TRACY BRUEN: Festivals, new music, and doing it all

Tracy Bruen is a force to be reckoned with. When she’s not on tour across Ireland and abroad, you can find her in Galway’s Westend, leading the BlueNotes choir, playing a gig at the Róisín Dubh or just having the craic in the actual Blue Note pub.

Full-time teacher, artist, musician, social rights activist: Tracy Bruen does all of it, and still has time for Netflix.


How do you feel your debut album, Mirror was received?
I was happy with how it was received. We had a packed house for the launch in the Roisin, it got some lovely mentions in local press and songs from it have been played on Radio 1 and other regional stations. I was delighted that it was named Galway Album of the Year by the Galway Advertiser – icing on the cake so to speak. We got a great tour out of it as well this spring and have been confirmed for a few festivals, including the main stage of Body and Soul at Electric Picnic this year, so yep, it’s done well for itself I think!

Do you have another album or new material in the works? Will future projects be as genre-bending as the debut?
We have plans to release a single in Autumn and perhaps an EP in the new year. To be honest I don’t know how to write in one genre. I get bored really easily and the instrument I write on often dictates the resulting style of the song so I can’t imagine you’ll be seeing a “Tracy Bruen does country blues” album any time soon. I could try writing in one genre and to be fair I’d probably be able to market myself way better if I was able to do that. By the third song I’d be convinced they all sound the same so I’d probably end up rewriting and changing them all up anyway!

What can we expect from your upcoming Arts Festival show? Will there be any new material for audiences?
We’re so excited about the Arts Festival show in the Roisin Dubh. Total dream come true there to see us in the Arts Festival brochure, hanging out beside the Flaming Lips and Caribou. There was a lot of jumping up and down and high pitched noises when we heard! We’ve some new musicians joining us on stage for some songs and of course the legendary Bluebirds will be singing with us as well so we’ll have a packed stage for the night. And yes I’ve a good few new songs written so we’ll definitely have new material for the night as well.

Speaking of the Arts Festival: who & what are you looking forward to seeing? Any highlights you’re excited about?
Flaming Lips and Caribou all the way. Cannot wait to see them. It’s a cracking line-up this year. I won’t miss The Fall, a theatre and dance piece from South Africa, and I’m really excited for the Druid double header as well, particularly Furniture by Sonya Kelly. Galway Community Theatre always put on an amazing piece in Nun’s Island as well and we should be supporting our Galway artists in the Arts Festival! I’ll be broke by August!

What can you tell me about the Blue Notes choir? After just a handful of shows, you’ve been confirmed for Body & Soul — how does that feel for you as the founder and the choir in general?
I love love love the Blue Notes. We’ve been together just under a year and the commitment shown by the members to learning, practicing and performing is second to none. We wouldn’t be afraid of having “a few” when we’re practicing in the Blue Note either so that keeps the craic levels up as well. We couldn’t believe our luck getting booked for the main stage of Body and Soul at Electric Picnic this summer. Delighted with our lives.

How did your recent tour of Ireland, Germany & Czech Republic go? What were your favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming tour plans?
We had a blast on tour. I’m glad it finished before one of us keeled over. We know how to have a pint. The highlights were definitely Levis’ in Ballydehob, the Roisin gig and the demented lil bar that we played again in Dresden that goes by the name of the Blue Note. Coincidence? We have a busy summer with the Arts Festival, Electric Picnic and Sunflower Fest in the North – we’ll have one or two other gems lined up for ourselves too no doubt.

As a teacher at a school for students with special needs, an actor, musician and conductor, how do you find time for everything? How do you unwind after a busy day, or a busy week?
I get asked this all the time but I don’t have children to go home to after school. Ask any parent who works outside the home how they find time for everything. I’m sure they’d tell you they are double jobbing as well. I get antsy when I’ve nothing to do. Or alternatively, if I’m not busy, I’ll sit on my backside and watch Netflix for hours which then makes me antsy again. I’m better all round when I’m busy.

We’ve heard you also have a wedding upcoming — congratulations. Have you chosen a first dance song?
Yup Eoin and I are having the big kahuna and yep we’ve chosen a first dance song….!!!

By the time we go to print, Ireland will have voted on a hugely important issue – the 8th Amendment. As a keen champion of women’s rights and the right to autonomy for everyone, how do you see the result impacting women in Ireland? Do immense issues like this have an influence on your music, your creative process?
This is everything. We voted on Friday and none of us saw the landslide result coming. I’ve been very involved in canvassing over the last couple of months. Though I knew in the days leading up to the vote that it would carry, never in my wildest dreams did I predict the support for women that the electorate showed on Friday. We need to make sure that the proposed legislation gets through both houses of the Oireachtas and that the will of the people, which is to enable pregnant people to access all medical treatment options available to them, is honoured. We also need to look to our sisters in the north who are facing the same struggle. They need our love and support now.
I’ve written many songs inspired by the 8th and on feminism. I don’t know what I’m going to write about now – my anger is gone. Not to worry, I’m sure I’ll find something to give out about in a few days….


See Tracy Bruen live with support from Paper Moon at the Róisín on 25 July. Get your tickets here.