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Above Tree Level

Above Tree Level with Dr Eilís Phillips

Above Tree Level with Dr Eilís Phillips

What’s important to you right now?

Creativity, for sure! Expanding my creative skillset after the Covid pandemic has been a big priority for me. I’ve been a musician and a writer for over twenty years, but since lockdown I’ve found fresh enthusiasm by focusing on photography and design work. Constantly learning new things and developing familiar skills more deeply is what keeps me (relatively) sane! 

I’m particularly excited to be playing with Rory Nellis promoting his new album, Written and Underlined. Rory is an incredible songwriter. His music seems to appeal to everyone regardless of demographic and I love that. The band are all lovely people and obscenely talented. Playing with them is a huge privilege. 

Check out Rory Nellis

What’s your superpower?

I don’t know if it’s a superpower, but I have a pronounced form of a neurological condition called synaesthesia that means that all my senses are merged. I experience sound as colour and texture, feel movement as touch and smell, and taste words, for example. I see every sense as a visual readout around me. My world is just explosions of colour stretching out in every direction, all the time. 

It’s often overwhelming, and hard to explain to people who are unfamiliar with synaesthesia, but I wouldn’t be without it. It helps me be creative across a variety of mediums. Synthesis – bringing things together that haven’t been connected before in the same way – is at the heart of creativity. 

When was the last time you cried with joy?

Probably receiving my PhD outcome. I had to ask my examiner to repeat the verdict. I kept looking down at my notes because I didn’t want to cry in front of the panel. It was a dream come true. I still cry thinking about it. Whenever I feel like garbage, I remember that moment and it’s like a voice in my head saying – see, you aren’t useless, everything is going to be alright. 

I often get a tear in my eye when I’m with friends or family now. It reminds me of how much I missed human interactions when I was on my own during the Covid lockdowns. The pandemic has added a level of pathos to those meetings. I hope I never take them for granted. 

Show us an image on your camera roll that reveals something about you?

Top of my camera roll is a photo I took of Bangor Marina in County Down during an amazing sunset. The sky seemed to be on fire, and it made these beautiful flame-like reflections on the water. 

I love this landscape; the place where the land meets the Lough. There’s something so magical about it that I never get tired of coming here and trying to capture all the wee nuances and changes the weather brings. 

The time machine is running. What advice would you give your 8 year old self?

I saw a great quote the other day. It was an image of two men on a ladder, one had hold of the other man’s ankle. The caption read. “The people trying to bring you down are already beneath you.”