INTERVIEW: Ceitidh Mac | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Janina Sabaliauskaite

Musicians often develop a unique idea of what their instrument is capable of. It becomes an extension of themselves that communicates their personality in an intimate and unexpected way. It also represents a key distinguishing factor in their work. In the case of alternative folk cellist Ceitidh Mac, it’s the warm atmosphere of sincerity in her music that sets her apart.

Fleshed out through dulcet bass lines and provocative staccato techniques, she achieves a seductive expressivity that reaches a new level of refinement in her latest single, Bus Station. Performed with band members Jamie Cook (synthesizer) and Will Hammond (vibraphone), it embodies her belief that her songs are what they are: simple interpretations of everyday experiences. However, underneath the seeming simplicity of her lyrics lies a profound questioning of our society.

When asked about the inspiration for Bus Station, Ceitidh explains, “I went to Berlin one winter to do some busking. Frozen fingers and waiting for busses happened a lot! I loved it. I wrote some of the words for bus station while at the… bus station. It’s not really about a bus! I think it’s about the small connections between strangers, people in the moment. It doesn’t have to be when you’re waiting for a bus, but when you have time on your hands, and on your own – it’s appreciating that feeling.”

underneath the seeming simplicity of her lyrics lies a profound questioning of our society

What makes these small connections more relevant to her is the fact that buses are generally accessible to everyone and have no first class. The line “we all have the same deal” expresses this notion of equality perfectly. The interplay between basic honesty and deeper observations is most acutely evoked in her manipulation of the cello. “When you think of the cello, I think most people think of classical music and orchestras,” she says, “but I’ve found it’s a super versatile instrument.”

In Bus Station, Ceitidh refines the combination of cello riffs, vocals and vibraphone by expanding it with synth hooks and percussive experimentation, including clapping and feet stomping. She gives as much thought to the cello melody as to the vocals and how it is arranged with the band, because each is equally important in conveying the meaning of her songs. This explains the varying combinations of instruments and purposeful experimentation to find the right sounds to express each thought.

Having played the cello since a young age, it has in fact become her second voice and its powerful warmth lies in its tonic proximity to the human voice. “When I first started to sing and play at the same time, I realised when I played the cello I was singing what I was playing in my head,” Ceitidh admits, “I had to learn to separate the two, treat them as two parts.”

More than just exploiting instrument techniques, Ceitidh also intensifies the allure of her music by dipping into unusual genres. In her single Rhythm, and especially in Bus Station, her music goes beyond traditional folk boundaries. However, despite these adventurous sound detours, she remains folky at heart. It is her creative and honest personality that she transfers to the cello most seamlessly, and this combined with non-intrusive synth motifs allow her to gently seduce audiences across the UK.

Ceitidh Mac releases Bus Station on 13th September


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