Back to Lyrics

I was walking home the other night, and it was later than I really should have been walking alone, and I didn’t have earphones, so I listened to some music out loud, relatively quietly on my phone. I felt like some of the songs really struck me, applied to my life and I was singing along quite passionately. And like I was in a music video. As one does.

My love for good lyrics featured strongly in my idea for this blog, and appeared a lot more in the beginning.

I have thought about giving up this blog recently, partly because ‘social’ media can be such a pain when you have other things pressing, and no one should feel like they have to explain hard, hard things to the internet. (When they’re still trying to figure it out themselves) I find this fascinating but also awful when it comes to the lives of youtube stars, and how they get hounded to share really personal stuff before they’re ready, because the subscribers have questions about what they have shared thus far. I think there’s a thesis to be written somewhere.

But I do love it, and I want to try harder as always! I have recently been thinking about how it’s ok to not have a ‘niche’ to blog in. And in fact the blogs I most love to read are snippets of someone interesting’s life, their views, their experiences.

Here are some lyrics that are comforting and encouraging me at the moment. Feel free to share any that you’re loving too.

  1. Open Arms – Elbow

The first line of this is the tag line of my blog, at the moment. I think the lyrics that most make sense to me at the moment is the chorus, “We got open arms for broken hearts, like yours my boy, come home again.” It’s like a celebration for someone’s return, and the comfort and backwardness of coming home. You’re always you when you’re home, and people know you. “The table’s are for pounding here, and when we’ve got you surrounded, the man you are will know the boy you were.” Ha, I’m crying thinking about it. It’s a whole community coming together to cheer someone up. It’s funny and comforting and deep. I said it before, Guy Garvey is a genius. “And you’re not the man who fell to earth, you’re the man of La Mansha, and we’ve love enough to light the street, cause everybody’s here…”

knots lisa
Lisa in the Knots video

2. Knots – Lisa Hannigan

A great beat, a good shouty chorus. “In my high heels, and my old dress, with my new keys in the wrong city.” This could apply to so many situations. And she ties knots to remember in her heart. Knots are usually not a good thing either, if your stomach is in knots or even if your heart is tied up in knots. It’s stifling. It’s such a good image. Lisa has a real way with words and it has been myself and Caoimhe’s pleasure to see her live a handful of times.

3. Slow Show -The National

This is my very good friend Lynn’s wedding dance first song. I have recently downloaded it because I kept singing it to myself and thinking about it. It definitely makes me cry sometimes. I can’t admit to understanding the whole of this song. But I think the singer is uncomfortable in the social situation, and he sings, “I want to hurry home to you, put on a slow dumb show for you, and crack you up.” But the most special part of this song comes right at the end, and is the reason my good friend chose it. “You know I dreamed about you, for 29 years before I saw you. You know I dreamed about you, I missed you for 29 years.” My Mum always tells me how she prays for my future husband everyday, and this just make me think of that. And how it is so beautiful!

4. Remember Me (lullaby) – Coco Soundtrack

coc disney
Miguel and his beloved great-grandmother Coco, who doesn’t really speak or understand anymore but whom they all treat with such respect and love.

I took my two youngest sibling to see this new Disney Pixar film a few months ago, and we were all in tears! I think everyone could relate to it. It’s basically about death, but portrayed in such a gentle way. The protagonist Miguel somehow gets stuck in the land of the dead during Dia de Muertos. This is a song Coco, Miguel’s great grandmother’s Papa sang to her when she was a tiny girl and he was going touring with his music, “Remember me though I have to travel far, remember me each time you hear a sad guitar, know that I am with you the only way that I can be, until you’re in my arms again, remember me…”

5. Wedding Song – Anais Mitchell

I saw Anais support Josh Ritter in Belfast in December. I thought she was wonderful and talented. This is a song from her musical Hadestown, which I would love to see! It is the courtship of Eurydice by Orpheus. She is coyly asking him, a poor musician living in a deep economic depression, how he will afford to marry her, “times being what they are?”

“Lover when I sing my song, all the rivers sing along, they’re going to break their banks for me and lay their gold around my feet, all a-flashing in the pan, all to fashion for your hand, the river’s going to give us the wedding band.” I think it’s really about faith and trust that things work out, and everything is provided in good time.



Happy Birthday Josh Ritter! 40 Lyrics

So, the most joyful of 40th Birthdays to Josh Ritter, the best singer/songwriter, lyrical genius, happiest smiling performer, political commentator, novelist, sound tracker of my life! Anyone who knows me knows of Josh, because I am such a fan of all his work, and have been for many years. Age 16 I was swept away by the lyrics on a random CD my first ever boyfriend gave me, it was a copy of 2002’s Hello Starling, and from the first song, Bright Smile, I was captivated. The music has gone in many wonderful directions since then, but I have to say that one little pretty song has always held a special place in my heart.

There’s been 5 albums since, I have had 11 or so years of listening to this wonderful wordsmith. I have never found any lyrics or music that spoke to, comforted me in difficult times and buoyed up my successes like the works of, or should I say the Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. I think I have saw him in concert here in Ireland 10 times, and met him on a handful of happy occasions. My favourite time was the porch of the Empire Music Hall in 2009, during my first month or so of University. We bonded over Muriel Spark if I remember rightly.

My bestie Aisling and me bumped heads trying to hug Josh after one of my first times seeing him in Letterkenny, probably in 2007. My Mammy still feels a little ill when she listens to Kathleen because she was pregnant with Ellen when she listened to the album a lot and it calls up the morning sickness. Josh was there when relationships came and went and the words surrounded me on my best and worst days. Every workplace I was in or class I took I always converted a few to the Book of Ritter! To the point of being teased.

I have made so many memories, and met some good friends. This music has really enriched my days and I’m not doing it justice here.

As part of the celebrations, to let the birthday boy know how much all his songs are loved and appreciated, I bullied  requested that my friends and family help me out on a little lyrical project. Aisling gave me the idea of my 40 favourite lyrics, and I loved that idea, so these are at least 40 significant lyrics (I probably could go on forever.) And then to make it interesting, I assigned different people in my life some lyrics to hand write, and decorate as they saw fit. There are some works of art here. I think I might finally get an idea for a tattoo…

These lyrics all mean something to me, so take a wee minute to be inspired. 

In no particular order, I give you 40 lyrics from the man of the moment, Idaho legend Josh Ritter! Happy Birthday, Josh. Thank you for writing such rich and magical poetry to music. These songs have genuinely made a big difference in my life.

I think I will let the lyrics mostly speak for themselves. It’s only little snippets, but I strongly advise you chase the song up and give it a listen. Enjoy!



Beginning how it began, Bright Smile.

@thebadactress is now my username for most things… including Twitter. Where Josh follows me! Huzzah.
























I find more and more depth to this song every time. Considering ending the world just to stay in an underground bunker with your love…











A magical story of a ‘cursed’ Egyptian Mummy falling in love with an archaeologist.






















Beginning of relationship questions and wishes!























Like, what a compliment… and Ellen did a great job of the mini Aurora Borealis.




A beautiful story song that gets me right in the feels every time. Also cleverly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. The first time I heard it I assumed it was an old cover of a classic song.










A definite ‘up there’ for my favourite song.








This song was a bit of a commentary on the Bush administration 10 years ago… but so apt today.











If you’re familiar with the next line, Jacob (7) drew a blackbird, a starling and winter being over by spring flowers. Awww.




Joy to you, Josh, wherever you are on your 40th Birthday. You have done the music world, and the world in general so much good by being here. Thank you for keeping me company through music, and offering so much inspiration through your words. Keep doing what you’re doing, and please come back to Ireland when you can.

Happy Birthday!

Fiona x

Huge THANK YOU to my artistic contributors who were put under some pressure! I am so impressed and I owe you :

A. Breslin

Dr. A. Duffy

L. Gilmour

C. Lafferty

R. Harley

Dr. M. Montague

E. Mc Callion

J. Mc Callion

P. Mc Callion

S. Rooney

M. Turner

C. Tracey

And an extra special thank you to A. Nelson who really made me want to get my friends involved cause of her calligraphy skills. Beautiful! 

Take Offs and Landings. Or Guy Garvey helped me through two break ups

In 2014, an almost 8 year relationship ended for me. I was 24. He dumped my stuff unceremoniously on the doorstep the next weekend, when he knew I was not going to be at home. I think my Mammy cried. He had a subscription to Q Magazine (which I had bought for him). The latest issue had ended up among my things and Elbow featured on the front. I really like Elbow. I read the article by Dorian Lynskey. It was gold dust.

Q is a music magazine, and Elbow (of London Olympics song One Day Like This fame) had just released a new album The Take-off and Landing of Everything. Front man wise, lyrical ‘funny bastard’ Guy Garvey had also recently had an 8 year relationship end. With a novelist, no less. (Emma Jane Unsworth)

His thoughts and attitude towards the break up were so valuable to me, I still have the magazine, and recently photocopied the article to pass on to a friend who is going through a tough split. (I sound a bit crazy, don’t I?)

At the minute I can’t stop listening to this album, the lyrics are so wise and kind and helpful. I have since recently went through another break up. Garvey says, ‘I wear my heart on my sleeve. Always have. I think it’s a form of defence mechanism to tell everybody everything.’ OMG me too, Guy.

In the song ‘Honey Sun’ he sings, ‘I cannot stay where all the broken plans were made’ and Garvey admits ‘My knee-jerk reaction was: get me the fuck out of here, run away as far as possible. But you can’t outrun things like that.’  In my experience that’s the exact male reaction to any break-up!

My favourite part of the interview is Garvey saying, ‘I don’t regret a single second of my relationship and she feels the same way and we’re friends because of that. I grew as a person in her company. She’s the most excellent of people. It’s important to acknowledge that it wasn’t a waste of time because it came to an end. It was the best use of time.’

The article by Dorian Lynskey appeared in April 2014 issue of Q Magazine and has been rifled through by me numerous times since.

I think the reason I like this article so much is that I would want someone who has been in a relationship with me to think of me/the relationship in these terms. I possibly want Guy Garvey to break up with me. The next paragraph addresses the title track of the album:

‘There’s such a relief when something’s run its course and you put it to bed. Not, “Thank God I’m not doing that any more” but “Thank God I haven’t done too much damage to someone I care about deeply.” I wanted the song to be a celebration, not just of the throes of a great relationship but of the timely end of things. The landings are as important as the take-offs.”

I LOVE that. Some actual lyrics from the title song are

A prayer to the take-off and landing of everything

Leaving your lips as we took to the sky

And a prayer to the take-off and landing of everything

I’ll say for you and I will for all time.

Nothing is ever wasted. I really believe that, and as my mammy says, at the moment you are looking at the back of the tapestry. All rough and muddled and untied threads. Someday you will see it from the other side and everything will fall into place, and you will see the beauty in it. Everything you went through, or shared with someone has meaning and purpose in your life and theirs.

So thanks Dorian Lynskey and thank you Guy Garvey! Friends, let me know if anyone else wants me to copy this article for them. Ha.


Six Strings and Stigma


The Clarendon Street Beacon Centre presents…
CD launch of the “Six Strings & Stigma” project.

14 Stories and 14 Songs – all penned by local artists. Featuring songs by:

Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas • Little Hooks feat. Tillie & Henderson • Declan Mc Laughlin • The Ard Ri Band feat. Roy Arbuckle • The Wood Burning Savages • Teknopeasant • The Murder Balladeers • Jeanette Hutton • Tracy Cullen • Tara Gi • The Gatefolds • We Are Aerials Intermission • John Deery and the Heads

‘Six Strings and Stigma,’ delivered by the Beacon Centre and supported by the Public Health Agency (PHA), captured the experiences of individuals with enduring mental health needs. They presented their stories to local songwriters such as Paddy Nash, John Deery, Declan McLaughlin, Little Hooks and Eamon Friel, who created an album of original songs that highlight the stigma associated with a diagnosis of mental illness and how people have overcome it and achieved recovery in their lives.

(I submitted this to HotPress magazine around 16th October to The Write Touch Competition. Still haven’t heard anything, so hope it’s ok to put it on my blog.)

(As one of my BFFS said, it’s been a while since the Lyric part of my blog got a look in.)

The launch of ‘Six Strings and Stigma’ took place in the City of Culture on Saturday 12 October , in the wonderful Culturlann Ui Chanain building. 14 stories. 14 songs.  Local artists were approached by The Beacon Centre and supported by the Public Health Agency (HSC) with the individual stories of people’s experiences with mental illness. What resulted is a compilation of songs that capture and challenge the stigma associated with being diagnosed with a mental illness, and the individuals’ recovery. Being honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but with Mental Health Day coinciding with the launch, and the promise of Paddy Nash, The Murder Balladeers and John Deery to name a few artists, I was intrigued. It was a chance to see a few bands I hadn’t had previously.

The venue itself was small, and as I am too, I resigned myself to only seeing a little bit of the stage. However, between each set the stage alternated to one on the opposite end of the room, so I turned around and to my surprise I was now near the front. Beginning with the wonderful Tracy Cullen, each act played around 4 songs, and in this way it was a perfect showcase of Derry’s talent. Most singers offered some human relation to their story, and there was high emotion in the room on more than one occasion. Highlights for me was the final gig for Intermission who are now going to perform under Glenn Rosborough, and Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas whose mere name is enough to bring a smile to my face. Most catchy: ‘Seized’ and ‘Rushing In.’ An excuse for a night of music and a step towards stamping out stigma.

Six Strings and Stigma is available from Cool Discs music in Derry, or on . I urge you to get it, it’s very impressive. Mental Illness is a cause that is close to my heart, also.

M got a nice t-shirt out of it. Your CD was included in ticket price, which was lovely. Thanks to Aisling and her bro Cormac for my ticket!
M got a nice t-shirt out of it. Your CD was included in ticket price, which was lovely. Thanks to Aisling and her bro Cormac for my ticket!
Photo by Jamie Mollison

Monday Music : I’ve come to test the timber of my heart…

I first saw Joe Pug in December 2010, supporting Josh Ritter at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin. M and I didn’t know him but as he set up M shouted ‘Go on Joe!’ and Joe tried to look straight at him (he couldn’t see with the lights) and he said ‘Thank YOU, man.’ He reminded us of our very good friend Regular John. We liked him.

One night recently when I was despairing of life, (nothing is wrong per se, I just despair sometimes. A lot.) M put Joe Pug on and it just filled me with a sense of drama and poignancy. He just understood me, you know? *sniffs*

I can’t stop listening to this song. Every word strikes home, and a few lines make me fill up if I’m concentrating enough. On the bus, say. It’s pure beauty. Perfect lyrics. The way to my heart!

I’ve come here to ignore your cries and heartache, I’ve come to closely listen to you sing…

I’ve come here to insist that I leave here with a kiss, I’ve come to say exactly what I mean. And I mean so many things…

I have the urge to type all the lyrics, but just you listen to it. Word of mouth is really important to Joe and for a long time he gave away his music for free. You just emailed him and asked for it. He once sent me a very nice email saying they had run out of CDs but he sent me the tracks anyway. He just asked that we share them. The video is slightly silly but his voice is brilliant, deep with a slight lisp, and the lyrics are worth it. Here’s his website :

We survived Monday, everyone. Well done.

Leaning on the Lyrics

I have been neglecting my Lemoncakers again! (Can I call you that? It sounds a bit wrong.) I’m just not feeling very creative at the moment. I can’t even make a dent in my to-be-read pile of books that I was so looking forward to reading! At the minute I’m a few pages into ‘Maya’ by Jostein Gaarder but I can’t seem to get into it or make the time for it. I’m spending a lot of time working (but the hours are not going to last) and a lot of time staring slack-jawed at the internets. Also there are some cinema trips (I really enjoyed Batman: The Dark Knight Rises) and watching Breaking Bad season 2 under a blanket in M’s new house. So it’s not all bad.

I have been seeking solace in songs. I’m a real sucker for it’s-all-going-to-be-ok lyrics when I’m feeling like it’s not ok. I think that is why I am loving Newton Faulkner’s new, no.1 if I’m not mistaken, album ‘Write it on Your Skin.’ (Isn’t the title itself lovely?)


Newton first came to my attention at the Peace One Day concert in Derry last month. My wee sister Clare loves him, but I hadn’t really listened before. I watched his videos with her on the nights before it, told Jacob Newton was her boyfriend, and despaired at the fact that he went to a local haunt Sandinos the night before the concert. We could have easily been there! I loved his set, and listened to him a lot after it. I brought a CD out to M’s car one day and he shouted what he intended to be ‘FAULK OFF!’ to me. I didn’t see the funny side straight away. Clare pre-ordered the album and I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially the title track ‘Write it on Your Skin.’ I’m a bit like that with songs I love, I will listen to them endlessly over and over until I get sick of them. I’m trying not to do that with this one! I’m sorry if you’ve read me raving about it on Twitter. I bought it for my friend for her birthday and text apt lyrics to another friend when I was on the bus. So maybe I’m not going the right way about it. It’s worth it though, I really do recommend it.

Take everything you know,

And write it on your skin,

Then you can carry on,

And forget everything….

You should have a listen. Prepare for it to get into your head and, pardon the pun, under your skin. There’s an official video and then there was a call for fan photos of lines from the lyrics written on skin (Such a good idea!) Clare and I seriously considered it but couldn’t come up with a good idea! ( Or bother shaving our legs/ putting on make-up!) You can watch the outcome here: I obviously am just an acoustic sort of girl. It’s not cool at parties to put on Josh Ritter or Newton Faulkner, but I will persevere because I want to share it so much! The whole album is a build-you-up (brick by brick?) glass-half-full affair of great guitar playing, gorgeous lyrics and a happy voice. It’s what I need right now, food for my soul.

My best laid plans are washed away,

No time to make ’em all again,

Sometimes life gets in the way,

You’ve got to keep on breathing. – Brick by Brick

Peace One Day Concert Derry 21st June 2012

My BFF and me arrive at Ebrington for Peace One Day. It doesn’t feel like Derry

On Thursday I went to the Peace One Day concert that was organised by Jeremy Gilley. My lovely best friend Aisling had a spare ticket and she very generously asked me to come. It was the day I got my degree results and it was perfect timing to celebrate! I am really glad Derry is the City of Culture 2013 and this is hopefully the start of very many exciting events that our city has been missing for a long time. It had a different atmosphere, and it was an alcohol free event, so it thankfully passed off happily and peacefully and it was a real pleasure to be part of it!  Imelda May was amazing, so much energy, everyone was dancing even if they weren’t familiar with her, and I am now a fan of Newton Faulkner! He tried somewhat in vain to get the crowd to sing along to a new song of his, before being visibly happily taken aback at everyone knowing ‘Dream Catch Me’ and singing unprompted! (How DOES everyone know that?)

I was proud of my city and delighted that they are getting this chance. Long may it last! Would be great to see some of these acts back here soon. Here’s to peace one day, and everyday!

My sister Clare (The big Newton Faulkner Fan!) and her friend Stacey
Aisling is LegenDerry!
Jude Law !
Pulling scary faces. “You have a bridge!!”
The Wonder Villains – local Derry band done good!
The Wonder Villains
Guillemots – Fyfe Dangerfield walked past the queue to get over the Peace Bridge and Aisling and me knew there was something about him. But it was too late! Aisling says: Doesn’t the shadow look like Keenan and Kel? 😀

Pretty starry backdrop. So professional and lovely for Derry!
Newton Faulkner. My sister was dying to see him. He was brilliant, and so smiley and gracious. I’m a fan!
Newton and his crowd!

Take everything you know, and write it on your skin, then you can carry on, and forget everything…
The beautiful, talented, make-you-want-to-dance Imelda May (and she’s 7 months pregnant – NO BOTHER to her!)

That guitarist is her hubby 🙂 They are cute. She said ‘I’m Imelda May and a half!’ She is so charismatic and lovely and brilliant.
One more Jude 🙂
Pixie Lott. She had a great stage set up!

Actual Fire Works. Peace One Day! Whooo.

Chips and Raincoats. Really great night. Thanks Aisling for the ticket and this photo! Photo

P.S Thanks also to Aisling for taking half of the other photos with my camera. She is taller and has better skillz.