On the Friday night of Electric Picnic, an uninterrupted flow of ascetic bass beats drew revellers roaming the Body and Soul area to the main amphitheatre. When they reached its source, they were greeted by a diminutive and enigmatic singer, barely approaching five feet and clad in a lycra jumpsuit. With the seasoned DJ Prince Kong arming the decks, Cork-based MC Lady Grew proceeded to deliver a rave-inciting performance that combined elements of cabaret, drum n’ bass and hip-hop in equal measure.
As the jaw-gnawing frenzy of the preceding evening gradually wore away, we caught up with Lady Grew to talk about the perils of Pole Dancing, Fiddler on the Roof and the wise words of Charlie Chaplin.
When did you first discover music?
Everybody in my family sings so it was always a part of my reality but I remember when I was eight years old, I was in Fiddler On The Roof and it was from then on I knew performing on stage was what I wanted to do.
Did drama ever appeal to you as an artistic path? Why did you choose music?
I think I got to a point where I just wanted to sing and speak my own words.
Tell us about the first time you played in a band.
Three years ago, I moved to Ireland from Ohio and my first week in Cork there was a reggae band playing in Peace Park. I was in the crowd and I was harmonising with the band and I hadn’t realised how loud I was singing but after the show the lead singer came up to me and asked me to sing back up in the band and that was the first time I played in the band. Through that, I met Toby of Wiggle [Cork dub band] and I started MC’ing with him. Then, I met Prince Kong at a gig with Toby, and I started doing stuff with the Ghetto Quietly Boys. He produced an album for me this year called Bass Bully, which came out on their label.
Have you ever had a terrifying experience on stage?
I played a gig at the Rathlin festival this year in this beautiful Moroccan wedding tent and there was this 20-foot pole coming right up from the decks table. I teach pole dancing in Cork so I took one look at that pole and said ‘I can’t not pole dance on that thing’. I was slightly unnerved because it was directly above the gear. I’ve never fallen off a pole but it was daunting. It wrecked my head for a minute, thinking about what would happen if I slipped but then I said ‘fuck it’ and went for it. I didn’t fall off, thankfully.
What has been the best gig you’ve played so far?
I really have to say last night on the Body and Soul main stage. When we started the set, nobody was there but by the end, there were hundreds of people right up the front. Playing in a rave environment, people usually aren’t listening to the music in the same way as they would in a more intimate setting but last night I saw a lot of people really paying attention to the lyrics and that means a lot to me.
How do you write your lyrics? Do you approach subjects personally or on an abstract level?
I tried to write about stuff that I didn’t have any personal attachment to and I couldn’t do it; my lyrics have always been very personal. Music has always been cathartic for me. If there’s turmoil in my life, I have to write about it; there hasn’t been a single problem in my life that I haven’t written about.
What’s next for Lady Grew?
Well there’s a remix of Bass Bully coming out in October and I’m working on a music video at the moment for a song that’s coming out on Mutate records in England. The video has a zombie circus theme to it so I’m corralling all my circus and acrobat friends for a few fun-packed afternoons. I’m working on a handful of tracks with a few different producers on the Ghetto Quietly Boys as well.
What do you love most about being a musician?
I’m going to paraphrase Charlie Chaplin; he said the reason why the world is so fucked up is because people despise themselves. When I heard that, it really hit home. I’m grateful that I have something in my life that keeps me sane. When I see someone light up at one of my shows, it makes me happy cos I know I’ve connected with that person. Those are the moments we search for in life.
Lady Grew’s E.P Bass Bully is available on iTunes and from her website Ladygrew.com.