Elaine Howley first came to my attention (writes Timmy Stewart) via the heartbreakingly good The Distance Between Heart and Mouth on the always on point Irish imprint, Touch Sensitive. It’s a beautifully emotive collection of work that shifts between ethereal folk, hazy psyche and otherworldly electronics. An album I return to time and time again and know it’s got a classic yet unique sound that will have me coming back forever. I managed to catch Elaine’s live show at the Courthouse in Bangor last Summer and exactly like the album, it’s impressive how she builds layers of such rich warm audio tapestry while flying solo. What makes the album so incredible, also truly carries over to the live experience.
Please introduce yourself to the Dig With It readers, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Elaine Howley, I make music with The Altered Hours, HowlBux, Crevice and more recently under my own name. I released my first solo record with Touch Sensitive in 2022. I especially enjoy working with melody and always have an ear out for it. I love classic songwriting but would also happily listen to the hum off an electric fence for an hour.
Being part of a band or working as a solo artist, what are pros and cons of each?
When playing in a band, something bigger than any of the individuals happens, it’s a space to melt into and get lost in. Especially live it has the potential to really lift off when everyone locks in. Each person can bring their strength musically. Getting to know bandmates’ style of playing and seeing it morph over the years with different influences and techniques is something else that I really like. I love getting music recommendations and talking about making music with my bandmates. One of the challenges is the costs involved in touring with a group. I guess the benefits of working solo are that you can decide when, where or how you will make something and have a go at expressing your vision in its entirety. The challenge there is making choices without having much other input but that does force you to have some clarity.
You have been touring your live show extensively, what has been one stand out moment to date?
My last gig at the Shacklewell in London was good fun, the sound system was up loud and that got me on my feet. Another favourite was at The American Bar in Belfast that was mainly to do with the crowd being such great craic, that I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
Please give me one artist you always return to and why?
I love PJ Harvey’s music, her journey as an artist, commitment to trying new things and mediums, especially new ways of using her voice is inspiring. She has a grace and fearlessness in her work that keeps me coming back.
Finally you have five secs to tell us about something you have created recently?
I recently worked on a new track called revolve for a BBC6 session with Cathal Mac Gabhann and Dan Walsh, who added guitar, bass and flute. I buzzed off those additions, it gave the sound an expansive feel. I’m now looking forward to experimenting with adding instrumentation to my solo music.
By Timmy Stewart