The following questions and answers are excerpted from a conversation that followed the NBR screening of Sing Street.
Can you share some of your songwriting process with us?
John Carney: Well, I would say first and foremost, I am a hobbyist when it comes to songwriting. I’m an amateur. I do it because it’s fun… I was in a band professionally as a young man, and that was my job. And I left that for a reason, and I decided I’d never let music become my job again. It took the magic out of it, frankly. And it turned it into a thing about money and deals, and I became very suspicious of record labels, and publishers, and I decided if I was ever going to do anything musical again it would have to be enjoyable. So this is a case in point, in a sense. This was just a joy to write the music for this film. And the real songwriter for the film was Gary Clark. I mean he’s the guy who comes in and writes your chorus, and makes it catchy, and gets a better harmony than me. Because the real truth of pop songs is, whoever writes the top line is really responsible. Whoever writes that line we can all remember from the great pop songs is the one with the talent. For me, Gary was always the guy who came in and wrote the really catchy parts of the songs. So my job was from a much more amateur point of view.
“I think the idea of the film is to honor and remember the people who facilitate you in life.”
Ferdia, can you tell us about your voice training and your vocal background?
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo: I used to sing classically— I was a boy soprano when I was very small. I did my first singing audition when I was seven years old. And then I did loads of operas and so on. And growing up, when my voice started to change, I started dipping into other types of music, and getting into more modern stuff, like in the film. Punk music, rock, writing pieces for myself, playing guitar. And that’s where things kind of changed, and I started getting inspired by different bands and stuff. It was really fun to do this film; the music was such a fun part of the film. One of my favorite things to do is to go around and play the songs and hear how people react. It’s just a great, great soundtrack
JC: And speaking of parents and homages, you should mention your mom (who is here today!)
FWP: of course! My mother, Mrs. Tony Walsh, is a professional opera singer. She had me practicing singing from such a young age. It was kind of that thing where my mom just threw us into music, and we all went for it. There was no pressure or forcing about it, it was just what we did. She encouraged us, and we all enjoyed it. My two older brothers are both in the music industry, and we all just kind of went for it. I think we’re totally inspired by our parents, who were doing music all the time and we were so exposed to it. So it became a big love of ours.
Ms. Boynton, your character Raphina is so interesting. Out of such pain came such wisdom. Can you talk about how you approached her?
Lucy Boynton: The interesting thing about Raphina is the way Conor affects her so much, and in a completely surprising way. Because when you first meet her, she’s very much got her presentation down. She knows how she wants the world to see her, and that’s as a totally successful, very confident girl who’s going places. And she’s fine. But then she meets Conor, and he’s a sweet kid who’s a bit of a dork, and he asks her to do a music video… and it’s nice to feel wanted, and it’s fun, and it’s funny. And he affects her in a much deeper way in the sense that he’s the first person that she actually wants to connect to. And he’s the first person that she actually wants to show herself to in a meaningful way. And you see that throughout the film: She continues to wear her veneer of confidence, but there are these moments when she allows him to really see her, where she allows him into her life that are really poignant.
He provides something like stability for her, doesn’t he? Even though his own parents are drifting apart, there’s some stability there from him.
LB: He continues to pursue her and a kind of closeness with her, and tries to access her through his music, I think… and he really does! He offers her this very soulful writing, and she starts to feel connected to him, and that kind of shocks her and makes her feel vulnerable. Because to that point, she’s very much used to keeping people in the distance, and allowing them only to see what she wants them to see. So it’s a new experience from her, and totally unexpected. He’s at an uncomfortable closeness, which brings her out of her shell.
Can you explain the dedication at the end of the film, “for brothers everywhere?”
JC: That’s both a very personal dedication, but it’s also meant to take it out of the personal, because that’s where I think films lose some of their meaning. As a general homage, I think the idea of the film is to honor and remember the people who facilitate you in life and who are not quite your parents… Because your parents facilitate you in a very different way. And ultimately in a massive way! But they also, I think, unintentionally hold you back from certain things, in the way that guardians often do. I have two older brothers and an older sister, and I’m the youngest… and very privileged in that position. I was sort of given permission to experiment and to find my identity and to be who I was in a way that older children sometimes can’t. I think the relationship between Conor and his brother Brendan in the film expresses that idea. This idea that there are people who put up a green light over your head as opposed to a red light or an amber flashing light… who sort of give you permission to be who you are, to find out who you are.