There’s something about Hilary Woods’ music that stops you in your tracks, as if you were walking outside a bar late at night and only heard the faintest noises of the velvet-voiced performer within. The music is darkly atmospheric and expertly barren—until, all of a sudden, it’s not.
I first reached out to the Irish musician when Colt, her debut album released June 8th by Sacred Bones, only had a few songs available online. Once a member of the alt-rock band JJ72, Woods’ inimitable talent now flows into her solo work. There’s raw emotion pulsing beneath the surface of Colt, with each song churning ocean-like back onto itself until the 37-minute album fades out.
Madge Maril: What inspired you to begin creating your music?
Hilary Woods: Hey, I’m not sure, but there was lots of music around growing up, I was surrounded by musicians, and it became something I started to relate to and engage with when I was little, I would record melodies and ideas onto tape to save up for a time when I could listen back and create something out of them.
MM: Following the journey from Night to what I’ve been able to hear from Colt, the music has delved deeper into itself and taken on many more layers of sound. What is your songwriting process like? What is it like to create such cinematic soundscapes by yourself?
HW: I think the music has grown in tandem with my interest in creating not only songs but sound. My song-writing process varies a lot, from arising out of a lot of playing which inspires writing, or they come along instantaneously. I often think the best songs are the ones written in one sitting. I always wanted to create my own space to inhabit, to explore interiority through music, it’s exciting to create imaginative and felt worlds through sound, they become more tangible , easier to access, clarifying.
MM: What goes into your recording and mastering process?
HW: Every time it has been different, I learn as I go what suits me more. I like working on my own. On this record I wrote and recorded all the tracks at home in the flat I was living in at the time, it was a solitary process but hugely rewarding. I then brought the tracks to Berlin to James Kelly who co-produced and we went through the mixing process together. Mastering was done by the inimitable Josh Bonati in New York.
MM: One of the tags that caught my eye on your Bandcamp was ‘nordic noir’. How do you classify the music you make? How does hailing from Dublin interact with your art, if at all?
HW: I never know what tag to tag my work with, so Nordic noir was something I wrote that hinted at the geographical landscape I’d put my music in and then ‘Noir’ was just a fit. Hailing from Dublin, I looked both inward and outward to what was going on in Europe/outside of Ireland for inspiration when it came to art, possibly that goes hand and hand with being from an Island. In saying that—I love Dublin culture, the humour, the people, the song tradition here. My family are as they say ‘true blues’… generations of Dublin folk.
MM: Which musicians inspire you?
HW: Eartha Kitt, Bill Callahan, I Have A Tribe, Sibylle Baier, Pharmakon, Okkyung Lee… many!
MM: There is so much vulnerability to your music, especially the track “Black Rainbow”. What is it like to enter the global stage and sign to the label Sacred Bones?
HW: With Sacred Bones, I feel the songs have a chance to find their legs/audience—so that is a great thing and I’m grateful for it. It’s always a vulnerable thing releasing anything, but I feel that if it wasn’t personal or didn’t mean anything, it wouldn’t be worth releasing.
Listen to Woods’ debut album Colt here.