Arts

Mary Black's daughter Róisín O talks about her new group Thanks Brother

Róisín O, daughter of folk singer Mary Black, chats to Jenny Lee about her new band Thanks Brother and the inspiration behind their debut single

Róisín O and John Broe, who together are Thanks Brother Picture: Dara Munnis

OFTEN referred to either as the daughter of renowned Irish folk singer Mary Black or else the sister of The Coronas' lead singer Danny O'Reilly, Róisín O is hoping it's for her new musical partnership, Thanks Brother, that she'll be known from now on.

Róisín and her musical partner John Broe, originally of Co Kildare indie band Miracle Bell, officially launched their career last month performing on RTE's The Late Late Show. Their debut single, We Are Different, could be viewed as a statement of intent.

Describing themselves as "gritty, folk, tribal pop", Róisín says the duo's moniker has nothing to do with her famous brother, but rather takes its name from a chance conversation with Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage.

The 29-year-old Dubliner – whose grandfather on her mum's side was a fiddler from Rathlin Island – launched a solo career six years ago with the release of Secret Life Of Blue, following up with Give It Up and Better The Way. She has toured internationally on her own and with her band, with a sound that blended Americana with her mother's folk roots. In 2016 she was invited to perform in Los Angeles at Star Wars director JJ Abrams's Oscars party, in front of stars including Steven Spielberg, Idris Elba and James Corden.

She says her move towards a more soulful electro-pop sound has been a natural progression.

"I grew up in folk music, but I would be influenced by the epic soundscapes of Kate Bush, Florence and the Machine, Francis and The Lights and Phoenix."

Having had John as a member of her band and with the pair having written together for other musicians, including the hits Get Loose and Real Feel for The Coronas' 2017 album Trust The Wire, Róisín describes their decision to form their new group as "a natural progression".

"We were coming up with music that didn’t fit either of our respective musical outputs, and after being approached by a record label decided to embark on the new project together. We both work best when we are working together and on new projects and we're delighted with the radio play so far. It's honest music and I think it's better than any of the Róisín O stuff I've done before."

Released by Blix Street Records, We Are Different was remixed by Grammy-award winning Belfast mixer Ruardhi Cushnan, whose credits include Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran and U2.

"It's an anthem for the turbulent times in which we live, celebrating the marginalised, without judgment of those around us who would exclude them. It is about embracing differences – both yourself and others," says Róisín.

The pair where heavily involved in the creative process of making the track's accompanying video – a powerful mini-psychological drama exploring the difficult themes of cruelty and prejudice, and the eventual jubilance of self-acceptance that the song inspires.

"I had seen the drag show in [long-established gay bar and nightclub] The George in Dublin and was blown away by it. We were trying not to make the song and video about sexuality, but to embrace difference in any way – be it the marriage referendum, political inclusion, a family, or even a pair of enemies."

Thanks Brother hope to release their next single in the summer and get an EP by the end of the year. As well as spending plenty of time in the recording studio, after their Dublin launch gig this month, the band plan to play at a number of festivals over the summer.

"We've a good bit written over the past two years, but we want to get the songs the best they can be and don't want to rush things.

"The songwriting process can vary. I jot down inspiration on a day-to-day basis and the words can also happen when John simply playing a chord progression," says Róisín, who over the past couple of weeks has also been supporting her mum on her Mary Black Sings Jimmy Mac Irish tour.

She has fond memories of growing up within a musical family – her aunt Francis Black has also had a hugely successful musical career.

"I used to travel a lot with mum at the height of her career. I missed a bit of school here and there, but she said it was worth it for the experience of travel. I remember going backstage at a gig with James Taylor, who was a real gentleman.

"There's been no single piece of advice that has changed my career, but my parents have been there when I needed them. It's great to have them in your corner and have your best interests in heart."

:: Thanks Brother play their debut Dublin headliner at The Grand Social on May 24. Tickets from Ticketmaster.ie

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