The subconscious mind has a wisdom of its own, although the connections it makes aren’t always apparent on any kind of rational level. And those intuitive processes are at least a part of what’s going on with Eleven Songs, Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom’s 15th solo CD.
In the disc’s opener, “There Is a Time”, Bloom finds himself going “back to the well”, and the listener will immediately assume he’s speaking of that metaphorical font of poetic inspiration from which all songwriters draw. But on its final offering, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Light That Shines Within You”, he arrives at an actual well: the shrine of St. Bridget in Country Kildare, near where he lives.
“You know something? I never made that connection,” he admits, on the line from his home. “That’s a fantastic observation to make, and a lovely kind of serendipitous realization.
“More and more in my working life I find that the most important act that I can participate in in order to get the good stuff going is to just get out of the way,” he adds, laughing. “If I introduce too much of the deliberate thought process and the thinking and the intellect, the songs don’t come. You need a certain amount of that to make anything that’s remotely interesting, but more often than not it can kind of get in the way.”
The art of songwriting, Bloom contends, is allowing the inner voice to speak, but the songwriter’s craft lies in giving those thoughts compelling shape. He’s not one to simply blurt out his feelings in unedited form.
“There are two schools of thought on this,” he contends, “and one is that every divorce and every major emotional catastrophe is fodder for the next album. And there’s another school of thought that suggests that maybe a more reflective approach might be more useful. Personally, I don’t really go along with the ”˜songwriting and singing as therapy for me’ department. I’m much more interested in resolving my own issues, such as they are, and then I go to write.
“That said, there’s a song on this album, ”˜Everyman’, which was an immediate reaction to the death of a friend,” he continues. “I mean, literally within an hour of hearing that this guy had died, I wrote that song. And that’s a very poignant and, if I may say so, beautiful example of an emotional reaction in a song. But I tend to avoid rushing to pen in the middle of personal emotional upheaval.”
A good example of Bloom’s more reflective approach is the aforementioned “Don’t Be Afraid of the Light That Shines Within You”, which he’s been polishing for a number of years. Inspired by the legends surrounding St. Bridget—a pagan goddess co-opted by the Catholic Church—and by a festival held in her honour, it’s a gentle reminder that all is not doom and gloom.
“The funny thing about that song is that when I wrote it, Ireland was in the middle of an economic boom,” Bloom notes. “I never imagined that I would be releasing it at a time of such darkness in the world—but now it sort of feels like a perfect song for our times.”
Luka Bloom plays St. James Hall on Saturday (May 30).