- 01 Oct 13
She sang with Sisters of Mercy and opened for Marillion, while her new album is a concept record about the Magdalene Laundries. But whatever you do, don’t call Lisa Cuthbert a goth.
“There’s nothing positive about my music at all.”
It’s an unusually frank and honest stance to take when discussing your art but Dublin singer-songwriter Lisa Cuthbert is happy to clarify that what she does is not exactly cheery or uplifting. Her just-released second album, Paramour, was inspired by the stories of the former residents of the Magdalene Laundries. Not a subject to warm the heart. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she has found she is popular with Goth audiences.
“Oh it’s definitely on the dark side, though I wouldn’t say it’s Gothic because it doesn’t fit in with all the categories required to be a Goth,” she explains. “I play a lot of Goth festivals and it seems to be the type of fan-base I’ve acquired, which is good because people who are into that kind of music tend to be quite die-hard about it and quite loyal – they go to all of the concerts and buy all of your music.”
Born and raised in south Dublin and currently living in Lille in France close to the Belgian border, Cuthbert has been likened to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan among other singularly distinctive female performers. Playing mostly solo with just her piano as accompaniment, she has slowly grown a fan base across Europe. “I do wherever I can. I’m in the middle of organising something in Poland at the moment. I was in Berlin a couple of weeks ago and I’m planning on going back soon. I play anywhere – from singer-songwriter nights to massive Gothic festivals. I’m lucky in that I can kind of adapt to anything. I did an Irish night in Belgium recently. It was called Cabaret Irlandais and was held in a bohemian, organic restaurant. I did some Irish traditional songs - I even did a Cranberries cover. Just to keep them happy.”
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed. She recently supported Marillion in Amsterdam and, last summer at the Amphi Festival in Köln, Germany, joined The Sisters of Mercy onstage as an extra vocalist (in addition to performing her own version of their song ‘This Corrosion’). “They found my cover of the song that I’d put on YouTube,” she explains. “I got a strange email in the middle of the night from them asking me to play it live with them when they were headlining the festival. This was just two weeks before it happened – which meant two weeks of not eating or sleeping for me (laughs.)”
On the topic of her latest album, Paramour, she says she was inspired to write it by the recent revelations of abuse of women in Catholic-run institutions and the realisation that she was brought up in the same tradition.
“Living in France has given me a completely different perspective on education because here, the church and schools are completely separate. Religion just isn’t taught in state schools here at all – it’s forbidden. I just basically found all about the Magdalene Laundries and the fact that the last one closed in 1996, by which time I was already baptized in the Catholic Church and was being educated and raised with the same values by the organization that did that to people. The songs are inspired by different characters from the stories I heard. My music is kind of melodramatic, so I like to take something and dramatise it.”
The album is only available digitally. She plans to put it out on CD in the near future.
“As soon as I can afford it really - it’s not even an option for me to not have a CD release. People in this scene like to have a physical product. They’re just not into downloads at all.”