With the recent release of her album Muna, Academy Award winning songstress Markéta Irglová will play Toronto’s The Mod Club on October 9th as part of her North American Tour. Ahead of the show, we had the opportunity of giving Markéta a call to discuss falling in love in Iceland, the inspiration of bluebirds, churches organs, and how her love of harmonies began. Indulge in her beautiful stories and journey below:
AMBY: Hey Markéta, welcome to AMBY and thanks for speaking with me today.
Markéta Irglová: Thank you for having me.
AMBY: You released your new album Muna last month, congratulations! The album was recorded in several sessions with twenty seven musicians and vocalists. Tell me a little about the record and your experience recording it.
Markéta Irglová: Initially, it was only supposed to be ten days long to record. You always try to be very efficient when going into the studio and make sure you’re not wasting any time. That’s what I went in with in my head; I had ninety-five percent of the songs done and was ready to get as much done as possible to feel happy at the end of a session. Which I did, but I felt like it wasn’t really complete. I felt like the songs wanted more. After a ten day session, I decided to stay in Iceland and spend a little more time there. I ended up falling in love with the engineer and producer on the record [laughs] and moved to Iceland to be with him. The two of us decided to keep working on the record together since we were there. We kept playing new songs until we felt the songs were complete. It took us maybe a year with breaks in-between sessions to take time off and it ended up going from a ten day session to a year, which I think the recorded really benefited from.
AMBY: It’s lovely, because there’s a lot of beauty shown in this new album from the vocals to the significance of the title. Muna means “to remember” in Icelandic. When you look back at the one-year creation of the album, which moments were your personal favourite?
Markéta Irglová: The first session was definitely one of my favourite moments. I had a trip to Iceland and it was all very magical because I was so excited to finally capture these songs in a studio. There were so many great people in the studi and now my husband is one of them. I felt very at home and I really loved the space; everything was in its right place and the timing was right and the people were right. There was a session for one of the songs and I recorded it on an organ and I was fine with how it came out, but it felt kind of cheap and I was never really happy with the organ sound. In the end, I asked someone at a local church if it would be a possibility to go in there and record it. They let us. So one evening we went in there and set up microphones and we had the church closed to ourselves with the organ player and we recorded the song again. It was absolutely a highlight because it was an incredible experience. Also, when we left the church, the sky was covered with these green Northern Lights. It was beautiful.
AMBY: Wow, it’s almost as if it’s right out of a movie.
Markéta Irglová: I was very happy with everything.
AMBY: [laughs] The record features some absolutely gorgeous harmonies, my favourites being on The Leading Bird. How did your love of harmonies begin?
Markéta Irglová: When I started music school for piano lessons, they had a policy where if you took any sort of instrument lesson you also had to attend a choir and take music theory classes. When you try to learn an instrument it really helps if you can try and sing it to yourself first. I could understand why they had that policy and totally would not have thought to start in a choir, but I did like to sing from a very early age. I started taking the choir lessons and I really loved how our voices all come together to form something that harmonized and I found that very fascinating. Growing up, there was a lot of music playing at home and at my parent’s place, so harmonies worked so well with me. Not long after that, I started experimenting with someone singing on a record; I would try to harmonize along to an album. Once I started collaborating with Glen [Hansard], we did a lot of that together and it naturally evolved for me. After collaborating with Glen, I started writing my own material and it circled back to the whole choir idea – taking a song, harmonizing with another singer, and bringing all of these different voices with different colours and different depths together to form a harmonized sound. Especially in the context of this record, I feel it was the right sound to go for.
AMBY: Do you feel harmonizes would have been such a strong part of the record if you hadn’t taken that choir class?
Markéta Irglová: Yes, I believe they would have. I always loved hearing them in church and whenever I’d go to church and some of the monks were singing I would always listen. There’s something about them that I always felt was very spiritual; it’s people who are very different and have different lives, yet they have a common goal which is to sing this one song. The whole point of choir is not to stand out – if you stand out in a choir you’re doing something wrong [laughs] – and you’re supposed to fit in. It’s very ego-free. I think that’s why it feels so spiritual for me. I feel I would have naturally gravitated towards harmonies at some point in my life sooner or later, but I’m really happy that I got this education to experience it at such an early age.
AMBY: As I mentioned before, there’s a song on the album called The Leading Bird and the album cover also has a bird on it. What’s the significance of this bluebird to you?
Markéta Irglová: I always knew that the colour of this record was blue, the colour of the first record was red, and this record follows where the other one left off. I was looking for a symbolic expression on the cover which was supposed to sum up the record as a whole. I thought it should be a bird because not only is there a song titled The Leading Bird but I was also reading a book at the time which was called The Conference of the Birds which is Persian literature. I was really impressed with this book and its stories and that influenced me a lot. Where I was living at the time, the garden was always full of birds which were always singing. When I was playing piano their songs would be all over my demos. Birds were everywhere and in the end, I took it as the right thing to put on the cover.
AMBY: Thank you for sharing all of your stories with me today, Markéta. It was such a pleasure. To wrap things up, I wanted to say: you’ve won an Academy Award and are an incredibly talented musician, so is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done in your career yet?
Markéta Irglová: At the moment I have a dream of building a studio with my partner. He’s a studio engineer and has a lot of experience in the studio and I have a lot of experience going into studios and recording. I have all of these ideas of what I’d like in a studio and what I’d like to offer. I think it would be really exciting to create something like that.
Thank you Markéta Irglová, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout