2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).
CLUAS fires some questions at Valerie Francis, creator of Choice Music Prize nominated album Slow Dynamo.
Tell us about the album - its conception, creation, response... Is there anything you'd go back and change about it now?
I wouldn't change a thing. I don't think it's good to think like that. We did exactly what we wanted to do at the time and we did it the best we could. I couldn't ask for anything more. I feel that making a record is capturing those songs right then and there. It's a moment and that is how they were meant to be in that moment. A musical Polaroid. I always wanted to make an album and it took a while to make it a reality. I had a few failed attempts at getting started. I think frustration turns into drive after a while. Jimmy [Eadie, the album's producer] is a good friend and I pretty much begged him to record my album. At that stage I just knew I needed to do it and I needed to get people involved who would see it through to the end. Be committed. No one I know is more committed to making music than Jimmy. He puts his whole heart into it. There's no ego either. Which is very important. No sitting around telling each other how great you are. I think that would have made me lazy and distracted. It was just about the music. Being immersed in that for a year was the best year of my life to date. That and Jimmy makes a really good cuppa.
Award nominations aside, were you happy with the response the album received?
How could I not be happy with the response! I was happy with the reaction from friends alone. It just got better and better. My Dad even listened to it. He said "that's a good tape you've got there".
How relevant do you think music awards really are to musicians and music fans?
Awards aren't a science. It's a select fews opinion of your album. Just like reviews are one person's opinion. Every musician wants to be heard. It means my album will be heard by some who might never have come across it. I'm very grateful to be 1 of 10 albums up for the Choice. Over 200 Irish albums released last year. Rock on us!
Do you think the idea of the album is relevant and capable of holding its own in a world of digital downloading and plummeting CD sales?
I can't answer that question. What is relevant? It's music. Some people will like it. Some people won't. As far as CD sales. I knew how drastically that was changing while we were recording. It was never a deterrent. I want to make music. It's what I've been doing my whole life. I'll keep doing it until I'm dead I imagine. Whether anyone's listening or not.
Do you feel the Irish music scene is in a healthy state at the moment?
Absolutely. Just look at all the Irish albums released last year. I know these are tough times but music is born through tough times. We all need relief from worrying about how much money we don't have. I want to go to a gig and step into a bubble. Lose myself in music. I think this will be a good year for that.
Any artists who weren't nominated for the Choice Award, who you feel should have been?
It was a surprise to a lot of people including myself that David Kitt wasn't on the list. I also thought Patrick Kelleher was a shoe-in.
Your favourite album from those also nominated for the Prize?
Without a doubt Adrian Crowley's Season of the Spark.
Best gig you went to in 2009?
Grizzly Bear at Vicar Street. The bass player plays oboe. Come on! Does it get any better?
Plans for 2010?
I want to record a new album. Here we go again. Please!
Check out the CLUAS interviews with these other artists who were also nominated for the 2009 Choice Music Prize: