Small in stature but mighty in performance, Irish Mythen returns to Salmon Arm on Valentine’s Day.
Anybody who has been around the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival for a long time has never seen a crowd as big as the one Mythen garnered at the Shade Stage on the Sunday afternoon at last year’s festival, says artistic director Peter North.
“One of the things that really triggered her reception was putting her on as a “tweener” Friday night before Ricky Skaggs,” says North. “People didn’t know her at that point, but getting her in front of a big crowd had them following her; it was a home run right out of the gate.”
North says Mythen was a delight to work with, in workshops or doing her own thing.
And that thing is a combination of heartfelt storytelling with (sometimes ribald) humour interjected between songs.
It is the humour, she says, that allows her to have a very socially-conscious driven message in her songs.
“People spend their hard-earned dollars to come to my shows so it’s my responsibility to bring them through the emotions,” she says in her soft Irish lilt. “It’s always nice to get positive feedback, but I wouldn’t be doing my job to the best of my ability if I didn’t draw the big crowds.”
Mythen says she loves immersing herself in festivals and talking to the crowds.
“I have the audacity to call it a job,” she laughs. “I am just so grateful for people, and the idea that someone who has a story not to be able to approach me would be awful.”
A huge fan of collaborative workshops, Mythen thrives on the fact the unique sessions with artists, who often have never even met, are an opportunity that will never happen again.
First and foremost, says Mythen, who has toured with Rod Stewart and Melissa Etheridge, she regards her career as a “damn humongous privilege.”
“It is hard work that’s unseen, it’s a sacrifice personally, but at the end of the day, the good way, way outweighs the bad,” she says.
An avid and talented national soccer player in her youth, Mythen had originally imagined a life of sport.
But at the age of 15 she moved to Bahrain with her parents, a place not conducive to women in sport.
“I didn’t know anyone so I spent a lot of time on my own; it was boring as bat shit,” she laughs, noting her parents gave her a guitar and her mum told her that despite not being able to read music, she would learn to play.
That she did, with a matchbox size book of chords that came with the guitar.
A few months later, Mythen played two songs at a local hotel and knew what she wanted to do with her life.
Back home in Ireland, Mythen started making money with her music at the age of 18.
Brought over for a Canadian festival in 2006, the talented artist says she fell in love with the country and moved to the Maritimes in 2007.
Inspired visually by many things, places and people, Mythen says she sees stories unfolding and tries to write what she sees.
“We love hearing and telling a good story,” she says of her Irish heritage. “People need to understand, so instead of using big, profound words, I use simple lyrics.”
But that doesn’t mean her words don’t have a profound effect on her audiences.
An early riser, Mythen sits down most mornings to write. If nothing happens after 10 minutes, she takes a break.
“The ability to write is like a muscle, you have to exercise it,” she says, noting 90 percent of her work never sees the light of day.
Then there are the gems like the ones that won Mythen the East Coast Music Association 2015 Roots Album of the Year.
Irish Mythen performs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the Nexus at First, 450 Okanagan Ave. SE Doors open at 6:30, cash bar.
Young North Shuswap singer-songwriter Ruby Bruce will open for Mythen.
Tickets at $20 are going fast. They are available at www.rootsandblues.ca or drop into the office weekdays at at the corner of Third Street and Fifth Avenue SW.