Gifted Czech singer, songwriter, and Oscar recipient Markéta Irglová spoke with us in advance of her Colours of Ostrava performance. Here, she opens up about her creative process, new, post-Swell Season sound, and where to get great vegetarian food in Prague.
EH: Ostrava is a great venue with so much history. Where do you most like to perform in CR…and in the world?
MI: I don’t have a favorite place. In general I like to perform for people who are receptive to the music, wherever in the world it may be.
EH: There is always such great energy at your Czech Republic shows. I remember seeing the Swell Season at Lucerna years ago. Do you always play to such enthusiastic audiences here?
MI: I have been very blessed with audiences in general. People have shown their enthusiasm and support in a generous way both for the Swell Season and my solo shows, and I attribute the good energy you mention to that back-and-forth exchange that happens between us.
EH: What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Colours of Ostrava?
MI: For now all I know of is Sigur Ros, Damien Rice, and Duke Special and I look forward to seeing all three.
EH: You sing in Persian on Anar; any plans to record an album in your native language?
MI: Probably not a whole record in Czech, but I wrote a song in Czech last year which I recorded, and played live. I find English more suitable for the songs I write, but appreciate Czech as a language.
EH: Many of the tracks on Anar seem to be about longing for someone, something, someplace. Did the experience of being an expat (like our readers) inspire you?
MI: Yes, longing is something of a universal experience. We all long for something or someone, and sometimes we long for not longing. It is just another way of saying we’re searching, for the thing we hope will bring us fulfillment. I have known longing since before I had left my country to live abroad.
EH: There is a lot of unique instrumentation on Anar. How did that world-music vibe come about?
MI: It came about playing with an Iranian daf player and vocalist, and from liking a lot of music from different parts of the world which in turn inspire and influence me and my direction.
EH: Is constant change and the excitement of being on the road and in new places essential to your creativity or do you need the calm and quiet to write?
MI: I thrive when I can be still in a place I feel at home in, somewhere beautiful and natural, with clean air and water. That is when I feel grounded and centered, which is something I feel is essential to my well-being. The constant travel is something I enjoyed for a time in my life, then learnt to tolerate when it became more tiring than exciting. I’m not restless enough to need to stay on the move but neither fearful of change to seek complete stillness.
EH: You name a lot of influences on Anar including Otis Redding, Nick Cave, and Jesus Christ Superstar! Which performers from the Czech Republic do you admire?
MI: Karel Kryl and Jaromir Nohavica [see our article here] I have a lot of respect for as songwriters and lyricists. Hradistan I like for keeping the tradition of Czech folk music alive in a new way. Then Zrni, Fiordmoss, and Charlie Straight of the newer acts, for example.
EH: You have been working with the great Iron & Wine of late. Any other groups you dream of collaborating with?
MI: Nobody in particular, although I enjoy very much the experience of working with different people and learning from watching them go about their craft in their own way. A group chemistry is also a wonderful thing when it works, and one has a sense of being part of something greater than one’s self. I suppose I would love to get to see how someone like Andrew Lloyd Webber works, for example.
EH: You have won numerous accolades for your work in Once, both the film and show, but the first time I heard those songs it was in the Jan Hřebejk film Kráska v nesnázích. What part did he play in supporting The Swell Season in the early days?
MI: That’s hard for me to really know. I’d say it did a lot in Czech Republic, since Jan Hrebejk is a very respected director here and his films have a wide audience.
EH: How often do manage to get home to Moravia? Will you ever come back here to settle or are you a permanent citizen of the world?
MI: I don’t think I will come back to live in the Czech Republic, but I remain open to it. I like coming back to visit, although my visits seem to be less and less frequent. At the moment I’m getting to visit about twice a year.
EH: Would you kindly share your favorite Prague places (sites, bars, venues, etc.)?
MI: In general I just like walking around when I’m in Prague. There’s a vegetarian restaurant called Maitrea that I really like, or the Govindas, also vegetarian. I like Literární kavárna and a little tearoom on Nerudova Street which I don’t know the name of.
EH: I’m really looking forward to hearing the songs from Anar (esp Go Back!) live. Can we expect some old favorites as well?
MI: Yes, I think so.
EH: You recently contributed compositions to the Czech children’s film Posledni z Apoveru. What else does the future hold for you?
MI: Im looking forward to releasing the album I made in Iceland, and playing the music from it live. At some point I’d also like to create a studio, a recording space with my partner where we could work together on our own music as well as other projects. The rest remains to be seen.
Markéta Irglová will appear at Colours of Ostrava on July 19 on the Gong Vítkovice stage 17:30-18:30. For ticket info or to check out the remaining the line-up, visit the Colours of Ostrava website.