Musical Rooms

May 15, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 74: Woodpigeon

Filed under: Interviews,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 2:05 pm
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“To be honest, I don’t really have a favourite space where music seems to come out consistently, although I’m rather fond of strumming and singing out new ideas in my bedroom in Canada, as well as the back yard under a large weeping willow tree planted by my grandparents almost 100 years ago. I tend to write a lot of music away from home, as we get to visit so many inspirational places – just a couple of days ago we played in Norwich, and took a visit to the Luminarium complex, built of plastic and lit up inside entirely by natural light. I’m sure something will come out of that experience.

If often work in my bedroom, it’s the smallest room in the house. Just enough space for a small bed, some poster art on the wall, a couple of guitars and a small air organ. The window looks out partially out onto the playground across the street. It’s within a house that my grandparents actually built, and that I now personally rent. I can’t imagine not always having that house in my possession – even if I’m only there for a short part of the year.

My first ever guitar, which I bought from a local drag artist wanting to fund their coke habit (indeed) sits in the corner gathering dust, but I do pull it out from time to time. Otherwise, the air organ gets a bit of use. I’ve got a nice old 110-year-old piano in the kitchen as well, but that involves getting up off the bed and moving through the hallway. The most important things for me to have here are light, peace and guitars. There’s loads of notebooks in there too. Some are just full of possible song titles. I thought of a really good one the other day, but without my notebook I’ve since lost it. Note to self: always travel with paper and pen at hand.

I typically need to mess about with ideas for about an hour or so a day or else I feel as though the day’s not complete. There’s no real schedule in place for that, though – I’d say it’s a pretty much constantly used space for inspiration and creation. When the summer sun hits, I spend an equal amount of time outside in the back yard. I’m lucky that my neighbours are actual fans of my music. Sometimes I catch them listening in… and they’ve even called out requests in the past.

When I’m working, peace and quiet for the most part is pretty essential, but then I’ve also written some of my favourite songs in busy spaces. The entire Houndtooth Europa record was written in the individual places the songs themselves are named after, for one instance. I sat with a ukulele on buses in Scotland, airports in France, and busy squares in Germany just writing away. So, re-reading this answer, I suppose the more accurate response would have been both “yes, entirely,” and “no, give me a crowd.”

The creative process is such a daily thing for me that I can’t really plot out how it works. The songs often just seem to write themselves, and I’m just trying to catch up. I bring a small dictaphone with me when I’m out to catch the other stray, hummable ideas that come up. Sometimes I’ll have a melody stay with me for three years without words, and I’ll have to force myself to sit down and figure it out. I’m dealing with that on a couple of things now…

Seeing as I don’t really have a standard space, I can only really describe my ideal creative space – a beautiful view above all else is my primary need. We just spent three nights working at the Bracknell Arts Centre in the UK, and out back there’s an incredible park with a stream and small bridges. A couple of things came out from just being there right away.”

Musical Rooms was talking to Mark Hannigan of Woodpigeon

Woodpigeon are an indie folk rock band from Calgary in Canada, consisting of eight members: Mark Hamilton (vocals, guitar), Kenna Burima (piano, vocals), Michael Gratton (bass), Annalea Sordi (accordion, flute, vocals), Daren Powell (drums), Peter Moersch (electric guitar, vocals), Foon Yap (violin), AJ Benoit (vocals). To date, they have released two studio albums, several EPs and have garnered comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear and Camera Obscura. They play the Roisin Dubh, Galway on May 18th, Auntie Annie’s, Belfast, on May 19th, The Academy 2, Dublin on May 20th and Cyprus Avenue, Cork on May 21st. For more details, visit

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