Ten Minutes with Tir Eolas

We speak with Tir Eolas about the BBC Proms, busking, the bands’ plans and beer…


How did the group form, you were all at the Royal College of Music, did you study together?

Myself and Laura (Snowden – guitar and vocals) began making music together early on during our first year at the Royal College. I then became friends with Philippa (Mercer – vocals, flute and whistle) whilst Laura was my musical collaborator. During the summer vacation, the three of us decided to form a group. Initially it was orientated solely around having fun and doing something different from our studies; it was therefore quite relaxed. Since then, however, Tir has gradually become more prominent in our lives. Subsequently, around two years ago, we welcomed Georgie (Harris – viola and vocals) and Heidi (Pinkerfield – bass) to the family!


Did it take you long before you started doing shows?

We initially started busking on the South Bank and got a good reaction from passers-by. In terms of staged gigs, we played a lot at the Troubadour in Earls Court during the early days.

We also started recording and doing outreach work. Our work with RCM Sparks allowed us to go out into the community and engage people in music. We’ve also done this through taking part in Live Music Now. Making music accessible to everybody is very important to the group.


What have you been up to recently?

We have been writing and rehearsing in anticipation of recording our debut album, ‘Stories Sung, Truths Told’; the studios are booked for June, with the launch scheduled for January 2015! We’re then going to follow this up with gigs and festival appearances across the UK. We don’t really see Tir Eolas as a touring band, however. We are mindful of selecting the right performance opportunities to showcase our music and so like to do special one-off shows.


What has been your highest profile performance so far?

We performed for BBC Proms Plus at the Royal Albert Hall last summer. We worked in collaboration with poet Richard O’Brien, and the show was broadcast to several thousand people via Radio 3 – definitely a career highlight for us! To be part of the Proms was really enjoyable and we’ve got plans in the pipeline to follow this up at a later date…


How do you approach composing your music?

Our compositional approach depends on the piece in question. Laura and I write a lot of the initial material, but there is always crossover with the rest of the band – it feels like every one of our compositions has the whole group contributing. We are completely in sync with each other artistically and know if something isn’t working early on. Something instinctively just doesn’t seem right, and none of us are afraid to speak our minds!  When we are arranging traditional material, on the other hand, we tend to work collaboratively as a whole group from the outset. Generally we record rehearsals on an iPhone and review things later – music isn’t often notated.


How has progress on the album been going?

We’ve demoed and work-shopped tracks in advance of our studio dates. Ten tunes will definitely be on the album, and we have some additional material besides. We can’t wait to share the album with our fans!


Who have you met in the process that has helped?

Everyone we meet and each piece of feedback and external input shapes our conception of making music. Jim Moray will be producing the record and David Jones has been mentoring us. They’ve both been extremely supportive, helping us to manage our work and sharing methods to promote our creative vision.


How did you find out about CMF, whose idea was it to apply for the program?

We were nominated by Colin Lawson, director of the Royal College of Music. Initially we didn’t really know what was in store, but we soon got an idea of the programme’s orientation and ultimately what it would help us to achieve. It’s a wonderful privilege to be part of such a fantastic development programme; CMF continues to support us achieve our goal of recording an album, whilst also facilitating meetings with people in the industry who can help us grow what we do.


You are performing at the City Beerfest in July, do you rehearse much for appearances like this?

Yes, we schedule rehearsals a couple of months in advance of performances and fix them around concerts that we plan. BeerFest is a first for Tir Eolas, and a gig we’ve been looking forward to for some time! We’re really excited to share exclusive new material from our debut album ‘Stories Sung, Truths Told’ with fellow ale fanatics…


Do you drink beer, what is your favourite?

Absolutely – beer is my drink of choice, but certainly not when I’m performing! Too many favourites to mention!


What are your hopes for the future with Tir Eolas?

There’s a lot we want to achieve together, many dreams and aspirations. We want to grow as a group, whilst reaching out and engaging with as broad a range of people as possible. Folk music is a fantastically powerful medium and we strive to make it more accessible. We’re really passionate about the music we produce and love to share our enthusiasm through every project we are involved in.


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