Markéta Irglová Muna

(Out 23 September 2014)

By Claudia Price 

A few days ago I marked September 23 on my calendar. The little note says Muna. That´s all. In not even 2 months I am going to hold a little jewel in my hand.

It is not every day that we are lucky enough to talk to an Academy Award winner, a composer with a natural talent for writing the most beautiful melodies and lyrics and an inspiration for fellow performers and listeners.

Markéta Irglová was born in the small town of Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic, discovered her love for music at an early age and continued to follow one of many dreams. In 2006 she starred in the movie Once next to Glen Hansard receiving the Oscar for Falling Slowly (Best Song) in 2008. 3 years later her first solo record Anar followed.

This is 2014 and we are eagerly expecting Muna. On her website, we get a detailed look behind the curtain of the making and recording of the album which is quite insightful these days. In her songs, Markéta talks about her own experiences in life, the good ones the bad ones and everything in between. She has a message for every single one of her listeners which simply is you are not alone. That is just what we need to hear every once in a while.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Markéta Irglová:

Marketa, thank you very much for talking to us today; since you´ve moved from New York to Iceland how have things changed for you musically?

The first year of my living in Iceland, I was working on finishing the record I had initially arrived there to make, MUNA. I had enough time and resources to take my time with it, make it as good as it could, in my opinion, be, without cutting any corners or rushing towards the finishing line. Mio, who was producing this record, introduced me to a lot of amazing musicians who I found very inspiring to work with during the recording sessions. He also pointed me towards different records made by the locals which were quickly growing to be my favorite music to listen to, and the vast range of music festivals that take place every year in Reykjavik, further extended my understanding of the musicality of the people of Iceland, which again, served to inspire me. I was falling in love and writing new material, which was pleasantly different from that which I had written before.

The second of the two years I’ve been living in Iceland was a bit of a break from music for me. I had finished my record and was ready to release it but found out I was with child. This turn of events, although unexpected, was most welcomed by me, for I consider children to be the ultimate blessing and miracle in one´s life. I embraced the experience of pregnancy and readying myself for the baby´s arrival. I channeled all my creativity into this growing life inside me and wasn´t writing at all. My baby girl is 8 months old now and I am slowly beginning to find the time and space of mind to sit at the piano again and allow myself to commune with the muse

You have just announced the release date for your new album Muna.

Yes. It is September 23. I have been waiting to share this album with the world, so it is very exciting that the time is nigh.

Listening to the first song “This Right Here” from the album Muna there is no doubt about how important that album is for you personally…your voice sounds so strong and beautiful. Do you feel like you exactly are where you want to be in life?

Yes I do. I like where I live, I love what I do. I love my family and being a mother has been an immense privilege and the deepest joy. I feel loved, protected and provided for by the Universe. I feel that I am walking the path of my destiny, fulfilling that which I set out to accomplish. I know that music is my calling, but the music is but an instrument to a greater purpose of healing and guidance towards self-empowerment. I feel it is the right time for MUNA, and its release is a very exciting event in my life. All is well in my life. All is well in my world. I struggle with feelings of frustration and disappointment with not progressing fast enough on my journey towards becoming a more refined human being, but that does not take away from the feeling of gratitude and acknowledgment of the distance I’ve traveled so far.

On your website, you talk about how and when Muna was recorded. Any particular moment that stands out?

I remember the day I recorded the opening track of MUNA called Point of Creation. This song had already been recorded in the studio during the initial recording session, but I was not fully content with the result. In my mind, I heard the chords of this piece sounding through the pipes of a church organ, and no other instrument could come close to accomplishing this sound. Supported and encouraged by Mio to follow where the music wanted to be taken, we booked a church in the center of Reykjavik after closing hours as well as its esteemed organ player Hörður. Mio packed up some recording equipment and set it up in the church while I got a haircut in a nearby salon.

A microphone was placed in the middle of the isle leading to the altar for me to sing into. Other microphones were placed around the hall to capture the massive sound of the organ. When I arrived at the church, the light was still streaming in through the windows and the atmosphere was most calm and peaceful. I felt very special to have this beautiful space to myself. I rehearsed the song with the organ player couple of times before Mio pressed Record. After that, it was just the joy of singing my song along to the organ and enjoying the sound bounce off the walls of the church and come back to me amplified and magnified. Once we did a few takes, we packed up and walked into the fresh air of the November night, only to be met with the most exquisite northern lights in the sky over Reykjavik, the first ever for me to see in person. We drove out of town after that, where we knew they would be more visible, all the while feeling very positive about having decided to go the extra mile to make the song right. I took this occurrence as a sign of approval from above

How important is it for you to have friends (and in this case family) around when you are recording? Does it help you in any way?

I feel that I go into another mode while recording. I become very focused on the music and on capturing that which is coming forward before I lose track of it. I don’t like taking too many or too long breaks and people present in the studio who do not understand the headspace of people in the midst of this process can be a distraction and disturbance more than anything else. On the other hand, I do not enjoy the process of recording on my own as much as recording with other people with whom I share an understanding and a passion for what we are creating together. It is very important for me to feel connected to those people, for in coming together to co-create with anyone, we join our spirits and for that, the heart centers must open to let each other in. In my opinion, only in this way the result is one of true meaning, lasting beauty and magic.

Since you´ve become a mother have your priorities changed or were you able to find a good balance between music and home life?

My priorities have definitely changed, for I don’t think anything will ever be more important to me than my daughter, and I will always put her first. Then again, I understand that it would not help my daughter for me to forget who I was before she came. To lose my own identity completely in order to become exclusive to her. As she grows older, she will need me to be someone she can look up to and respect and I will enjoy making her part of my world and all that is important to me. There isn´t a manual to follow in any of this, so one must follow common sense, instinct, and intuition in finding such balance. I have not had much time for anything but her up to now, but I know this will be changing soon as we ready for the album release and tour, thankfully my partner, her father, is a very dedicated one and we bear the responsibility and reward of being her caretakers equally.

A few years ago you mentioned that you have accepted the responsibility of being a musician. What is the most important responsibility a musician has in your opinion?

Any person who works in the public domain bears a responsibility towards the people he/she or his/her work come in contact with and influence. Every artist is sending something into the world and is responsible for what that something is. I believe it is important to be conscious of the energy and message of the content. I believe in a give and take policy too. While on stage, we both give to and receive from the audience. This is a fair exchange. If people project their power outward in putting anyone on the pedestal, it is a responsibility of the person being idolized to help them reclaim this energy in realizing that what they are drawn to they already carry within themselves. In empowering a person this way, rather than coveting this projected energy to empower one’s self, is an important part of the role we play. Perhaps the most important one of them all.

You are making music for more than half of your life. Was it ever an option for you not having music as your profession? Are you still involved in other kinds of arts besides songwriting, recording and playing instruments?

Yes, it has always been an option to choose a different path. It was never enforced upon me, nor had I ever an intense yearning to be a musician over anything else. It was only ever offered to me through the chain of events that happened spontaneously and unexpectedly. I wouldn’t have had any ambition to keep pursuing this path beyond a certain point had it not been for the incredibly positive feedback I received from people towards the music I make. In meeting and connecting with people, hearing their stories of how the music served to inspire or influence them in a meaningful way, I realized that this was my purpose.

The opportunity to help, heal, inspire and motivate, or simply make someone feel they aren’t alone in the world. I believe such a thing is achieved through a process we are seldom aware of on a conscious level, but it happens all the time-we experience something that opens our hearts, which are often closed, and the life-force starts pouring in, which makes us feel LOVE, makes us feel warm, connected, makes us REMEMBER something. Something we all know deep down. This is very exciting when it happens, this awakening. Then perhaps we forget again until the next time we are reminded. This same process occurs when we fall in love. Our hearts open, we feel the universal energy in flow and we feel transformed. This is why I do what I do. I am not an entertainer. My effort lies in bring people back home to themselves. And if that is too ambitious or presumptuous, I will be happy with bringing people some comfort and reassurance. This can be achieved in many ways, smaller or bigger, and perhaps someday I will redirect my energy into other means, but for now, this is it. In my past time, I also love to paint. And if I wasn’t so squeamish and fainting at the sight of blood, I would have loved to be a nurse. Minding and teaching children would also be very rewarding. And one day, I hope to write a book.

How are things between you and Glen Hansard these days? Do you have any plans on cooperating on a new The Swell Season record?

Things between us are ok, we parted and went different ways wishing each other well and having every intention to stay friends, but perhaps we have grown apart and lost touch with one another over time. We do not really see each other and talk to one another often but we will always remain connected through all that we have experienced together. I will remain open to our paths joining once more in the future as far as cooperating musically goes, but there are no plans for that to happen as of now.

After the two of you won the Oscar did you find it difficult „to get ‘back to normal’ and what are the biggest misconceptions about winning the award?

Winning any award is always wonderful for it symbolizes recognition from elders and peers and it endorses the artist with some measure of quality in the eyes of the wider public. But I would say that an Oscar is its own category of awards and receiving it is its own kind of honor and privilege. My mom would watch the Oscars every year until very late in the night and once I got old enough to stay up late with her, we would watch it together. In all this time I never for a second imagined myself ever holding an Oscar, let alone receiving one of my own. It was a very special night of my life, standing on the stage in Kodak theatre in front of all those talented individuals, receiving this very special award. But the most special thing about it was my realization that anything is possible in the world, even the unimaginable.

The Oscar served as a golden key that opened any door for us, and since we used it responsibly, it helped us immensely to progress on the path we had been traveling on prior to this event. As far as the effect on my personal life, well… It took me a while to adjust to all the attention I received. To understand what people needed from me during our interactions. How I felt about everything and where my comfort zone with it all day. For a while, I felt crowded out and overwhelmed, even inadequate at times. Then, I took a month off from touring which I spent at my house in Ireland that was my home, in the middle of the countryside away from everything and everyone, and I began processing and integrating all the experiences of the whirlwind which the preceding months had been. Then I figured out where I stood with it all, and what was expected of me in return. I’ve never been anything but grateful for all the awards we had been given and remain such to this day. I don’t think there are any misconceptions about winning this award. It is considered to be a great honor which it is. It is believed to change one’s life and career, which it does. You have to be prepared to capitalize on this success and work hard, for there is always next year and new winners, and people have short memory spans in this sense, but I believe it is everything it sets out to be.

Could you imagine collaborating with other performers? Who would make your top list?

I would have liked to have an opportunity to sing a song with Ted Neeley, who’s been my hero from childhood.

Please tell us the 5 most memorable moments of your career.

  1. Being at the Oscars.
  2. Playing Radio City Hall in New York and Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles
  3. Attending the Once on Broadway premiere,
  4. Having a guest appearance on The Simpsons,
  5. Sharing a stage with Eddie Vedder

Name 3 songs that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Garden of Getsemane

I Don’t Know How To Love Him (from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar)

Falling Slowly

The worst venue/ city you´ve ever played in.

No venue comes to mind here. I’ve been very lucky with the venues I’ve played in so far.

Please tell us 5 things about yourself that the internet hasn´t already published.

  1. Recently I’ve been able to add Icelandic to the list of foreign languages I can understand and speak.
  2. I spent the first 9 years of my life living at a school for deaf children where my mom was a teacher and we were allowed to live in one of the two apartments within the building, which looked more like a castle than a school. In the other apartment lived the gardener who took care of the park which was on the school grounds. This park was my garden in those years. Sometimes I would sit in the classes while my mom was teaching. I would usually draw with my markers. When I was 4 years old, I saw the musical Jesus Christ Superstar which left a profound effect on me. I spoke no English but learned all the songs by heart. I think I had a bit of a crush on Jesus so I would draw him on the cross with Mary Magdalene by his side. I would often wear a scarf on my head and pretend it was my very long hair.
  3. My ears were pierced when I was still only a baby, as is the custom in the Czech Republic. I wore baby earrings at first, then children´s earrings, and then one day I was going through my parents glass jar full of old coins which were no longer in use, and among them I found a silver hoop earring relatively big in comparison to my little gold ones, a grown up earring in my view. I made a little prayer to also find the second one of the pair and to get my parent’s permission to wear them. Both came through for me. I wore them into town that afternoon; glowing with pride, but this sweet turnout was dampened by the sad realization I had lost one of them by the time I returned home from my excursion. I have been looking for a pair of earrings just like them since.
  4. My parents named me Marketa after a song by a Czech folk singer they were listening to a lot while expecting me. If I was born a boy, I would have been named Matous, a Czech version of Matthew. When I discovered The Kelly Family in my early years, I wished my parents named me Patrician instead, like the girl in the band. Besides this brief preference, I have been very happy that my parents chose the name Marketa for me.
  5. My earliest memory is of my sister Zuzana, or Suzie what many call her was brought home from the hospital as an infant after my mother gave birth to her. I remember this moment as if it were yesterday. I was very happy to have a friend in the world, and I wanted our parents to leave me alone with her so that we could play together undisturbed.


Markéta Irglová

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