By Clare Martin
“It might be the end of the world but, like, it’s fine.”
This voice note from Maria Kelly’s friend Martha starts off the artist’s new single, named for her mate. Martha sent the message to Kelly when the pandemic began, and for such a simple line, it feels like the most realistic depiction of the past year for a large swath of Irish people. We’re teetering on the precipice of this horror, but that eternal “be grand” attitude is the only defence we have left.
When the first lockdown started, Kelly had just moved back to Ireland after living in Berlin for a couple years. The singer/songwriter stole away to a cottage on the southern coast to write and record her debut album. She found herself caught not just in the liminal space we’ve all been navigating since coronavirus, but also that strange place when you’re out of your early 20s but not as grown up as you’d imagined.
“I wrote the song just after I returned from Berlin and was taking stock of just how much had changed in my life throughout my early 20s,” Kelly explains. “Here I was, having just had this really formative experience, disillusioned and directionless again. Not only that, but I was no longer the version of myself that had left Ireland – and not quite who I wanted to be yet either – just stuck in this floaty, in-between with a version of myself that I wasn’t quite used to yet.”
She continues, “The voicenote Martha sent me felt like the perfect addition to the song, and it also gave me a chance to laugh at the fact that we have very little control over things we try so hard to control. This past year has felt like one big ‘in-between’ that we’re all trying to muddle our way through, so ‘Martha’ is about dealing with change and all that comes with it; regret, nostalgia, uncertainty, fear – but also acceptance and lightheartedness.”
Throughout “Martha,” Kelly recounts what it’s like to be torn between two places, both physically and emotionally. “I wonder what I’m missing / I wonder what could have been,” she sings, and later muses over acoustic guitar, “Can’t swim / can’t drown / I’m not where I thought I’d be now.” Her piercing lyrics and gossamer vocals elevate the single beyond your average alt-folk release. Kelly’s voice possesses an intimacy and emotional intelligence that could break your heart.
Listen to “Martha,” produced remotely by Matt Harris and released by VETA Music, below.