Scaling new heights of noise and pop production following her former incarnation as a much loved acoustic folk singer-songwriter, Nuala Honan’s second album ‘Doubt & Reckoning’ ushers in a new chapter for the Bristol-based artist, spurred by a spell of creative evolution and personal recuperation.
Driven by post-punk rawness, yet still letting fly with moments of audacious, operatic singing over the tumultuous drums, on ‘Doubt & Reckoning’ Honan wields her Telecaster and leads a killer band in a pop-drama, exploring the strength in vulnerability and human connection.
It’s a theme that she has placed front and centre in her life in recent years, and one which takes on a more universal poignancy in these times of isolation and unrest: the power of compassion and connection with the world around us, of choosing vulnerability over fear, and of embracing community.
Originally from rural outback Australia, Nuala Honan was awarded the South Australian Music Industry Award for Most Outstanding Female Vocalist before moving to England (aged just 19) to be closer to her family's Irish musical heritage and an adventurous music scene.
She became a fixture in Bristol’s vibrant music community as both a performer and promoter, as well as programming stages at festivals including Larmer Tree, and co-founding an initiative to advocate for and represent women in the music industry. In short, a DIY dynamo. But after successfully self-releasing her 2013 folky debut album ‘The Tortoise’ – followed by a busy spell of touring, and playing on some of the UK and Ireland’s biggest festival stages including Glastonbury, Green Man, Shambala, Bestival and Electric Picnic – Honan called a much needed time-out on the mental and physical realities of life as a solo independent troubadour.
She started working as a lifeguard at a swimming lake in north Bristol – an old flooded quarry with Victorian-esque diving boards and lawn – where she found perspective, and calm, on surrounding herself with and surrendering herself to the therapeutic benefits and the here-and-now of outdoor swimming in all weathers.
She discovered she much preferred playing electrinc guitar, and jamming with friends. She embarked on years of therapy. She stripped her creative world down to the basics and built it back up in a sustainable, joyful and, crucially, communal way.
On her new material Nuala harvests all her experience to date, and her gift for timeless songwriting, into a sound that lies somewhere between her rural desert upbringing and her fearless pop contemporaries.
She says: “When I stopped, I realised I wasn’t making the sounds I wanted to be a part of – the sounds that first inspired me to make music. There is probably a ghost of my teenage self in this record – growing up in rural South Australia there was no DIY culture, no riot grrrl, no access to a guitar amp, so it took me a little while to make this offering to the noise gods.
“This new music feels like stepping into the most authentic version of myself – which was terrifying, but artists like St Vincent, Angel Olsen, tUnE-yArDs, and friend and collaborator Low's Museum (Alice Low), empowered me to have faith in my ideas and be radical with my songwriting and production.”
Recorded between Canyon Sound studio and Geoff Barrow (Portishead)’s Invada studio, Honan’s self-produced second LP fizzes with the raw energy of her live band, a crack-team of collaborators from the alternative scene featuring Alice Low (Low’s Museum), Luke Cawthra (The Brackish), Matthew Jones (Zun Zun Egui), Stevie Jo Dooley (Toddler) and Ben Winter. “All of these people made a space for me to be able to try things for the first time, and to flex my new found confidence producing a live rock record”, she says.
Honan’s new sound has met with a buzzy reception, championed across BBC 6Music, BBC R1 Introducing and Radio X, as well prompting live support bookings for the likes of Marika Hackman and This Is The Kit. Tapping into a heightened need for communication and connection in lockdown, she has also started a new podcast, “Phonin’ with Honan”, centring on candid phone chats with contemporaries and friends including Rozi Plain, Kate Stables (This Is The Kit), Rachael Dadd, and Alabaster Deplume.
"Patiently unfolding with real lyrical grace... it's a perfectly pitched offering” – CLASH
“We’re loving Nuala’s new sound” – BRISTOL IN STEREO
“An up-and-coming artist we’re very excited about... She’s so cool!” - LAUREN LAVERNE (BBC 6MUSIC)
“It’s amazing, that, isn’t it!” - SHAUN KEAVENY (BBC 6MUSIC)
"Absolutely stunning” - JOHN KENNEDY (RADIO X)
“I absolutely love it. More from her, I think!” – GUY GARVEY (BBC 6MUSIC / ELBOW)
"We've been supporting Nuala's music for quite some time, and 2020 looks like it's going to be the big one… new energy, a new sound... it sounds like she's having a really great time" – BBC INTRODUCING
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