Ahead of his gig in The Brú on Friday night, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with singer/guitarist Marty Ryan, a.k.a. Anna’s Anchor.
Limerick man Marty Ryan, a.k.a. Anna’s Anchor, stops in Cork on Friday night in a full-band show at the Brú on McCurtain Street. Adopting his nom-de-plume for both solo and ensemble recording projects, it has it roots in travel and self-discovery. “In the Summer of 2014, my old band decided to take time off. I was at a loose end, having just finished college, so I went to Montana for the Summer on a J1 visa, I spent the time there writing and by the end of the Summer, I had worked enough that I could book some studio time and I recorded a 4 track EP. I always wanted to tour more, release more music and be more productive so doing Anna’s Anchor gave me an outlet to do this as I would be the only one holding myself back.”
New album ‘Nautical Miles’ follows on from previous recording project Islands, which provides an insight to the ambition and lust for life behind the earnestness of Ryan’s music. “In terms of writing, off the back of the Islands project in the Summer of 2015, which was an eight-week project where I visited 8 islands, played a gig on each island and then wrote, released and recorded a song each week, I felt like I was only really hitting my stride by the end of it so I kept writing straight after. Luckily my close friend and amazing drummer from Clonakilty, Brian Scally (B-Positives) happened to be back in Ireland the same time. Once I had the bones of the ideas written, we spent a couple of weeks in a rehearsal space in Dublin Hill at the end of August and like that, the album was pretty much written. One drawback of writing a full band worth of material by yourself is writing each individual part on each instrument so this takes at least 4 times longer than a normal band, and I spent the next few months until the recording sessions working hard on that at home in Limerick.”
The recording of the album proved to be a criss-cross affair across the Irish Sea, in pursuit of working with one of his favourite producers. “With the recording of the album, I was really drawn to a producer’s work in Manchester called Bob Cooper. He had done some of my favourite records and he was really in tune with the scene over in the U.K that I’d be involved with. However there was one problem. Whilst I consider Anna’s Anchor a full time endeavour, I still have a full time job, which is essential to be able to do things like record an album. I wanted to keep my annual leave for touring so I booked five weekends’ worth of flights back and forth between Shannon and Manchester, luckily the flights were all at the right times and the studio was relatively close to the airport so from leaving my house to getting in the door of the studio, it was only a 3 hour journey. Logistically it was eye of the needle stuff for it all to work out. Pretty brutal not having any time off what so ever over 5 weeks, but we made it happen. Working with Bob was a dream, he’s really particular about guitar sounds, and we spent a lot of time trying to get the most interesting and appropriate tones. He knows the genre inside out too, so the ideas he came up with and tweaks were all hugely helpful.”
Lead-off single ‘Hampton’ crystallises the earnestness of Anna’s Anchor, a dichotomy of hopeful alt-rock and painfully introspective subject matter. “When I first started Anna’s Anchor, I did want it to be as honest as possible. A lot of the time even when bands state they’re being open and honest, I think there’s a lot more to give. I wanted the songs to be really thought provoking and a rollercoaster of emotions. For me personally, I actually find it really helpful to put exactly what’s in my head to tape. I’m an only child and have a tendency to keep things to myself a lot, getting it out there however personal it is, I find really helpful for my mental health, that said, Hampton is about my mother’s struggle with alcohol and how it split our family. It was a difficult and confusing time that really took its toll on me.”
Keeping an eye to the future, however, Ryan has packed the rest of his year with an extensive tour around Europe. “I’m doing a large number of dates, both full-band and solo across Ireland, the U.K and even a trip to Germany over the next few months, you can find all these dates on my website. Once the album is out, it’s a case of gigging as much as possible and winning them over one by one!”