There’s a part of me with a lot of questions... and I still don’t know where the answers are
It’s easier for me to talk about myself if it’s based on other characters I’m a very nostalgic person, but one who looks forward and strives to find answers
It was supposed to be such a quiet year that she was even planning to use it to start studying humanities. However, Núria Graham (Vic, 1996) was then recruited as a guitarist – and composer – by Amaia, of Eurovision Song Contest fame. She also began working on what has without doubt become the most successful record of her short but intense career: Marjorie (El Segell). The recording, which she composed alone on the piano, and which has undertones of Carole King and Burt Bacharach, is an acknowledgement of her Irish roots that also becomes a form of self-acknowledgement. She presented Marjorie in Barcelona and Girona in March and was to perform it in Vic and Mataró in April, until the coronavirus pandemic meant the dates had to postponed.
What’s your connection with the west coast of Ireland?
I’ve spent many summers there; we always went there on holiday with my family. You could make a film about the village where my aunt and her fisherman husband live, which is at the end of the world, on the Atlantic coast. There are a lot of faces there that seem as if they are part of the landscape.
Why make a record about your Irish roots now?
I never intended to make a record about Ireland. But then I wrote Marjorie, which was the name of my grandmother from Ireland, who I never met, and I realised that my imagination, subconsciously, was already there. Then came Connemara and No returning, a song that my Irish uncle composed when he was my age.
What led you to write about a grandmother you never met?
Many people have said to me: “You’re just like your grandmother!” She suffered a lot and would often be seen by the window at night waiting for my grandfather to come home from the pub. And then one day, I found myself smoking a cigarette by the window feeling that suffering that is so typical of love. I saw my reflection and realised I was falling into the same trap. Also, when I started at 16, Marjorie was going to be my stage name. I even advertised a show under that name. And now I’ve made this record, which is the one that represents me most, the one that’s most “Núria”, I found it made sense to call it that.
Why is it the record that represents you most?
The previous one was about a more specific moment, the result of darker times. This, on the other hand, is a record where I think I make peace with many things.
What are you looking for in Ireland?
When I had finished writing the previous album (Does it ring a bell?, 2017), one of the first things I did was to go and spend a couple of weeks there alone. While I was there I asked myself questions about my way of life, which is still a mystery to me, and sometimes, as I said, I can see myself reflected in stories my aunt told me about my grandmother.
Is having Irish roots a primary source of artistic material for you?
Yes, because, although I feel at home when I’m in Vic, I also notice that I’m missing something, and I don’t quite know what it is. This has especially started to happen to me in recent years. There’s a part of me with a lot of questions and I still don’t know where the answers are.
They make good music in Ireland.
When I was little I really fed off it. And being a great one for nostalgia, it makes me cry a lot. Thin Lizzy, for example, were from Crumlin, my father’s neighbourhood, and we’ve always been big fans at home. When I was little, there was always a tape of theirs playing in the car.
’Marjorie’, ’Hazel’, ’Shirley’... you’re fond of titles with a name...
Yes, the other day I was doing the repertoire for the upcoming concerts and I thought: “Hey, it looks like I’m taking the class register!” It’s easier for me to talk about myself if it’s based on other characters, I guess.
Who is the person in the song ’Connemara’?
My aunt’s neighbour, who I never met. It’s about a suicide, but seen from the images this person sees through the window, which were, in fact, the same ones I saw from my room. It overwhelms me a little, this song. I would never have thought I would write about that.
Is writing about death a way of showing respect for it?
Well, death really scares me, but I had to get closer to it because my Irish grandfather died when I was recording it and I went to the funeral. I wasn’t looking for it, but it’s been like giving this whole facet of my Irish life a big shake-up.
And yet it doesn’t seem to be a pessimistic album.
No, not in terms of its sound. I think it’s brighter and more optimistic than the previous one. But it is a nostalgic record, because, as I told you, I’m a very nostalgic person, but one who looks forward and strives to find answers.
And do you find them?
No, but at least I’m looking for them. I’m not just sitting feeling sorry for myself in a bar!