Writing her third album, the singer and actress from Ireland, Bronagh Gallagher asked herself, "is this what it's all about?".

During a time of personal change and struggle, as well as observing the tribulations of her friends, she wrote Gather Your Greatness. As the title suggests the answer she reached involved accepting that life doesn't always fall in our favour, and how we must overcome it in order to move on. The album features soaring soul music, sincere lyrics about the brutal nature of love and a voice that could warm a glacier.

Bronagh talked to Andrew Darley about how this album was the hardest thing she has ever accomplished.

When you started bringing ideas together for this album, did you have a clear idea of how you wanted it to sound?

The sound is always the easy bit to be honest. If your brain is like Velcro and you love music, something always sticks even if it's only a tiny sound or an atmosphere. The atmosphere is what usually gets me. Glenn Campbell, Willy Deville and Scott Walker records were big influences. Scott Walker doesn't have any obvious poetry in his lyrics yet his songs are so poetic in how he speaks in an extremely honest way like on 'No Regrets' - very direct break-up songs.

So for you it's more about creating a mood?

I think it's the mood - I'm still trying to understand it myself. I've started to write again and I'm going in a bit deeper. For a writer, that's a weird thing to do. I have a very strong idea in my head where I'm going with the next one. There is a lot of self-excavation that goes on. It has to be yours and it has to be unique. The key is doing it quicker and not doubting what you're doing. Gather Your Greatness is about my personal journey but it's also about other friends too and what they had going on. It's about saying "Is this life? Is this what it's about?... Alright, okay!". Some people's lives don't work out the way they want which is really hard but it's also really amazing too. It's about self-belief: gather what you have that is great and your uniqueness.

It seems to be a record of two halves; some songs examine personal relationships while others are more to do with finding resilience.

That was all happening but it's also about the genius of nature. When you look out and you see birds flying it takes you out of your mind. There is so much horror in the world right now and how we can get images in seconds on our phones which we never become immune to. That's what made me sad about humanity: so many of us are doing our best and living good lives, the quest for love, working with the love that you have towards your family, your friends, or partners then there's ones who have missed that who are brainwashed and become fundamentalists, they've missed the genius of nature. You look at this massive blue ball full of water and rock and then you look at what happening in The Bataclan - fuck me!

With the personal excavation you've mentioned in writing, is there certain issues that you've avoided up until this record?

War. Towards the end of making the album, I sat at home one night and I got this weird feeling. A lot of my mates were travelling at the time and I just didn't feel right. I knew something was going on. That night I went to a church - I'm not even a big Catholic, I'd be more interested in Buddhism - but I went to a church and I lit candles for my friends who were abroad. Later that night the horror in The Bataclan happened. I was there four months beforehand and I just thought we have to speak out as artists - that's all we have. I wrote 'Heal Me', the last song on the record, about it. I grew in Derry so I grew up seeing extreme state violence and then reactionary groups. We were told not to talk about it and now I'm not afraid anymore. I'm not afraid of who it upsets, or offends or makes feel uncomfortable.

Is writing now more about writing what you have to say rather than want to say?

It's both. I don't really consider myself a writer but I suppose I am with three records out there. I'm a performer and when I'm on stage I'm wide open and baring my soul. At this stage, it's about not being afraid to say what it is actually going on and not being afraid to say "This feels really bad and I don't feel good". I'm taking away the veneers all the time.

Regarding the relationships the record deals with, do you think as we grow older we get a more realistic view of love and expect less of people?

It's like anything, it's all transference. We think the right love, the right house, the right job, the right body will fix us; those departments can help enhance day-to-day happiness but the fundamental thing is to carry oneself. I look at friend's relationships and they're lonelier than others I know who are single. I think the quest in life is peace in one's mind. If you think someone's going to come into your life and make it better, it doesn't work like that. All grief arises from attachment. Even sending someone a text and they don't reply, you feel shit. The older I'm getting the less I'm saying "If I had that my life would be better". Loving yourself and accepting who you are is hard graft.

How did you arrive at the title Gather Your Greatness?

I was sitting in my garden in February last year. I had been up for a big acting job; I put about six weeks work into it and it didn't come into fruition. That's acting! I was gutted but I didn't want to have a conversation about it. I just wanted to let it pass. My mother is an amazing gardener and she comes down every autumn and blitzes through my garden and plants all these new bulbs. She had all these krokuses planted and I watched them grow. I imagined myself as one of them like a missile coming up out of the ground. It was like an epiphany. I asked myself what do I do now and "Gather your greatness" just came out of my mouth.

Does music allow you to feel bigger than yourself?

I think you get to get the opportunity to project and become the biggest inflation of yourself. When you witness great artists, like Bruce Springsteen or Aretha Franklin, you're witnessing someone with the ability to become a conduit of who they are. You can create this joy performing which me and my band talk about as the biorhythm. When I'm gigging I've never felt so much peace in my whole body.

What did making this record teach you?

I learnt a lot making this and I'm still learning about people-managing, managing a band, orchestrating a band. I've learnt to have confidence to move forward at a quicker pace. I'm very trusting of people but the media side of stuff is very different to what I'm used to. When people say they'll do something for me, I believe they're going to do it and a lot of the time they don't. I've learnt to take things less personal and be a bit more triumphant about things. I'm a huge advocate of humility no matter who you are; if you have that you can have room for everybody.

This album has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Everything that was meant to be smooth wasn't smooth. It was consistently challenging and difficult. What I've learned is to be impeccable with your word. One of the great spiritual teachers, the Toltec people who are Mexican Buddhists, live by taking nothing personally, never making assumptions and always doing their best. Just be gentle and be impeccable. For me to do what I do as a woman running my own music business, albeit it's my tiny business, I have to humble of where I'm at as an artist. I know I have a great band and live show but we still have to walk the walk and build it up brick by brick. You have to be extremely strong to do it - it's a mental business.

Gather Your Greatness is out now. Bronagh plays Dublin's Vicar Street on November 29th and Belfast's Empire Music Hall on December 9th. For more information on Bronagh Gallagher visit her official website.