Niamh Regan “Belly”
woman looking at the blue sky

Niamh Regan “Belly”


NIAMH REGAN’s 2020 debut album ‘Hemet’ introduced her as an artist with a gift for crafting folk-tinged songs with a quiet, reflective intensity. The release started to make waves and led to nominations for both the RTE Folk Awards and the Choice Music Prize ‘Album of the Year. ‘Hemet’ was produced by Alex Borwick and released by the Galway-based label The Black Gate. The writing of the record was split between her hometown of Galway, and Hemet in California, where her husband is originally from. The release of her debut album brought her from open mics to headline tours around Ireland, UK, Australia, and more. Pairing this with many festivals and avariety of support opportunities with artists such as CMAT, Villagers, John Grant, SOAK, Patrick Watson, Sam Amidon, Cormac Begley, Sorcha Richardson, Josh Ritter, and many more, which has led to Niamh’s new-found confidence and joy performing on stage between her performances, she began to write her second record in Attica Studios with producer Tommy McLaughlin. She says, “I arrived in Donegal to meet Tommy for the first time with a bunch of demos, half-baked ideas and feeling not ready, it was scary. But I’m so glad that I did it that way. I trusted the process and came into the studio with the intention of capturing exactly where I was with it all and Tommy helped me build from there.”And here we are, with the upcoming release of that second album, titled ‘Come As You Are’. It’s an album full of acutely observed vulnerabilities and introspection. Its themes are the issues that many of us find loom large in the small hours: questions of self-doubt, uncertainty about your life’s direction, whether relationships are flourishing in the way you’d hoped and determining priorities.

“A lot of it is about being in your late twenties and kind of realising we’re all running out of time,”she ponders. “I’d have bouts of massive self-belief in the studio, and then in the next breath I would be like, ‘This is the worst piece of music I could have even imagined.’ It was a rollercoaster. But through that I found self-acceptance; this is where I’m at and making peace with that. That’s what the album essentially is,just making peace with where I’m at and being realistic with myself.”Niamh’s other key goal for the record was to achieve a richer, full live band sound, inspired by her love of Julia Jacklin, Caroline Rose, and especially Wilco. While there are momentsof intimacy, the songs on ‘Come As You Are’ are far grander in scale and ambition than those on ‘Hemet’: the rousing, string-assisted majesty of ‘Wave’, subtle electro-pop beats dancing at the base of the mix in ‘Too Nice’, the dreamy Petty-esque melancholic swirl of ‘Blame’, and standout track ‘Music’, which, if not for the expressive feminine elegance of her voice, could feel like a lost classic from Jeff Tweedy and co.That song was the moment where Niamh started to feel the album come together. “The song is just so much fun to sing for me.”Its lyrics paint an autobiographical picture of a songwriter at a trough of inspiration, which is pretty much where she was. The road to album two was often one of dead-ends, wrong turns, and unexpected traffic, and the thousand voice note ideas that she had started in 2021 didn’t fully evolve into the finished album you will soon hear until deep into 2023.The way she describes this crisis-of-confidence is candid, yet as bluntly matter of factas if merely detailing a routine part of her day. “I felt very disheartened with my writing,and it was a bit of a trudge to be honest. I’m a sane enough person that I was considering packing it all in. But this song was as honest as it comes, and it turned everything around.”While ‘Come As You Are’ represents a bold evolution for Niamh, its first single ‘Madonna’ is the song that feels most intrinsically tied to her debut. Or as Niamh offers, “I wanted to start the album kind of as bravely as possible and I think that way is to do it on your own.”Its raw, one-take live recording of her voice and acoustic guitar has a hymnal warmth. When asked to speak more about the lyrics she explained the song touches on difficult subjects we as a society tend to tiptoe around and avoid talking about.

She does, however, have a contagious passion for talking about performing live. After honing her stage presence in the wake of ‘Hemet’ she explains the joy of releasing new music for her is performing it to a live audience, “It’s the best feeling and I think I’ll bechasing it for the rest of my life.”And that’s a feeling that ‘Come As You Are’ will help her tap into. It’s an album which is a confident step forward, full of songs with the spark to come alive on stage and with the immediacy to beckon newcomers into her world. It’s been a long journey since ‘Hemet’, but now Niamh Regan is perfectly positioned to take her music to the next level.

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