- 25 Apr 23
Raw new offering 'Forest' marks Nealo's first single in two years. Catch him performing the single tonight at The Academy for the A New Local Hero finale.
The song was written during an extended period of struggle, following the release of his critically acclaimed and Choice Prize nominated debut LP, All The Leaves Are Falling.
'Forest' came into being in a sudden outpouring of creativity, an acute outburst of hope, frustration and pain. From start to finish, it was written within an hour. Opening with Macintyre’s distinctive Belfast lilt which contrasts deftly with Nealo’s relatable drawl.
Thematically, it traverses the personal and political, moving from the relationship with his child and the dissolution of his marriage, to the systemic oppression of the mother and baby homes and injustice of the direct provision in Ireland. It is simultaneously brutal and uplifting, the level of vitriol gradually rises until the song reaches breaking point.
“Forest was one of those songs that you dream about, that just falls out of you," Nealo says of the process. "After my first album was released I wrote nothing for a long long time and then all of a sudden everything flows at once.”
His choice of subject matter traces the pent up frustration of living in Ireland over the last few years.
“I really felt how powerful songs can be to heal ourselves from all of the weight that we carry," the Dubliner explains. "The caged emotions, the birth of my son, the breakup of my marriage, the goodbyes to friends lost through drugs and suicide, the uncaring systems of power, the mother and baby homes, the homophobia and racism of the internet, the direct provision system, the housing crisis, the struggles of our friends and family. All of it was just pent up inside me and ready to come out at the right time. And it did on this song.
"Forest was written at the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Morgana. We met in the magic town of Doolin in Clare and have been thick as thieves ever since. This is the first song we created together.”
The song also marks Morgana's first ever collaboration as a solo artist.
”The first time I heard an early demo of Forest I was sitting at my kitchen table," Morgana recalls. "It was my birthday and I had Covid. I was feeling very trapped and very sorry for myself. When I pressed play I was listening to an internal storm - I think I was already singing all over the track before Nelly asked me to lay down a verse. I had met Nelly just a few months before at an Artists writing camp and knew we’d be fast friends and long collaborators.
"I love the emotional fever pitch he reaches in his songs and always try to match it in my own writing," the Saint Sister musician adds. "To me 'Forest' is about finding the spaces (or maybe creating the spaces) you need to weather the storm. Nelly’s friendship has been that for me. I think the forest in the Phoenix Park has been that for Nelly and maybe both of us have found some solace in shouting into the void; “Are ya okay? Are ya listening? Are ya crying. It’s okay. Let’s count our steps while we walk.”
Nealo has also been announced as the special guest for the A New Local Hero showcase tonight, April 25, at The Academy in Dublin. Nealo's performance will cap off a night of music from the six national finalists in the A New Local Hero talent search – with one overall winner set to be crowned on the night.
Listen to 'Forest' below.