The creative flame rekindled in Newry in a new initiative led by a regional artist

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The CREATIVES are taking their careers into their own hands and one of Ireland’s most popular bands are taking a stand against incompetent politicians in this week’s Northern Winds.

After more than two years of confining musicians to their homes, a friendly new artist-led initiative was announced this week to rekindle the creative flames. Soft Gut Song Camp, founded this year after a successful trial last October, announced its inaugural outing with a call for submissions from northern songwriters. Founded by vocalist Ciaran Lavery, alongside music industry pros Nikki MacRae and Jo Wright, Soft Gut has a mission statement firmly rooted in encouraging and cultivating creativity in a song camp of several fully immersive days for regional artists.

Hosted at the world-class Analogue Catalog studio in Newry between April 14-16 this year, Soft Gut will bring together some of the best producers, songwriters and players in the room to forge new relationships, promote unity and maximize the potential for collaboration. Speaking of Song Camp, Ciaran said: “Soft Gut was created primarily out of a desire to support a healthier and more functional music community – not just theoretical, but one that can encourage collaboration and healthy competition in the North of Ireland. It was also created to break the long held ‘big fish, small pond’ narrative where being based in NI will eventually stifle your career and therefore it’s best to move off-island With the effects of Brexit which are already clouding the talk of touring visas, there’s no better time than the present to support artists here and help nurture a music scene that encourages them to thrive while they’re based here.

Applications open Thursday, February 24 and close a month later on March 24. The entry fee is £225 and includes accommodation, meals and holistic career development advice.

On the release side we have Fontaines DC, one of the best bands to emerge from Ireland in recent years, releasing their new single ‘I Love You’, the first track frontman and songwriter Grian Chatten admits that he was “openly political”. Taken from their forthcoming third album, ‘Skinty Fia’, the Dublin quintet’s latest single takes aim at FF/FG and they are the latest high-profile artistic group to vent their frustration at the Dáil this year. Referring to the tragedy at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway, Chatten grumbles: “This island is ruled by sharks with the bones of children stuck in their jaws. With the group relocating to London following rising rent prices in the nation’s capital, the frustration and rage towards those in power is palpable.

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Fontaines DC pulls no political punches

Irish festivals continue to return to the fold, heralding line-ups and headliners that combine local and international talent in what is sure to be the summer Ireland deserves after the ravages of the pandemic.

The news comes from a brand new festival, Night And Day, taking place in Roscommon from September 24-25. The Villagers, Orla Gartland, The Mary Wallopers and Sprints headline the Irish contingent. Meanwhile, iconic musical gathering Forbidden Fruit has added artists to its first lineup in years, with Bicep, Biig Piig, Kojaque and Monjola joining Loyle Carner on the main stage in June.

And this week’s column ends as always with a spotlight on some of the best tracks from independent artists released this week. Junk Drawer is gearing up for their new EP, out March 11, with their latest single, Railroad King. With hints of post-rock and ’60s garage melodies, Junk Drawer’s delightful brand of misery gets a square-dancing grip into oblivion on their newest. Rooted in songwriters Jake Lennox’s realization that he has ASD, he has an escapist energy that’s kept under control by edgy, fun lyricism.

And closing the march, the dark and pure song of a certain Sinéad O’Brien. Holy Country comes from their forthcoming debut album Time Bend and Break The Bower. Opening with an outlaw-toned acoustic entry, the track quickly turns into a handful of clashing electronica and post-punk, guided by a statement of intent from the vocalist.

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