Rhyme and Roiisín

SHE'S put her vocals to a healthy batch of hits and sung them from Brum to Budapest. But Irish songstress R"isín Murphy reckons she's only just started feeling like a professional.

Tuesday, 2nd October 2007, 4:23 pm
Updated Friday, 5th October 2007, 9:55 am

It's probably just as well as the former voice of Moloko is about to release her second solo album, a record likely to make her the major star she's always threatened to be.

"Yes, I have become a professional but it took me four albums to think that way," she confides on the eve of new single Let Me Know.

"Really Statues (the final Moloko album) did that for me. I had broken up with Mark (Brydon, boyfriend and musical partner), this was the last tour and at that point I could have had it all taken away from me."

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But Moloko went out on a high, playing across the world, in major venues and ending a 10-year story that went from leftfield weird to wonderfully commercial. Armed with the likes of The Time Is Now, Familiar Feeling and Sing It Back they were becoming big-time.

R"isn says it was only when she thought it was all going to vanish that she chucked herself at the music business. "I could not visualise myself as a solo artist at that time. I had only worked with my boyfriend in a bubble in Sheffield and was blissfully unaware of what was out there.

"But around the time of Statues I realised it was what I was meant to do. Mark had been a studio boffin who wasn't really bothered about touring and I ended up making music, but not as some child star who'd been to singing classes – I never even wanted to be a performer, I wanted to go to art college.

"Forward wind and with Statues we made a heartbreaking, delicate record but by the end of the year we were playing to 7,000 people. It was a massive thing for me to see that happen. I realised if I put everything into this I will get rewarded. I embraced it, the changing frocks, walking into a certain light to sing. At that point I at last had the attitude."

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So what was a happy accident born of R"isn approaching Sheffield musician/producer Mark at a party with the chat-up line "Do you like my tight sweater?" - later to be the title of the Nether Edge duo's debut album - became a DIY pop triumph.

And, with chart success, R"isn evolved into a cool and charismatic female singer.

Her debut solo album Ruby Blue was her growing into going it alone. Its follow-up, Overpowered - a collection of dark funk, edgy pop, quirky lyrics and nuclear disco - is the work of glorious realisation blended with renewed confidence and spirited direction. Yet while its construction took her from London to LA and the likes of Seiji, Andy Cato (Groove Armada) and Richard X, much of its genesis happened in Sheffield with former All Seeing I boys Parrot and Dean Honer.

"First of all I wanted to make a disco record and I don't know anybody who knows more about disco than Parrot. He's virtually an encyclopaedia and I trust him.

"I could have been way out of my depth on this record so I had to know I had some kind of anchors. I was able to talk to Parrot about not just the songs I wrote with him but also ones done with other people. He and Dean did additional production to bring me into line.

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“One song, Movie Star, I had big problems with. We did a version in the US but came back and did one with Paul Epworth (Maximo Park producer) which sounded even cheesier. Parrot and Dean did additional production and put that linear metallic Sheffield into it and it suits the song - otherwise it could have been misunderstood.

“With Moloko it was two people making a record and ‘Let’s see what comes out’. This time I had really specific references, I had a clear idea of the record I wanted to make, but I was open to new ways of working and could take it in different directions. Every song was such a learning curve with a different gang of people. The hardest part was when to stop because that was my responsibility.”

In many ways Overpowered is natural progression. While Ruby Blue breathed both aspects of Moloko, this record grabs the sparkle of Statues and takes it on a glitzy night out.

“It’s a natural disco record because I connect with that more than any other genre. When you listen to dance music a lot doesn’t have vocals and there’s reason for that. But I have been to some incredible clubs, heard great DJs and learned so much from that culture. I do see the other side, when it’s is brutally functional music about drugs and chemicals, but any dance music with soul becomes disco; when there’s an emotional complexity, it becomes disco.”

Those who thought they knew Risn before will either be re-assured or pleasingly surprised come Let Me Know’s release on Monday and the album a week later. One thing they won’t be able to do is escape because it’s going to be huge.

“I owe much to Sheffield,” she concludes. “Musically it is like nowhere else in England and the rest of the world. There’s so much dignity in Sheffield disco.”