20 Questions for Nuala Honan

Nuala Honan talks biscuits, live music and what’s making her excited and angry at the moment.

She’s playing as part of our party at Trinity on Thursday 9 May. You can buy tickets here.

What’s making you excited at the moment?

Music! making it and being surrounded by it. I'm seeing Weyes Blood, Rozi Plain and Stealing Sheep this month! Also the imminent new Aldous Harding album, and also swimming outdoors all summer, and also a cycling trip to Spain I'm going on.

Where’s your favourite Bristol hang-out?

My flat. I have 2 cats and the best boyfriend. But if I have to go out, Dela cafe in Easton, all the green spaces in BS5 and Henleaze Lake.

You haven’t performed for a while in Bristol. How does it feel to be to be gigging in your home town again?

It feels very, very nice thank you. I'm enjoying connecting with audiences again, i'm surprised by people coming to see me who it turns out have followed my music for years, that's lovely and strange. I feel like i'm making new sounds than people are used to hearing from me, and Bristol is such a welcoming place and audience for artists to experiment. I'm also sharing the stage with other musicians more often this time round, which is magical in a very physical and spiritual way. Bristol is full of nice people, all the promoters and venue owners are all just so generous and lovely, I feel very grateful.

What was the best live band you’ve seen recently?

Marshes (Beth Porter) really blew me away at The Wardrobe last week, I hadn't seen her for years and i'd forgotten how moving her songs are, such rich arrangements, and totally charming. Also Anna Calvi's gig at SWX, her commitment to tension was shockingly wonderful. Last summer I saw a bunch of bands that stayed with me, Waldo's Gift, Lankum, Fantastic Negrito, Nadine Shah and Vulfpeck.

Last year Mayfest audiences saw you on stage with about 100 other people in WE ARE LIGHTNING! What was the experience of being in the house band like?

Am I allowed to write an essay for this question?! Honestly, being a part of this show changed my life. The spirit that comes from the work of JOF O'Farrell and Sam Halmarack and MAYK is so utterly gorgeous and human.. it reminded me, and taught me anew about how important music is in a community, and what a strange and simple power and responsibility we have if we can share music. It brought connection and meaning to my music where I was struggling to find it, and I also made the most incredible friendships in that houseband.. The bass player Ben Winter has gone on to join me in my original band. We all learned a lot from each other. WAL! 4EVA. I never want to stop performing in that show.

You’ll be sharing some new songs with us. Tell us about what inspired them

My relationship with my brother inspires a lot of my songs. He probably challenges me most out of everyone in my life to be brave and honest and real, which can bring up a lot of pain with the goodness. Other than that I just try and write about being human and trying to communicate with other humans, love etc. I struggle with anxiety and low mood and my self esteem, so that appears a lot. There are also a couple of songs from a frustrated socialist.

Dogs or cats?

ALL THE CATS (see my instagram @nualahonan)

If you could be in any band for one night, which band and why?

Right now I would have to say Pom Poko.. shit or maybe Comet is Coming.. they both have a kind of dangerous energy that excites me.. they make a lot of noise, and it's very authentic. Or Louis Cole, because, fun!

What would your luxury item on Desert Island Discs be?

I had to do one of these at Shambala the other year and I agonised over it honestly for months.. Probably something lovely and soulful that reminded me of all the love in the world. Maybe Otis Redding.

Who’s your hero?

Leslie Knope

Your website tells us you had a ‘rural desert upbringing’. Tell us more.

Haha, I got trolled recently by someone from the area saying that it isn't a desert.. I think there is a 'line' where you can't grow anything agriculturally that's like 3 hours north of where i'm from, so.. lets say it is arid, and close to the desert. I don't think I quite appreciated the flat, quiet wonder of the place until after I moved away. I find myself seeking out open spaces now if i'm in the city too long. My hometown, Cleve, is a village of around 800 people, 6 hours drive from a major city (Adelaide), but only 20km from the coast, so I spent a lot of time at the beach. I didn't really fit in there growing up, you had to be good at sport to have any value, so I was bullied a lot for being smart and fat and weird. They are some of my favourite things about myself now!

What song makes you feel nostalgic?

Alanis Morissette - Right Through You

Favourite city?

Bristol

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Be nice to people, and cold water for blood.

What’s making you angry right now?

The mismanagement of climate change. And drivers in Easton.

What musical instrument do you wish you could play?

If we're wishing, all of them.

Early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

You’re a champion of women in music. Have things changed since you set up The World Is Listening?

It feels like an exciting time for diversity in music.. I think i see a lot more variety in who's being signed and promoted and programmed, I feel like there are a lot more stories of women's experiences available in music now.. but a lot of women in music we see are still front women or singers or the songwriters, I haven't seen much change in the rest of a band or in production. But that is all purely anecdotal evidence!

You can invite five historical figures (living or dead) to dinner. Who would you choose?

I'd probably invite some boss singers so we can have a singalong.. Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday and maybe someone to mix it up like Hannah Gadsby or Taika Waititi

Finally, and most importantly, if you were a biscuit, what biscuit would you be and why?

A Monte Carlo, for nostalgia. You probably don't know what that is if you aren't Australian, but it's buttery and sticky and sweet and you're only allowed them on special occasions.