'Nothing can really replace live interaction with people'
Larissa Tormey has been putting the Russian heart into the Irish music scene for several years now, gaining many fans along the way for her distinctive upbeat style of country-infused with gospel and jazz. The Kilbeggan-based singer recently celebrated winning a major award for 'Amazing Female/Male Voice for a Folk/Americana Cover' at the Fair Play Country Music Magazine's red carpet awards in Holland. The prestigious accolade coincided with the launch of a new 14-track album 'Breath of Fresh Air'.
In the absence of live gigs, she told Deirdre Verney about how she kept the music going and stayed creative in lockdown after lockdown.
What's your first musical memory?
I remember myself singing from about three years old. I went to music school at 6 but my parents didn’t buy me a piano in that first year. The instrument was too expensive and they wanted to make sure I would not give it up in a year. So I was practicing at home on a cardboard drawing of a piano keyboard! I will never forget the day my new, black upright piano was bought! I wrote my first song that day.
How has Covid-19 affected your musical direction?
Lockdown gave me time to think about what I enjoy the most in my music journey: songwriting and collaborations. This led to me to put out my own songs, ones that I wrote over the years. We started to record a new original contemporary album with Kevin Whims in Dublin. Eight songs are recorded already.
And I embraced doing my online show, ‘My Music And My Story,’ where I interview people from the music business. It gave me much missed communication and I made lots of friends through this. I also released one of my most successful country songs, ‘Breath Of Fresh Air’, where I collaborated with three songwriters from Ireland, British singer Dave Sheriff, and Scottish accordion player Brandon McPhee. This song was #3 in the Irish country charts and is currently #3 in the international Hot Disc chart.
What do you most miss about performing live?
Nothing can really replace live interaction with people. Adrenaline, excitement, energy exchange. I really miss it, but I love to sing in sit-down venues like theatres, so I hope that we might adapt to this type of concert more in Ireland. For me it will be a positive change.
How did you continue to stay creative and motivated?
Music is what I enjoy to do, what makes me happy, so I will never stop it. I also have this sort of personality, a high achiever. I have to move constantly and learn something new. As soon as I finish one project I normally have another one in mind. It is easy for me to stay motivated.
What have your learnt about yourself since coronavirus entered our everyday life?
I learned that my best quality is a positive personality. I received so many comments and email responses from my fans and other people this year thanking me for the positivity I am giving them through my music and everything else that I do. I am going to concentrate more on this side of me and try to share it with people as much as possible because positivity is helping us to go through life with ease.
Three things that kept you amused throughout the pandemic?
One is nature. I always loved it, but completely fell in love with our local walks, gardens and all the natural beauty that surrounds me as I live on the farm. Two is spirituality. I have always been very spiritual. I meditate regularly, which I started to do about 22 years ago. During the pandemic I also completed a reiki course and now I am a Certified Reiki Master.
And three is my computer. I am a very techy person and good with computers. I learn a lot of new things, one of these is video editing, and so I started to edit my own video shows and even made my own music video for ‘You Miss My Smile’ which you can see on my Youtube Channel@larissatormeymusic.”
Can the music scene adapt to a more restrictive life in 2021?
I think the way to do it is to start by opening theatres and sit-down venues. It can be done very safely with filling theatre capacity by half, and have people sit with social distancing in mind. This will give people some badly missed entertainment, and income for the artists and music venues.
Most memorable gig to date?
My first participation in the Hot Country TV Award in 2016, when I knew nobody. I felt surreal being the only one foreign person at this very Irish event. I met Big Tom that night and I have a very memorable picture with me sitting on his knee.
What music are you listening to and loving at present?
I have a very eclectic music taste. It doesn't matter for me what genre the music is in, as long as an artist has a talent and personality. I love George Michael, Willie Nelson, Lady Gaga, Carla Bruni, KD Lang, the list is very long!
A closed mouth catches no flies. My father in law, late Robin Tormey taught me this, I was very close to him, and he was a very wise man.
How difficult is it being away from family this year?
I left my birth-place when I was 15 and moved away, so I always saw my family only once a year, because Russia is a very big country. With both of my parents gone (my mom passed away 8 years ago, and my dad this year), and with me living in Ireland 19 years, I actually feel that my family is here now.
Best musical advice ever given?
Persevere. And concentrate not on achievements, but on the amount of enjoyment music is giving you. This should be an indication of your success.
Best thing about the Midlands?
The number one is the geographical position. I am near everything in Ireland within three hours drive. It is so convenient to have nature on my doorstep and three beautiful towns within a 15 minutes drive; Mullingar, Tullamore and Athlone. Sometimes I miss a city, but then Dublin and Galway are only a one hour drive away. But the best thing about Midlands is its beautiful, friendly, kind people, who made me feel at home from my first day in Ireland.
What are your plans, musical or otherwise for this Christmas and New Year?
I am going to continue to promote my new album, ‘Breath Of Fresh Air’, which I released in November. I am going to finish my original album, ‘Larissa Goes Jazzy’, which I started during the lockdown. And, of course, I am looking forward to return to live gigging whenever it will be possible.
What's your hopes and ambitions for 2021?
I will be happy with what I have right now. I just want my family and friends to be healthy and stay safe. I will continue to write and sing my songs, and will share my joy with people as much as I can.