Interview with Sinead Burgess

Following four years of performing live and intensive songwriting, Sinead Burgess, returned to the scene releasing her brand new EP titled Wolf on 18 March. The 7 track EP is Burgess at her most potent where she blends her many influences – indie-pop, rock, electronica – into a glorious collection of immersive pop songs. In this interview, Burgess reflects on the production of her EP, performing live, her childhood and more!

Congratulations on the release of your EP Wolf earlier this year! Wolf was recorded in one month with producer/engineer Justin King at his Vinegar Hill Sound Studio in Brooklyn. Together you worked long hours, often finishing at around 4am in the morning. To many people this may sound extreme. Do you feel that admirers of creative content sometimes underestimate the amount of blood, sweat and tears involved in the production of a single song, let alone an entire EP? 

Thanks so much! I think it’s definitely something that’s easy to underestimate. It’s quite amazing what goes into 3-4 minutes of music, when you get down to it… The recording side obviously takes a lot of energy and time, let alone the writing process, the editing process, the mixing, the mastering! It’s what you do as an artist, so you don’t scoff at putting in crazy hours, because you love it and know (most of the time) it will result in a better project. I think it’s important to be honest about that, because people then get a chance to understand the value of art a little more.

Are there certain times of the day or places where you write better?

I’m a late night girl. My favourite place to write is in my ‘gypsy den’. Piano, guitars, cushions, scarves, string lights, candles and burning sage- I’m a total clique! But it’s an inspiring vibe. My favourite songs and ideas seem to come to me after 1 AM, usually have something important on the next day that I have to be up early for. I guess that my subconscious has a sick sense of humour!

Do you suddenly think of something and record it on your phone/write it down or do you set time aside to focus solely on your work?

My phone is FULL of ideas and half sung melodies, usually I get them while I’m in a car. I must look freaking crazy singing at my phone at a red light… Whenever I’m co-writing, it’s a lot more regimented and focussed, which can be great too- it really depends on what kind of song you’re writing.

With regards to penning the lyrics, did you encounter many stumbling blocks or was everything fairly free flowing and organic? 

For this record, I’d say most of the lyrics were free flowing. Every song stemmed from a situation or emotion I was going through and trying to make sense of at the time- so writing them almost turned into self-counselling.  I feel like a lot of the time, I was telling myself how to deal with everything as I went along. It was a period that I really needed to write and vent about a bunch of things, and I was lucky to have some likeminded and talented co-writers to work with.

Were any of the seven songs particularly difficult to perfect when it came to recording? 

For SURE! We definitely hit a bit of a block with Psycho. We tried it a bunch of ways before finally developing the base of what made the record. Justin and I really wanted to push beyond what we knew would work for the song, and create something a little more left of centre. There were definitely times we thought it would beat us! But luckily we pushed through, and I’m really happy with how that one turned out.

Are you the kind of person who keeps all scraps of paper and audio recordings for future reference or reflection?

I still have scraps of paper with lyrics scribbled on them from the 7th grade so it’s safe to say I’m a serial hoarder of that stuff. They live under my piano seat! I’ve gone back to things before – sometimes lyrics that didn’t make sense at the time, assimilate perfectly into something else years later.

Five fast questions for five fast responses:

How would you describe yourself in five or fewer words? Analytical, loyal, sarcastic cat lady. 

What was the title of the last book you read? “Rock Chicks – The Hottest Female Rockers from the 1960s til now”… it’s full of little stories about a bunch of inspiring women in music. I love gutsy, bold artists, and the book is full of them. 

Are you any good at making origami? TERRIBLE! My brother used to constantly make paper planes when we were kids, and I couldn’t even get those right. 

What posters were on your wall when you were a kid? Haha, we weren’t really allowed posters funnily enough – my dad didn’t really look too fondly on blutac over the walls. But it’s probably for the best… if photos emerged of the posters I WOULD have had on the walls, they’d be pretty incriminating now…

When was the last time you visited a museum or art gallery? 5 months ago in Miami. But before that, I can’t even remember. I always run out of time when I’m traveling for writing, or end up taking another session on my day off. Or I just catch up on much needed sleep! I do visit a lot of parks and gardens though- I love to get out and just sit in silence for a while, it’s very centering.

You’ve been fortunate to support numerous acts over the years including The Script and Hilltop Hoods. Do you prefer large stadiums or smaller intimate shows… or does it depend on the material being performed?

They’re both so different. You’ll never forget the first time your voice fills an arena. It’s so overwhelmingly cool. That being said, you don’t get to see as much of the audience, so with the intimate gigs, you really get to connect with people personally, and I absolutely love that.

Have you ever considered incorporating an element of dance or theatre into future live performances?

I actually used to do quite a bit of dance and theatre through primary & high school, so it’s always something that’s in the back of my mind. I think the record could lend itself that way if need be, so you never know!

How do you go about preparing yourself for a live performance?

I have a fairly calm day, well as much as I can. Rushing around or being too manic can make me feel a little anxious and unprepared, so I try to block out a couple of hours before the show to just zone out, play guitar & get my head into the show.

Do your fans often request particular songs at your shows in favour of others?

I’ve had some amazing requests from fans that have been following me from the beginning. They’ll shout out songs that I used to play, that are so old I can’t even remember them! People have been requesting a little piano tune I put on Youtube a little while ago called Richie lately, which has been pretty cool.

Who would you love to see in the audience at one of your shows?

Tom Petty or Stevie Nicks… Although, I’d probably freak… or overplay to compensate. So maybe not… Haha!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your twelve-year-old self?

Trust yourself. And for the love of God, stop wearing ‘pedal pushers’!

This interview was first published on 11 May 2016 for Amnplify.

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