- 16 May 23
Following the release of her new EP, Walking With Natives, Dani Larkin discusses reconnecting with nature, Ireland’s boundary-pushing folk scene, and drawing inspiration from the literary world.
It’s been almost two years since Dani Larkin first introduced herself as a captivating new force in Ireland’s groundbreaking folk scene, with the release of her debut album, Notes For A Maiden Warrior. Although she’s been kept busy in the time since with lauded live performances – including a recent tour of Australia – as well as collaborations with the Ulster Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the singer-songwriter was more than ready to explore a new side of her artistry on Walking With Natives, her new EP.
“Notes... was my declaration to the world: ‘Here I am,’” she tells me. “Now there’s nothing to prove, in a way. It feels like I can just be myself as a songwriter, and be received in that way.”
The project delves into Dani’s relationship with the natural world – a direction that was initially inspired by a conversation between writer/activist Joanna Macy and poet/psychologist Anita Barrows, who released their new translation of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet in 2021.
“That planted the seed for the work first and foremost – their conversation on how they chose to translate that beauty of the natural world from German into English,” she says. “It really resonated with me.
“Lockdown was also a huge part of reconnecting with the land around me – as it was for many other people,” she adds. “I wanted to carry that connection with wildness and nature to the busy life that we’re all living now.”
Of course, climate change now forms a crucial part of any conversation about nature. Does she find it hard to stay hopeful about the world around her, in the face of that?
“Joanna Macy has actually written a book called Active Hope,” she tells me. “It’s essentially about this: the time that we’re living in, and how to remain hopeful in it. And how to take action around that.
“Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some days that the rate of change in this world is a very overwhelming experience for me,” she continues. “But more often than not, when I spend time in nature, I’m reminded of and reconnected with that hope. We’re not separate from the world – we’re very much a part of it. If we begin to think in that way, hopefully we can start to protect what we do have left.”
The project also finds the singer-songwriter continuing to carve out her own unique space in Ireland’s increasingly boundary-pushing folk and traditional music scene – a community that recently earned in-depth coverage in The New York Times. Does Dani feel a strong connection to that movement?
“Definitely,” she states. “I was coming through Dublin recently, and I was in Cornucopia, which is one of my favourite places to get food. I bumped into Lisa O’Neill there, and we sat and had a gorgeous chat, for a good while. That for me was like: ‘We are part of something.’
“It’s rare that we, as solo artists, get to cross paths, except for maybe the Folk Awards!” she adds. “But when you bump into people, and take that time, you’re reminded that we’re all part of something so much bigger than our own individual projects. Sometimes it’s very easy, within the cult of capitalism, to put the attention on the ego, or on the individual. But it is a bigger movement. We’re all working towards something, in terms of platforming what the island of Ireland is now, in a new way.
“And I can’t think of anything better to do with my time!” she laughs.
Dani's influences are far-reaching, with the literary world also informing her work.
“I always carry three or four books with me, wherever I go,” she says. “I’m not sure I ever get any of them finished! But one of them I’ve been reading is called Black Women Writers At Work, which I bought in New York when I was there for a few shows in February. That’s been an incredible source of light, inspiration and truth.”
At the time of our conversation, Dani has just wrapped up an artist residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan – an experience she describes as “incredible and powerful.”
“When I landed in Annaghmakerrig, I was given the Composer’s Room,” she recalls. “There’s a studio and a bedroom, and they’re right next door to each other. And in the bookshelves, there was a book written by the musician Tommy Sands. I was reading that when I was there, and it was incredible.
“I hadn’t realised that Tommy had written a book,” she continues. “His mastery of writing, in terms of weaving together folklore, the stories of rural Ireland in the North, the Troubles, and him performing at Stormont for the Good Friday Agreement – it all seemed very timely, in a way that I could carry away with me.”
• Walking With Natives is out now.
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- 27 Sep 23