The Waterford musician Caela Murphy’s musical journey began at a young age. “My parents got me into trad music when I was very young; I was about six,” she tells Post-Burnout. “And I started playing the concertina and the tin whistle, along with…my dad taught me to play the bodhrán, and I used to go to a lot of comhaltas, a lot of sessions, and I was part of what you’d call The Butterfly Band from Waterford, when they were first starting out, I was one of the first members. I didn’t stop really playing on that scene until I was about 16, actually. 16 was when I decided to try something different, really.”
At age six, Caela became interested in the piano and a local music teacher encouraged her mother to buy her a keyboard, which she did. With an interest in classical music, such as Mozart and Beethoven, as well as the popular music of the time, she became enamoured with wanting to become a professional musician. At thirteen, she began writing her own songs to perform live, and, at sixteen, she released her first single, “Lost at Sea,” with Focus Ireland, in aid of homelessness.
Caela found the music scene in Waterford to be very accommodating to young musicians. “There was a lot of youth shows,” she says of her home county. “So, I started off in The Manor, which was a youth centre in Waterford, and they did a lot of open mics and a lot of event gigs, and that’s where I started out. And also, in Tramore – in the town that I lived in – they have a place called Klub Muzik, and they did the same thing. So, the Waterford music scene for youth is fantastic. It’s very supportive and, in general, the scene is so small that all the musicians know each other, so you kind of help each other out by opening each others gigs and things like that, so it’s a very comfortable scene to be in.”
Caela started studying music at Dublin’s BIMM, scored film soundtracks, and released her own personal piano-driven ballads under her own name. In the past year, Caela transitioned into releasing more experimental music under the moniker DOLLFACE. “The reason for it was, really, I didn’t want to have my personal name attached to my music,” she says of this metamorphosis. “Because I feel my music is so personal that I wanted some sort of disconnect, you know?…Because, I can’t handle a lot of judgement, [Laughs] really; I’m very sensitive. So, having people say, ‘Oh, I don’t like Caela Murphy.’ I was like, ‘That’s a little bit too personal for my liking.’ So, I wanted to create something new.”
From Caela’s perspective, the DOLLFACE persona has freed her up to both write more vulnerable lyrics and experiment further with the musicality. “I am in BIMM, and, in BIMM, we do talk about stage characters and your whole persona and everything to do with it,” she says, “and I feel so much more comfortable hiding, nearly, behind DOLLFACE, as an alter ego, than to be using my personal name. And I also think it allows me to create a character. I don’t have to be Caela Murphy. I don’t have to be who I personally am; I can create a whole new identity. And, with that, I can do whatever…and I find that helps me be able to mix in all different genres, because I’m able to be like, ‘Well, DOLLFACE is not just one genre. Yes, the theme relates throughout, but the genres can change,’ and I’m comfortable with doing that, because that is the character.”
DOLLFACE’s three singles available at the time of publication – “Fool,” “Disorder,” and “Love Me Better” – already showcase her versatility and range, but these are only teasers of what’s to come. “I’m going to experiment with a little bit more rock, 2000s emo, nearly even metal,” Caela says. “Currently, I’m trying to get in contact with a vocal teacher to learn how to do screamo and use my voice in a different way.”
Caela goes into further detail on her songs released thus far, thoughts on releasing an EP or album with her inconsistent continuity between songs, how performing to strangers compares to her peers, and more, on today’s episode of POSTBURNOUT.COM Interviews…
Aaron Kavanagh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Post-Burnout. His writing can also be found in the Irish Daily Star, Buzz.ie, New Noise Magazine, XS Noize, DSCVRD and more.