- 22 Apr 21
The Veronica Vierin-directed video features ski-suits and a sunny blue sky, with Deirdre's closest friends acting as the protagonists for the project.
If there was ever an ideal time and place to release a single about solidarity, it's Ireland in 2021.
Musician, choreographer, and theatre maker, Deirdre Murphy, has debuted her new track 'Phenomenally Women'; breathing new life into the ever-uplifting 1978 poem by Dr Maya Angelou; 'Phenomenal Woman'.
After crafting the song around a soothing melody, Murphy turned her focus towards helming the most meaningful video possible for the occasion.
"The women in the clip are my three best friends in the world," Deirdre gushes, smiling down the phone.
“One of them is Becky Reilly, a long-time collaborator of mine. She’s worked with all of the dance companies in Ireland, basically, and we’ve made a lot of shows together. She’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. The woman with the long red hair is Jenny Macdonald, director of Solo Sirens festival, playwright and performer. The community-based festival is currently working solely with women as performers and men as audience members. The third wonderful woman is Alita Rivero, who is a yoga teacher, translator, Spanish teacher and generally amazing person.”
Having arrived in Ireland 16 years ago after growing up in Alaska, Deirdre explored vast amounts of her homeland in the US before leaving her birthplace for the Emerald Isle. The artist has been creating work for international audiences in theatre, performance art and aerial dance ever since, but the COVID-19 pandemic granted her the time to put her dominant focus into music.
“COVID has been as tough on me as it’s been on everyone. But in a way, it revealed to me what I’d like to ultimately focus on," Deirdre acknowledges, reflecting on the past 12 months.
"I taught yoga for about 18 years as my day job, and I’ve given up teaching yoga since trying online teaching in December. I love teaching, but taking a pause has really freed up my mental load. Organising was taking up my entire brain space. It’s been amazing to focus on putting creative work out. It’s a quiet miracle for me that music is now here to stay in my life, alongside theatre and dance.”
Dr. Maya Angelou’s inspiring 'Phenomenal Woman' speaks of the inner strength, conviction, and beauty with which women carry themselves. It creates a deeply affirming acceptance of ourselves in our wholeness, and allows us to stand together in strength, glorying in each other. What ultimately sparked Deirdre to rearrange the work into a musical project?
“'Phenomenal Woman' was actually on the doors of the studios where I was teaching yoga, so I saw it every day. It lit a match in me, but I wrote the song first before contacting Caged Bird Legacy - Angelou’s estate - in July 2020," Deirdre remarks. "I felt extremely lucky that they gave it the green light and granted me copyright. They’ve been absolutely lovely to work with.”
“Maya has always been a big feminist voice for me," Murphy adds. "She had an incredible life story, and I’ve always adored her work. It's an honour to be working with the poem, it just blows me away.”
With the concept of feminism continuously adapting and evolving as generations grow older, Dr Angelou's work has remained more relevant than ever. The value of an intersectional feminism which encompasses gender as well as race, ability, sexual orientation and ethnicity is undoubtedly entering mainstream conversation.
“I think that feminism has to do with fully acknowledging one’s power and capability in a way that is still very challenging to do," Deirdre muses, when queried about her own definition.
"We tend to live in this really narrow framework for what we think is possible for humans. We only have this little slice of life and yet we decide that we’re sticking to just one sliver. True feminism is the process of absolute liberation, both for men and for women and everyone in between. There’s so many qualities in men that get really pushed down or mocked, and attributes in women that are also suppressed. For me, it’s about breaking open that frame of reference and allowing for possibility.”
“My only hope is that 'Phenomenally Women' opens hearts and turns on joy," the musician says, beaming.
Having written and composed Capitalism: The Musical in 2017 - an acrobatic musical theatre which has toured Ireland and Italy - Deirdre rarely limits herself creatively to one box. As a festival curator and producer, member of macabre aerial performance group Guerilla Aerial and songwriter; the artist's schedule for 2021 is full to the brim.
“It’s very exciting, I’ve got an entire EP ready to go, but I'm focusing on one song at a time to give myself breathing space and build momentum," Murphy laughs.
"I’ve also got 12 songs ready to record as an album, so that's waiting in the wings, as well as the recording of Capitalism: The Musical. I’ve also been taking an amazing home recording academy class, which is specifically aimed at women. It’s an 11-week course, with 120 women learning to record themselves in a highly gendered industry. I’ve definitely been in an incredibly safe sphere within the music industry, but I’m only just getting started. Expressing gratitude towards the people I'm working with has been best part of this whole process, they've allowed me to get to this wonderful place.”
Check out the Howth-set video for 'Phenomenally Woman' below: