19 May 2022

MacD on Music: Mirenda Rosenberg . . . more of that jazz

MacD on Music: More of that jazz

Mirenda Rosenberg who returned to this year's Derry Jazz Festival.

So, the Jazz Festival is over for another year, but thanks to the magic of this column we can continue to experience the magic for a while longer!

Obviously, being Ireland’s biggest Jazz Festival (according to Hot Press anyway), we get some great acts from around the world (If you want some examples you can dig out last week’s column. Go ahead, I’ll wait.). We also have plenty of artists who return year after year.

This week I’m talking to one such artist, Mirenda Rosenberg, the Virginia-born singer recognisable to anyone who’s been to the Festival in the past 15 years or so.

A true powerhouse, Mirenda puts on a show that isn’t soon forgotten for anyone who’s had the pleasure of hearing her live.

During our chat, we talked about her excitement to be back playing live after what’s been a very frustrating few years for, well, pretty much everybody, but especially for musicians, whose livelihoods were pretty much obliterated.

She also told me about her new album and how she returned to music after years away.

Mirenda has been singing pretty much her entire life. She recalls singing outside the church when she was four, but by the time she moved to Ireland, about 17 years ago in 2005, she’d stopped doing it professionally.

It wasn’t until one fateful night, after seeing the Mindbenders perform, that something was awoken again.

After that, she was asked to audition for a band that she said 'died a natural death' and after that, she got together with the band that she plays with to this day.

Over the following years, Mirenda has played such esteemed venues as the Opera House in Belfast and hosted her own programmes on Radios Foyle and Ulster.

She’s also opened for Chuck Berry, the Commitments, and various other acts.

Prior to Covid, Mirenda was busy recording her second album. Having recently started back up again, she hopes to have it released by the end of the summer.

The lead single, ‘Don’t Sacrifice,’ out now, is a powerful 'open letter' to abuse survivors.This topic is particularly close to her heart as, by day, she works with survivors in Women’s Aid.

The album, she says, is 'much more personal than my first.'

Speaking of her first album (available in Cool Discs, by the way), she says that “I didn’t really understand my band then” but that this upcoming release is “more heartfelt”.

Mirenda says she’s 'nervous to plan' these days as she had so much lined up for 2020 that had to be cancelled. She says though, that she 'can’t explain her excitement at getting back.'

Covid meant that she couldn’t perform with her band for almost two years. Unlike, for example, Mary Coughlan or Starcrawler, who played some online gigs outside where they could stay safe, Mirenda and her band all live within a two-and-a-half-hour radius, making something like that almost impossible logistically.

My own first time seeing Mirenda Rosenberg play was over a decade ago, when she played Mange 2, formally down by the river, every year.

When I mentioned these shows to her she told me about her experience playing venues like that. She said she 'loved the challenge of playing restaurants' and 'entertaining people while they were eating.'

She said she wanted to be 'so engaging that people would have to pay attention' (something she certainly achieved).

She told me that she loved playing Derry particularly, describing the atmosphere as 'electric.'

Throughout our chat, we spoke about live performances, and how it was great that people were finally 'leaning back into music' after two years of lockdowns and cancelled shows.

Talking about live shows, Mirenda told me that she thought it was a musician’s job to 'guide the audience emotionally' with their music, and that if the artist wasn’t into something, that the audience could feel it.

That’s why, she said, if there was a particular song that she was bored singing, she drops it from the set.

Speaking of her song choices, Mirenda said she preferred 'songs that tell interesting stories.'

She talked about songs like ‘Sugar in My Bowl’, originally by Bessie Smith but made famous by Nina Simone, a song that she called 'very, very dirty' but which had been around for so long that was now become a standard.

Because this is a weekly column Mirenda Rosenberg has already been and gone (she played the Thirsty Goat and Silver Street for those wondering), but, if you don’t already know her and her music, you can find her on all the usual streaming sites. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram (@mirendarosenberg), Twitter (@MirendaR), and TikTok (@mirendarosenberg), where you can follow her homesteading, composting, tallow and soap making.

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