MUSIC: The Henry Girls “we are drawn to music that has roots in folk or jazz”

by Alison O'Hanlon
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The Henry Girls

Donegal band The Henry Girls, made up of Karen, Lorna and Joleen McLaughlin, have seen a slow burning rise that feels, even after all these years, like it’s coming to a head. A recent series of long Irish tours in support of their new album ‘A Time To Grow’ have centred clear nods to traditional Irish songwriting alongside a jazzy spark all of their own, and their rise feels organic and engaging. 

“We’re three sisters from Malin village in the Inishowen Peninsula, right up at the top of Ireland. We’ve been playing and recording music together professionally for over 20 years,” they say. “We draw from all kinds of music but I feel we are drawn to older, acoustic, music that has roots in folk or jazz.” 

“The new single, ‘Don’t Fear The Night’, is written by Joleen and you can clearly hear her love of old style jazz in this piece. We are also all big fans of three part harmony singing from that era that was made famous by the likes of the Andrews Sisters and our favourites The Boswell Sisters, from New Orleans. We even had a live album of us performing their music in 2020.”

“We’ve been working away on and off over the last twenty years but we’ve been more professional and committed over the last 10 to 12 years,” they explain. “And then our momentum was interrupted a little bit during lockdown but I think we’ve started to pick it up again now. Having the new album to promote has given us a real boost and we’re loving singing the new songs live.”

“We definitely all bring our own ideas and influences to the sound. We love to see what each other will bring along and how we can add to it. It’s very much a collaborative effort.”

“We will play anywhere! We’re from one of the smallest villages in Ireland so everywhere is a big town to us. I think there’s more pros than cons to that. You’re always connected nowadays anyway with social media and the internet so I don’t think there’s any real advantage to being in the bigger cities. It’s much more affordable to live further away too but it’s still possible to stay connected to it. Sometimes you can feel a bit far away, especially with all the driving. You get used to it though.”

“We tend to keep our live shows pretty simple, just the three of us and our instruments. It’s all very intimate, a bit like a session! We like to get the audience to sing along so that we can feel connected.”

“We’re totally delighted by the progress of the new album so far. We didn’t know how people would like it because we worked with a new producer and we have a few new sounds added in on some songs as well as stripping back on others. Also we feel these songs are a lot more personal than before so that can be a bit nerve-racking when they go out into the world but we’ve had very positive responses.”

“Most of the time harmonies just come to us pretty naturally, that’s because we’ve been singing together for so long, but we do sit down and work things out and tighten it up, especially before a recording session. Sometimes harmonies can come to us while we are in the middle of recording, it’s a great way to try things out.”

The Henry Girls latest single ‘Don’t Fear The Night’ is out now, along with their new album ‘A Time To Grow’.

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