This interview contains so much swearing that the AI transcriber cited the word “fucking” as the main supporting point – be warned. Alana Daly Mulligan talks music style and substance with self-proclaimed “global superstar”, and recognised legend CMAT.
As CMAT prepared to swan through the musical saloon doors in March last year, the pandemic (formally known as Miss ‘Rona) sat menacingly at the bar: “It was like, okay, should we hold off on releasing anything until this whole Coronavirus thing was blown over or, will we just release it at the start, while people are locked inside and have nothing else to do but worship me?” Of course, taking the road less travelled paid off. With four singles, mentions on “ones to watch” lists, and having her debut TV-appearance on The Den with “comedic and lyrical genius” (her words, not mine) Dustin the Turkey, CMAT has cemented herself among the most exciting new voices in the Irish music scene.
Stylistically, CMAT’s sound and aesthetic pull from a wide array of material: think Dolly Parton’s aesthetic and Kasey Musgrave’s first two EPs, then add Irish humour with a shit-ton more glitter (if such things are possible). Standing out from those in the scene who mine their hearts for their music; CMAT excavates such truths with dynamic charisma, belief in the power of country music, and unique lyricism. In short, CMAT’s tunes slap.
The songs’ honesty and storytelling owe their parentage to the country genre: “I love the ethos of country music songwriting in the sense that the song is always about a real thing. That’s kind of the core of my songwriting – it’s always about me, or the CMAT character, it usually always speaks to more people because it’s such a laser-focused narrative, that it’s easier to relate to. That’s how songs help people, by relating to them”.
Her third single “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” deals with her experiences of urban isolation and fears of exploring the Wild-West-esque of a new city: “I want to be strong and brave and not get fucking murdered every time I wanna go for pints, like”. While there are indeed astute social commentaries interwoven through signs like “Cowboy”, sometimes there’s no need for explicit politics: “I don’t have to put a message into all of my songs because they’re already there. I’m just writing about myself, problems that I have, and a lot of the time, they have no political underlying… I do strongly believe that if you make honesty the core value of what you do in songwriting, politics will come out of it”.
While she doesn’t call herself an activist, CMAT has been vocal about the state of Irish music broadcasting: gender-bias, anglophone music and the “landed fucking gentry, excuse my language” that have infiltrated the music scene: “I don’t care if I get radio play or not, it’s not where my career is… and I specifically don’t care because I don’t want my music to get played just because I am a woman… you should want to play my music because it’s class… I know it’s class, I know it’s deadly. So, don’t play me just to fill a quota, play it because it’s fucking class”.
CMAT’s success has spread across the internet (people do indeed worship her) through her hilariously chaotic and charming Twitter-antics. With the world cooped-up online, I ask how it’s affecting her: “Part of me fucking hates it’” she tells me, “just to put it in perspective– so much bucket list stuff got ticked off in 2020…it’s important I think to remember that…but nothing really good or important or special ever really happens online. It’s just a communication tool to bridge the gap…it’s great for right now but we have to remember the end goal is not being good online, the end goal is being good; reaching out to more people online to bring them into your real-life world.”
Cheekily, I ask about when we can inject the next dose of CMAT into our ear canals (since COVID-vaccines don’t appear to be arriving anytime soon). “That would be telling…I couldn’t possibly!” she smirks, and cites the long roll-out between singles down to her passion for getting the music videos right: “I’m such a music video nerd, and in particular I’m a Music Television nerd…unfortunately it is all archived because RTÉ doesn’t have any specific music programming that’s year-round anymore because they’re fucking shitehawks…” I fail to contain a giggle; “ Basically, I should have released another thing but because of Coronavirus rearing its ugly-fucking-head yet again, I’ve been pushing a lot of things around…The next single will be an important song for me, arguably more important than ‘Cowboy’, just because it’s a very immediate song, it’s a pop song. It’s a banger. I mean, it’s fucking belter like it’s actually, it’s actually so good.”