oh god, no, this isn’t gonna work out”. You gotta keep getting gigs to keep your motivation going, you know?

So what sort of influences would you say have impacted your sound and the way you write songs? Is it a case of them sort of leaking in a bit or can you hear definite traits of other people’s style in yours?

Well, my dad was into Bruce Springsteen and like, the Dixie Chicks and stuff like that so I kinda started off a little more country and stereotypical “girl with a guitar”. I listen to a lot of pop music, so even though I play quite folky and acoustic, it kinda has a lot of pop influences in it lyric wise or sound wise, even though it’s still just an acoustic guitar, you know? I like to make beats with my hands on the guitar as well, like I have a loop pedal so even though it’s just one guitar, I can make it into more of a pop sound.

Would you ever consider getting more pedals and just eventually going full shoegazey?

Emm, loop pedals are really difficult, is what I have found and it is really nerve wrecking in case you mess up on stage, which has happened before and I’ve had to just stop it like “sorry guys”. So I think I’d stick with the one loop pedal, but I had a band on stage with me one time as well and that just changes your sound completely, it’s really amazing to see the difference between just you and your guitar and you with a guitar and a bass and a drum and another guitar, an electric guitar, it just changes it completely, you know.

Does poetry ever influence your song-writing or is it more like songs and singer songwriters?

When I was younger in school, I enjoyed English and poetry but I didn’t really stick with it, so I think this is kinda my way of going about it now. When you have two lines that rhyme perfectly it’s like “yes, I did it”, so I do think poetry is something to do with it even though you might not be directly doing it through poetry.

With your songs and song-writing, how much self-criticism goes into it? Do you have a load of old ideas you might revisit or is it like “no, I can never show this to anyone ever, burn it”?

I think it took me a while to eventually play songs in front of people, so I have a load of voice memos on my phone, if something comes to me in the middle of the day I’ll just sing it really quietly into my phone. You can be really critical of yourself but you have to show it to other people for them to be like “no, that’s really good” and you’re like “oh, ok”.

When it comes to song-writing how much of it is derived directly from personal experience and how much of it is you constructing narratives?

I would say 50-50. I would say that you take one feeling that lasted, probably like a split second, you turn it into maybe half a song, and after that you build on top of it. If the song describes a negative situation, that doesn’t mean it’s about a bad person, it’s just about a bad situation, d’you know?

When you’re writing songs and playing them, do you ever imagine a visual element or are you more connected to the musical side of things?

Like music videos? I think once it has a bit more production behind it then I can see it a little bit more, but in terms of just me and my guitar it’s kinda hard to see how it’s gonna sound fully. But once you have other instruments in with it, it’s kinda easier to see the dynamics and what  would go alongside with that visually.

Is there any sort of dream collaboration, like doing a split EP or people you’d really aspire to have on stage, supporting you or you supporting them, like little Irish artists or big ones?

I would love to support Hudson Taylor or The Blizzards. I listen to a lot of their stuff and I think it is an Irish thing that you always connect with Irish artists cause you’re like “they’re from where I’m from and look what they’re doing so I can do that too”. So as much as, as amazing as it would be to support English artists or American artists, I think Irish artists is something you can relate to and something that makes it a little more special.

For people looking to find your music what platforms do you use to promote it, like YouTube, SoundCloud, BandCamp etc.?

Well I’ve a Facebook page called Alice Kiernan Music), and then I’m on twitter which is @Alice_Kiernan. I’m on Soundcloud which is Alice Kiernan, on YouTube which is Alice Kiernan and I’ve another channel called The One Year Project.

D’you wanna talk a little bit more about The One Year Project?

The One Year Project is a channel with me and my friend Megan in which we set ourselves a whole load of goals we have to complete in one year. So my goal is my EP, so I’ve to do an EP by this time next year. I’ve already stated it, I’ve already started blogging about it and vlogging about it, so if you wanna head over to our channel, you’ll see all our vlogs and our blogs and you’ll see how we’re doing on The One Year Project. Megan is a YouTuber so she does more chatty videos.

Red grapes or green grapes?

Definitely red grapes but they have to be in the fridge beforehand, have that nice kinda cold crunch as well, obviously, naturally.