CMAT: “The Irish have always been brilliant – but there is a lot of trauma”

CMAT has spoken to NME about the impressive cultural footprint of her native Ireland, as well as plans for her next album – which could arrive sooner than you think.

Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson was speaking to us on the red carpet of the Ivor Novellos in London this week (Thursday May 23), where she was nominated for Best Album for the acclaimed ‘Crazymad, For Me‘ – but was already convinced that she wouldn’t win due to the competition she faced. The award was later picked up by Yussef Dayes.

Lankum are nominated for the award, who’ve already beat me for Irish album of the year – also RAYE, who won 75million awards at the BRITs and I just sat through that, twiddling my thumbs, not winning anything,” Thompson told NME. “So, my hopes are low, but also high because I’m here! Even to get nominated is a full dream come true.”

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Daragh Lynch of Lankum spoke to NME earlier this year about the current dominance of Ireland in culture – with some of the most in-demand names for the big screen including Cillian Murphy, Paul Mescal, Saoirse Ronan, Barry Keoghan, as well as the likes of Fontaines D.C., KNEECAP, The Mary Wallopers, Sprints, and NewDad releasing some of the most acclaimed music of recent years. Lynch put it down to confidence overcoming trauma, and Thompson agreed.

“I would say Irish culture is killing it at the moment because we are all a bit traumatised, we have a lot of generational weirdness going on, we have some post-colonial problems, we have a huge housing crisis, the government is a sack of spuds,” she told NME.

“Also we’re just really funny people who are very creative. It’s really bred into our culture that being creative, being funny, and and making the best of a bad situation is the key to survival. We’ve needed to have a lot of survival instincts over the last 800 years, so I think that’s probably why. It’s come into fruition now, but we’ve always been brilliant. Ireland has always been ‘having a moment’, considering the size of the country. There are only like 5million of us, and one of those 5million [Cillian Murphy] just won the Best Actor Oscar this year. That’s crazy to me.”

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“We’ve always been brilliant – but there is a lot of trauma.”

Quizzed on the best thing about being Irish, Thompson hailed the country as being “just class”, adding: “It’s home, it’s brilliant.”

“It’s hard to explain the je ne sais quoi of the land of Ireland, and Dublin, and County Meath,” she said. “Y’know, it’s like walking into a sitcom sometimes. Everyone is usually one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, and everything happening is one of the funniest things you’ll ever see.”

For evidence of the Irish sense of humour, Thompson pointed to the maligned Portal public video screens hooked up to New York and Dublin – which were temporarily shut down due to ‘inappropriate behaviour‘.

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“Have you seen The Portal? Case closed!” she said. “I haven’t been home since the portal opened, but I desperately want them to keep it open by the time I get back. I have a plan for the portal. I’m going to bring props to the portal, I’m going to bring puppets to the portal, I want to hit up that portal so badly – you have no idea.”

CMAT (Credits: Arianna Mangubat)
CMAT (Credits: Arianna Mangubat)

During her brief conversation with NME, CMAT also revealed that work was already underway on her third album.

“I’d like to say that I’m working on it slowly, but knowing me it’ll probably be out in about two weeks times because I love to release an album a year – much to the chagrin of my manager and my label and my friends and my family,” she said. “I am working on new music, it’s in the pot.”

Asked about the direction of her new material, she replied: “Country! I think I’ve started doubling down on a couple of things that are very specific to me. Now I’m two albums in, instead of trying to make the best and most amazing music in the world, I’m trying to just actually really closely define what it is that only I specifically can do.

“I’m excited about it! I’m excited to make what’s probably the weirdest music of my life so far! I hope the label likes it!”

And of course, we couldn’t let CMAT go without asking her opinion on The Ivors’ big honouree, Bruce Springsteen.

“I might piss myself if I meet Bruce Springsteen. Is he nearby?” she asked.

After revealing that her favourite song by The Boss was his classic ‘The River’, she added: “I love anyone who writes like him, who writes so specifically about their hometown and where they’re from. He’s quite country in his essence, but rock’n’roll. And a sexy motherfucker, god bless him.”

Check out the full list of winners from the Ivor Novellos 2024 here. Other highlights of the night included Bruce Springsteen winning the Ivor Fellowship Award (with a roasting from Sir Paul McCartney) and Lana Del Rey picking up the Special International Award.

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