Mixing country-inspired pop with witty lyricism, CMAT is one of Ireland's best new voices. Ahead of the release of her second album, Crazymad, For Me, she shares her favourite records
Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor
I’m almost 100 per cent certain that the first vinyl that I ever bought for myself was a seven inch single of “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. I was 13 years old and there was a record shop in Dublin called Rage. I was really interested in records and I went in and bought the only song in the shop that I knew.
It was from Sinead O’Connor’s second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. We had it on CD at home, I heard it a lot growing up because she was my mam’s favourite singer ever. My mam is called Sinead as well, and they were born in the same year and they had a baby the same year. My mam just has this weird intensely spiritual connection with her. So I really grew up with Sinead O’Connor, and her songwriting has definitely inspired my work.
"Every woman that makes music in Ireland is just going to live in Sinead's shadow [and] that’s fine"
She’s very lyrical, and she has a powerful voice. If you ever see a clip of her singing live, she’s always singing at the top of her lungs. I’ve gotten in trouble with sound engineers on multiple occasions for also doing that. One of my sound engineers said I sing like a plane taking off. And she’s the only person I can think of in pop music who did that. She’s definitely a huge influence. Every woman that makes music in Ireland is just going to live in her shadow for the rest of our lives. And I think that’s fine.
Heart Food, Judee Sill
At school I was my music teacher’s favourite student. I’m not sure why. There were people at my school who were classically trained, who played traditional Irish instruments, things like that. The only thing I did was sing—I wasn’t a very good guitar player or piano player or anything. But she loved me. She loved my voice, because she said it was like an old voice. So she made me listen to a lot of folk stuff from the 1970s. She put me on to Judee Sill, and when I first listened to her when I was 13 or 14 I was like, This sucks. This is so boring. Then when I was 17, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is everything. I have a distinct memory of hating it when I first heard it, then giving myself a couple of years and realising that it was going to be the most important music of my life.
"I literally think it changed the trajectory of my life"
I remember one day I was on the internet and this guy that I followed who I thought was cool posted a link to a Judee Sill song called “The Donor”. I was like, why does he like Judee Sill? But I listened to “The Donor” and I literally think it changed the trajectory of my life. It’s eight and a half minutes long. I was just listening to it on YouTube on my old laptop, not exactly the highest quality, and it just got me.
It’s changed my whole approach to songwriting. I’ve listened to everything she’s ever done. She doesn’t have a huge back catalogue because unfortunately she died very young but she’s got all these bootlegs and demos and things that weren’t properly recorded, and I hunted them all down. She just changed what I thought music was.
Her second album, Heart Food, had a real flow to it. She wasn’t just throwing her 14 best songs onto an album, she really thought about what’s going to happen when someone listens from beginning to end. There’s a theme holding it all together. I think my first album was me throwing my 12 best songs out there. I did think about it and I’m very proud of it, but with my second record I wanted to try and have that flow too, so it’s a concept album.
Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen
As a child I was popstar obsessed. I wanted to be Samantha Mumba, I wanted to be Britney Spears, I wanted to be a member of Girls Aloud. Then at the beginning of my teenager years, I was like, pop music sucks. It’s not real. I shunned pop music completely. I remember wiping my iPad of all my Abba songs and replacing it with the discography of the Rolling Stones because I wanted to be cool.
Then the record Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen came out and it knocked me out. To this day it’s one of the best records I’ve heard in my life. It has an insanely high hit rate. The first thing I heard on it was “Run Away With Me” and it’s the most euphoric opening to a song that I’ve ever heard. Her lyricism is so fun and playful. That album made me re-evaluate my relationship with pop music. After that I was like, I want to write pop songs.
Wild Planet, The B-52s and Ctrl, SZA
These two records go together for me. In 2017, I moved to Manchester alone. I didn’t know anyone there—I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t have any way of making friends. I spent two months just walking around the city centre or around Salford listening to these two records on a loop. They were so comforting to me.
"Those two albums made me remember, in adulthood, what a lifeline music has been for me"
They were like two sides of something that was going on in my head at the time. I was feeling weird and depressed and having a terrible time in Manchester, so Ctrl by Sza was really tapping into my heartache. And then Wild Planet by the B-52s was tapping into the energy that I wished I had. Anytime I tried to listen to anything else, I just went back to those albums.
Those two albums made me remember, in adulthood, what a lifeline music has been for me. Like, I can really have nothing else going on in my life, no friends, no money, nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to see. And I can just about survive with music alone.
Read more: Arlo Parks: Records That Changed My Life
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