Austin-based artist Andrea Magee is a Belfast girl at heart. Paying homage to her Northern Ireland roots on her recent single “Belfast Girl”, the song honors her heritage. Growing up in Belfast, Magee started in Irish dance at a very young age and learned and connected deeply with the power of story and song in Irish music. She started writing songs as a place to put her feelings and has drawn heavily on her Irish roots in the process. Magee started out teaching music at a secondary school in Kent, England and although it wasn’t what she felt called to do in life, it helped her grow as a young woman and prepared her for her transition into the music business. In 2013, she met Ben Jones at a show in London, who would go on to become her friend and music collaborator, forming an instant musical connection. In 2014, they made their performing debut on a self-funded tour of the US. They moved to the US in 2016 and formed the duo Beat Root Revival, touring globally with the likes of Brian Wilson, Jeff Bridges, Jonathan Jackson, and Brian Setzer. In 2020, Magee released her debut solo album Only Love, showing who she was individually as an artist. She will be releasing her sophomore solo album Belfast Girl this summer, and says that although she is proud of what she captured with her first album, she definitely feels a shift in who she is with this next album. With the new album Belfast Girl, she feels as though she has the chance to really dig deep into who she is now and what I truly needed to say at this point in my life. As a part of the vibrant Austin music scene, Magee is also a part of a group called PAACK with 4 other Austin women, as well as a traditional Irish band Ulla. She recently released a music video for “Belfast Girl”, which was filmed on the street of Belfast and captures the essence of what she came from and shares it with all the people she has connected with through her music. With plans to release her sophomore album and do more writing, creating, and touring, make sure to follow Andrea Magee via the following links to stay-to-date with all upcoming news, music, and tour announcements.
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You were born in Belfast to a musical family, performing in your family’s band from the age of 7. What can you tell me about your childhood and love for music? How did growing up in Northern Ireland shape you as a person and an artist?
I loved my childhood. To start my life so early in music was a real gift. I think it really helped me recognize the value of creativity at an early age. I was also very lucky to have been in a very musical primary school and everyone had the opportunity to learn an instrument and be a part of an orchestra around 7, with music lessons available as part of our curriculum. Music was part of my heritage and it’s something I have always known and turned to, so it shaped my artistry in a very big way.
As an artist who places great importance on telling your story through music, in what ways did the traditional Irish music and storytelling traditions you grew up with inspire your songwriting? What has it been like for you to connect with people through your music and lyrics?
I actually started in Irish dance first so traditional Irish music was present from the beginning. I think I may have been 4 when I took my first class. I really think this helped with my internal clock/metronome and plays a big part in my drumming to this day. My first instrument was the flute but very closely after that I picked up my Irish drum (the bodhran) in an Irish session and taught myself to play by listening. It is and was vital to have a steady pulse in these situations, as many times the Irish music is a setting for the dancers.
In these trad sessions in a pub in Donegal,I also got to learn the respect for story and song in Irish music. It connected deep with in my heart from a very early age and I was always so moved by the songs even before I knew what the emotions really meant. I think this was why I started song writing, a place to put my feelings and I have always drawn on my Irish roots for this. Growing up listening to Irish writers like Paul Brady & Jimmy McCarthy really set the bar for storytelling and the power in a lyric.
You started out teaching music in secondary school in Kent, England and later transitioned to the music business as a singer-songwriter. What inspired that transition for you?
I am always very grateful for my time spent in teaching. It wasn’t ever my what my heart was calling but the opportunity presented itself and it truly help me grow as a young women and really prepared me for the music business in many ways. The transition was always on the cards, as I knew this was what I wanted from a little girl, but I am glad I explored another path on the way to help me face some of the challenges this industry brings.
You and your friend/British music collaborator Ben Jones had released solo material before meeting at a show in London in 2013. What can you tell me about meeting Ben and having that instant musical connection and what can you tell me about the two of you making your performing debut in 2014 on a self funded and booked tour of the US? Was that your first time in the US? What do you feel you learned from that tour?
Meeting Ben in Kent and our first trip to USA in 2014 is something I will never forget. We started out this journey to change our lives together and find a way to make music our career. We really started from nothing other than each other. That is a lot and it had some challenges for sure but it showed us the value of loyalty and friendship and made our bond even stronger. This first trip really showed me how this was the correct path for me and how with determination, hard work, and tenacity you can find your way. And we did!
You both made the move to the US in 2016 and formed the duo Beat Root Revival, going onto release 6 albums and tour with such artists as Brian Wilson, Brian Setzer, and Jeff Bridges! What do you feel you learned about yourself and how did you grow as an artist during those years?
I learned a lot. It has been a magical roller-coaster with many ups and downs and I have memories that will last a life time. One thing I really feel it showed me is how I am on the correct path, and getting to be a part of these incredible tours opened a doorway to the life my heart desires.
What kinds of music opportunities do you feel you’ve received in the US that you perhaps may not have received in Ireland/England?
Quite a lot actually, but I feel that is because we threw everything we had into the new life in the USA. We had no security blanket to fall onto if we failed, so we had to make it happen. Therefore, I feel the hard work was recognized in a different way. I would still like to get a little more traction in England and Ireland and that is something I would like to work on for this next release. Especially with all the songs being about my family in NI.
In 2020, you released your first solo album entitled ‘Only Love’. What led you to branch out on your own, and having released solo material in the past, how would you describe your solo music then vs now?
My first solo project was a live album feel and it all happened quickly, as I felt I needed a little calling card for who I was individually as well as being a part of Beat Root Revival. I am proud of the snap shot I captured in that time, but I definitely feel a shift in who I am with this next album. With the new album Belfast Girl, I got the chance to really dig deep into who I am and what I truly needed to say at this point in my life.
You live in Austin and are also a part of a group called PAACK with 4 other Austin women, as well as a traditional Irish band Ulla. What has it been like to be a part of such a vibrant and supportive music scene and can you tell me about your other bands and how they came to be formed?
I love it. I have always been a part of a team and for me its truly how I connect with music. To share music with others is such a gift. With these projects I get to sit in song with my friends and support each other doing what we love. This is how I started in music as a little girl in Ireland, in sessions with my dad, and I am so grateful to have this here in Austin. I had the ideas for both these projects and knew I had the right people around me to make it happen. This town is full of such incredible musicians and in both of these groups, we bond over sharing music with each other.
You recently released your latest single “Belfast Girl” from your upcoming sophomore solo album of the same name. What can you tell me about this song, which you have called an honest, atmospheric love letter to home, and the inspiration behind it?
It’s the truth. I was really missing home during the pandemic and I needed a place to put my feelings. I sat with everything that brought me to this point in my life and it just poured out into a song. It was one of those 15 minute songs that came very quick and naturally. Again, it is my truth. Reflecting on growing up in Northern Ireland and honoring the roots and heritage I come from.
You also released a music video for the song, which you filmed on the streets of Belfast. What inspired the idea behind the video and how did you came to meet and work with artist Des Foley on the filming of the video? What can you tell me about the video release party you had at Dreamland in Dripping Springs, TX?
I was finally getting to go home for Christmas after 2 years of not being able to travel and I knew it was going to be special and something that a lot of other people had felt during the last few years. I met Des in Austin and we had worked on some creative projects, and I knew his style would be perfect to capture this heart-felt footage that would marry up really well with the song. I wanted to capture the essence of what I came from and share it with all the people I have connected with through my music.
You will be releasing your sophomore album this summer, which demonstrates your growing confidence and insight while honoring your heritage. What was the process and experience like for you in writing and recording the album? In what ways do you feel this album builds on the foundation you built with “Only Love”?
I have been given the gift of time for this album and it has been beautiful. With this body of work, I wanted to connect my story with my dreamscape/imagination when I write and have really tapped into this in the studio. Working along side my partner in crime and in life Dave Scher and having the incredible Stuart Sullivan engineering the ship we have really created something magical and I can’t wait to share!
What’s next for you?
More writing, more creating and more touring! I love that music is my life and I am always prepared to put in the work to keep it that way.