Maria O’Donnell – Galley Beggar


Interview by Miss Peaches

Galley Beggar are a London and Kent based band who have all fallen in love with the rich old tones of folk rock. Their use of mandolin’s, guitars, bass, violin, percussion, drums and vocals have managed to produce music that gives you the feeling of going back in time where the resonating sound of folk rock raged through the woodlands. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the lovely singer Maria

Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview with me for Femme Metal Webzine, Maria. How life is treating you?

Pretty good at the moment.

For our readers that still don’t know your fantastic band would you like to introduce us how Galley Beggar was born?

Mat and David decided to start writing music together about nine years ago. They played in different line ups together before, but wanted to start writing their own music, and took inspiration from the music they love listening to. Paul followed shortly after and since then different members have come and gone along the way, but we’ve all shared a love in folk rock. Celine and I joined the band about the same time four years ago when our second album Galley Beggar” was being written. Bill joined just after its release three years ago – which is probably the longest the band has been without a lineup change.

When you was making the album “Silence and Tears”, what did you have in mind for the concept?

It was never our intention to formulate a concept and defer to it. Some of the songs that are on the album, we were pulling together as we were releasing “Galley Beggar”. There were other songs that were written and gigged but then dropped as they didn’t really fit with the sound on the rest of the album.

My favourite track from the album is “Empty Sky”, I love both the lyrics and musical content within this track. What influenced you to write this track and why?

The lyrics and the music were pulled together separately. David had the basic idea for the acoustic guitar riff and played it in one of our writing sessions. After listening to it a few times, I just felt the feel of the music was one of hopelessness. I sat down to write the lyrics in the back room of the house which overlooks a valley and woodland, which in the winter can look pretty bleak – like a scene from a Bronte novel – with the dark and imposing sky…. which is kind of where the lyrics came from. It’s more about feeling angry and abandoned than anything else.

How was recording the album with Liam Watson (The White Stripes)? Did you felt any pressure?

You could say that! We’d always been able to please ourselves when recording and take as long as we need, with as many takes, changes and fag breaks as we liked. We were working things out as we went along. To have to rock up to Toerag Studios – with the expert ear of Liam Watson and his Aladdin’s cave of amazing equipment – and look like we vaguely knew what we were doing was pretty daunting … especially when you’ve got a deadline to work to. It was a real relief to discover that apart from being very talented, that he’s such a nice guy, which put us a lot more at ease. Another added pressure was that everything was recorded live, in analogue – but after a couple of songs we started to work quite quickly and managed to get some of them in one take. Liam definitely put his stamp on a few of the tracks. “Pay My Body Home” we did on the first take, but Liam scaled everything back and added the backward guitar and we loved the ideas he had for it. “Deliver Him” is the one where we most benefited from having him as a seventh member – the finished track is far beyond what we took into the studio. He put the vocals through a revolving speaker, in a concrete corridor and re-recorded them to get that sound! I loved it on the first hearing.

I have to have ask but what bands influenced you growing up?

I couldn’t put my finger on any one in particular. I was really exposed to all sorts growing up. Obviously before any of us really forms a taste in music, we listen to whatever our parents listen to, which for me included Irish folk music, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Motown, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Yes, Free and Crosby Stills Nash & Young. When I was in my teens I was really into Hole and Manic Street Preachers, Jeff Buckley, Drugstore, Super Furry Animals, then in my twenties, Arcade Fire, Echobelly, Nick Drake, The Small Faces, The Who and The Kinks. Then I met Mat – at that point he and David had started writing together, and he was listening to Circulus, Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention. I suppose the one thing which all most of the above have in common is that they incorporate traditional themes and lyrics, and write about more than love and heart break, which is all that modern bands seem to focus on. I couldn’t think of anything more tedious than having to write a whole album about that sort of thing.

You have strong elements of folk within your style, what grabbed your attention when it comes to folk and why?

The direction for the band really came from Mat and David. They had always been big Led Zeppelin fans – Mat and Dave used to be in a Led Zeppelin tribute band together – which probably comes across a lot in their guitar work. Through Led Zeppelin they found Sandy Denny, and from there, Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, The Strawbs and Pentangle. Noone seemed to be making that sound any more.

When listening to the album it gives off some musical imagery within the mind, was this something you had in mind to create?

I’d not been involved as much in the writing until “Silence and Tears”. We started writing this album whilst the last one was being finished and there was the intention to rely less on prescriptive lyrics, or storytelling and try and create something which is more open to the interpretation of the listener.

Being a London and Kent based band, what areas most inspire you?

I suppose for me it’s the area I live in – Kent. “Empty Sky” and “Sanctuary Song” were both written about the area I live in. The title track lyrics are the poem “When We Two Parted” by Lord Byron, who is a local lad! I’d loved that poem since I studied English Literature for my English A Levels.

What are your next tour plans? Where your fans can catch you in the next months?

We’re playing a couple more gigs this year, and then hopefully writing. We tend to play more in the summer, in Festival season.

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