17 May 2022

MacD on Music: Follow Your (Soft) Gut

MacD on Music: Follow Your (Soft) Gut

The music industry has taken quite a hit in the past couple of years. From lockdowns to Adele releasing a new album, it’s not been an easy time for music lovers.

This year, Ciaran Lavery, Jo Wright and Nikki MacRae are running the Soft Gut Song Camp, a project that is 'designed to unlock the collaborative potential of artists, songwriters and producers in Northern Ireland.'

I talked to the organisers of the camp about what they hope to achieve with it.

What inspired you to run the camp?

“The desire to foster a healthier and functioning music community has been a key factor behind the inception of the camp.

“It is incredibly common for artists and producers to work more or less exclusively within their own circles and areas, which, for quite a small population, means that they are both being exposed to a limited number of fellow creatives.

“The effects of this for producers is that they have studios which may not be as busy as they could be, and artists may be missing out on potential and exciting collaborative opportunities.

“We aim to use this platform to encourage a more connected music community to rise up.

“There has been a dog eat dog narrative that has been allowed to exist within the music scene here for so long due to the drought of opportunities and we believe that through the connective potential of our camp that we can begin to promote an environment in which creatives feel that they can support each other in a fair and healthy way that benefits all.”

What do you hope to achieve from it?

“We want to empower both artists and producers to expand upon their own music network alongside developing new and long lasting relationships with their peers.

"The ideal scenario for us would be to hear that our attendees had been working together outside of the camp itself - sharing creative spaces, live stages, contacts or providing each other with support beyond a working relationship.”

Do you have any long-term goals with it?

“Ultimately, we hope to have a long-lasting and positive effect on the music industry here in Northern Ireland.

“We believe this camp could have a lasting impact on not only the careers of the artists and producers in attendance, but also on the industry as a whole. We want artists and producers to feel more connected, to have a wider outreach, and to support each other’s careers through this healthy competition.”

How have you found the past few years with lockdowns etc?

“We are all aware of how truly obliterated the music industry has been by the past two years of stagnation.

“However, the past two years have also given us the time to plan and implement a trial version of the song camp, which was bloody thrilling! This feels like the right time to introduce this opportunity into the music community in NI.”

“The Soft Gut Song Camp is an initiative that we believe can offer hope to music creators, producers and the communities around them, as well as to provide a space where they can all comfortably do what they do best amongst their contemporaries - kick starting their creative endeavours again.

“We feel confident that by providing this camp at the stunning Analogue Catalogue Studios in Rathfriland, a truly beautiful setting where accommodation and subsistence will be provided, it can only add to the experience.”

Do you think the music industry can ever get back to what it was pre-Covid?

“The music industry is perpetually evolving. What we are faced with now is nothing like how it was even five years ago.

“The music industry pre-COVID was not even close to being perfect, let alone remotely ideal for music creators from particular backgrounds or demographics. We need to do everything that we can to use this opportunity of rebuilding the music industry to reflect upon what we can be doing better.

“Prior to the pandemic, geographical barriers stood in the way of development for music creators advancing their careers within rural or certain regional settings. To be able to achieve certain goals, you had to travel.

“One silver lining in the midst of the turmoil of what we have faced has been the necessity to better consider digital means for sharing information and providing platforms for artists.

"It seems to have suddenly dawned on us all that we can become more accessible by allowing remote access. We are even more encouraged to play our part in supporting the NI music industry as much as we possibly can through all that we undertake within the Soft Gut Song Camp initiative.

“At the end of the day, we want the artists and producers who lost their confidence throughout this difficult time to be able to find it again, and we very much hope that the provision of this camp can go some way in improving this situation for them.”

Applications for Soft Gut are now open. The deadline is 24th March. The fee to attend is £225, and applications are open to Northern Irish musicians aged 18 and above.

Accommodation and subsistence for all camp attendees, with beds and meals, will be provided. For more information, see

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