CMAT on new album If My Wife New I'd Be Dead: "We dress up our worst moments in comedy and horror"
Everyone knows that one of the greatest tricks you can pull in pop music is writing a song that's actually about something quite sad and depressing, but covering it in a happy shell.
It's worked for ABBA (Super Trouper, basically all of The Visitors) and Robyn (Dancing On My Own) and even Olivia Rodrigo (good 4 u) and it is also currently working for Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, better known as the Irish indie-pop act CMAT.
After a few years of droplet singles that have been as humourous as they have been heartbreaking (as she says quite literally in I Really Don't Care About You - "oh, the Marian Keyes of it all!"), CMAT finally dropped her debut album If My Wife New I'd Be Dead last Friday (March 4).
It's a record of self-examination that explores both plunging depths of the human experience as well as firing off jokes and quips with such force and consistency, you start to think you're at a stand-up gig. But CMAT herself says, this balance of light and dark, of comedy and horror, is what makes her an artist. In a wide-ranging interview, we talk about this, as well as the miscategorisation she's faced as an artist and a possible package holiday with a few Irish pop star girlies.
We’re very excited to finally be talking to Ireland’s self-proclaimed biggest pop star on the Irish Charts. How does it feel to join the pantheon of great Irish pop stars – Samantha Mumba, Nadine Coyle and Una from The Saturdays?
Listen, to even be mentioned in the same breath as any of those icons is reward enough itself for all of the hard work I have been doing. I am genuinely a huge fan of them all, particularly Samantha [sorry Nadine and Una, we still love you].
My only ambition is for us to all go away on a package holiday together at some point. I was thinking Salou.
In all seriousness, there is a dichotomy at the heart of CMAT. A lot of people were brought in by the humour of your songs, but one thing the album does so well is unravel this to find the heartbreak and sadness underneath it all. Does this feel an accurate representation to you?
That's what it's all been about for me as a songwriter- trying to present the bigger issues as smaller and the smaller issues as big as possible. I also think that as people we have a tendency to dress up our worst moments in comedy and humour, and i wanted to pay tribute to that.
The album opens with Nashville, you’ve said it sums up the whole record. It’s a beautiful song – about being the life and soul of the party, but then really struggling internally at the same time, does this feel strange listening back to this song that’s so self-aware – and what made you put it first on the album?
I actually didn't want to put it as the first song on the album! I wanted to try and work up to it as I think at the time I still wasn't fully comfortable with the song even existing, but then a very good friend of mine basically said 'this is the album opener, shut up'.
I'm very proud of it now and it does sum up the entire point of the album very well, but as you said it can be difficult for me to sing and listen back to.
I Really Don’t Care For You seemed to be the moment where people really started to sit up and take notice of you. Of course, you reference Marian Keyes in this song. These two events have to be connected somehow.
I think that Marian's work has often been miscategorised and looked down upon for being 'fluffy' and 'chick-lit', despite the contemporaneous depth and obvious writing craft. In this way, I kind of see a relationship between her work and mine, which was often disregarded for being 'novelty music' when I was starting out.
I think it's no coincidence that her work is now being reevaluated, and that she's having a bit of a renaissance now that we are in a place where culturally people are being forced to take women's issues seriously. Also, she is a gas b*tch. I love her.
I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby! was born out of this horrible time you had in Manchester, and the thing that set the tempo for the things to come. It’s funny how when things start to go really bad, writers and creatives tend to manage to write themselves out of those situations and into the places they want to be.
It's a bit true, but to be honest I think that isolation has quite a great deal to do with me finding my own voice and really figuring out what it was I wanted to sing about.
I don't necessarily think everyone has to go through the depths of depression in order to write, but I do think everybody that wants to write needs to spend a lot of time alone to figure out who they are. As Willie Nelson said - 'You can't make a record if you ain't got nothing to say!'
Finally, what do you expect people to take away from the album after listening to it from top to bottom?
I hope the main takeaway is 'wow, this is the greatest record I have ever heard in my life'. However, it would also mean a lot to me if even one person listening thought 'oh, I know this feeling and that makes me feel better about it.'
Article Image: Sarah Doyle
If My Wife New I'd Be Dead is out now via AWAL.