new song: “forgetting to be brave” GalwayMusicTV shoot

Oh look, it’s me and my face on a youtube thing. It was very early, and I had a coffee just before shooting to try and have my awake face and my awake voice on.

The piano has all sorts of quirks, as it’s a piano in the corner of a café here in Galway that is kinda available for anyone to use if they want, so it’s well loved and oft abused over the years.

The song is one I wrote earlier this year which kickstarted the splurge of songwriting that’s been going on this year.

Wires: A Year Later

I put the digital version of the album up on sale at the end of November 2011, but the physical CDs didn’t surface until January 30th 2012, so the album has been available properly for a year now. It’s been a busy one.

I’d just come back from playing at the Guinness Cork Jazz festival at the end of October when I went and got the record mastered in Limerick. There were a few niggles with the first master, so there was a retake, and then I finally had something in my hand that I could put out there and have people listen to.

Honestly, I don’t know how to express just how afraid I was of that step.

For a very long time, I was the guy off to the side of the stage playing piano for someone else. Or having a few songs of my own before the main event. But mostly, playing other people’s music.

This was the first time I had properly recorded something of my own, performing and singing and taking the lead on the whole thing. To finally have the finished tracks in my hands was the scariest thing.

I knew that not everyone would like the music. And although you try and tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if anyone likes it at all, it really does. Why else record? Why else put music out there? You want someone to connect to the songs in the way that you did writing and recording them.

I was already reeling that 113 people had enough faith in my music to fund it and help it to get finished. I really was hoping that at least those wonderful people would enjoy the record.

Emailing out download codes to all the funders was the most nerve-wracking experience, while also being a beautiful sort of relief.

Then there was a sort of magic to come home one day to a big box with all the CDs in it, especially after the many ups and downs with getting the design for that all ready. Seriously, the packaging side of things seemed to be a bit cursed : the first designer on board had a little accident and had to take time off work and had to cancel on doing work on this project.

Then the second designer had a computer hard drive failure after doing most of the main design work, and had to redo the whole thing again from scratch (Thanks Dónal, you legend.)

Then with the handmade edition, there were all kinds of little set backs relating to the paper, the kind of ink being used for the print, and the clarity of the text when you’re doing screenprints by hand. I spent many hours folding, cutting, gluing, signing, editioning, and numbering all the handmade ones.

There were 88 of those made. One for each piano key. They were mostly all pre-sold through the fundit campaign, and when I realised I had a few extra, those went on sale and didn’t last more than a few hours. They are a gorgeous digipack and also contain the regular cd sleeve packaging, and combined they are more personal and beautiful than I imagined we could manage to put together on such a tiny budget.

Then there were postcards and notes to write, and some people who had given their time to help out over the course of the project got little thank you cards that I made too.

I think one of the happiest moments for me was when I was able to start writing out address labels and putting the finished limited edition CDs into the post. The people in the post office got used to me appearing every day with another batch, and sending them off to places as far away as Sydney gave me as much of a thrill as meeting people in person to hand deliver the finished product.

Videos were planned. Some were recorded, some were delayed, and in one case, transformed into a live dance show instead that had a short run as part of a festival here in Galway. That was a surprise development that was certainly not a part of the original plan.

It was my first time attempting anything like this on this kind of a level, and yeah, at times I felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I was in over my head. But I tried to learn what I needed to, and asked advice, asked for help, and worked out answers to problems that arose. Some things didn’t work out – like a vinyl edition of the record, for example, which I would still love to do at some point.

But damnit, I’m pretty damn proud of this little record.
Now. What’s next?

I’m Fine Going Solo (a sort of anti-valentine)

This is a live take of a song that is sort of my “I’m single, and I’m fine with that, thank you very much.” It’s also about being able to love yourself – as RuPaul puts it, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”. Yeah, I’m totally watching Drag Race in my downtime. Addictive isn’t even the word for it.

I’m also testing out a new webcam and a different sound set up for demoing songs at home. It’s basically the sound set up I used for Google+ hangouts, but the difference is that the Hangouts don’t like my firewire connection from my desk, but my recording software does. So, although it’s more of a headache to set up than just plugging in my little MBox for recording, it does give me stereo piano and a main vocal all in one take, which is how I like to demo newer songs.

So, yesterday, I ended up doing demos of three of the newer songs that hadn’t made it to being demoed yet. It was quite a productive day really.

Lyrics:

Today Amanda asked me a question, she asked my why I am still single,
I said that she knows full well, and she can’t marry me off to someone,
Just so that she can feel now I’ll be happy.

I’m an idealist – ideally flawed is the kind of a guy that I fall for.
I’ll know he’s not perfect but I fall for those imperfections.
They make us unique and that’s how we can define our own beauty,

So don’t fix your nose, and don’t pin your ears, and flaming red hair sure is pretty,
You’re not too short, your hands don’t look weird, and your eyebrows don’t need dyeing,
The lines on your face tell me you’re not a drone, and the grey in your hair is damn sexy,

I saw a photo online of a man who had rescued a puppy from drowning, shivering cold, and soaked to the bone, he wasn’t that handsome, but he was still perfect, actions speak louder, and that’s what’s important, as it’s the person inside that you fall for,

Two isn’t better than one unless it’s two sides of the same coin.
I’ll find my hearts when I flip heads from tails and the coin just keeps spinning,
perfectly balanced, an evenly matched equal pairing.

Now I’m in my thirties and I’m happy sometimes and I don’t give away love that easy,
It takes some time before I’ll even be friends but of course I’ll still meet you for coffee,
Where it gets tricky is I don’t need many more people in my closest circles,

I’m quite protective, and I take less chances, but that’s something I’m slowly changing.
So let’s take some chances, and fuck having coffee, we can have some for breakfast,
But don’t think that breakfast means anything more than I like you enough to stay over,

If you don’t fix your nose, and don’t pin your ears, and flaming red hair sure is pretty,
You’re not too short, your hands don’t look weird, and your eyebrows don’t need dyeing,
The lines on your face tell me you’re not a drone, and the grey in your hair is damn sexy,

I don’t know when I’ll meet a guy who is someone that I’d want to marry,
but I won’t rush into things, headstrong and blinded, just so I can close on that chapter,
I’m perfectly happy when I’m all alone, although sometimes I still feel lonely,

But happiness is something you share, not something you marry.

So for now I’ll go solo,
and I’ll eat by myself,
and go to see shows,
and travel alone,
and not lose the duvet,
and hang with my friends,
and visit my family,
and look after the cat,
and keep writing songs,
and that sounds like a good way of living.

Yes I’m fine going solo – I’m fine.

That said, I’m open to offers…

Wires

Wires is an album about stories and messages. 12 songs that grow from the piano and vocals to tell you about loves lost and found, intimate moments between people, the ways we struggle to interact with each other, and the resilience we find after heartbreak.

The songs were written over a period of a few years while I was mostly playing piano for other songwriters and performers, but slowly the songs took over and demanded my attention. I went solo and took the time to keep writing and focusing on my own music, and performing the songs at open mic nights and songwriter sessions all around Ireland.

It was recorded between April and August 2011 with a few days snatched in April and May initially, in Charthouse Recording studios in Dublin. After those few days I knew more about how I work in a studio environment and exactly what I wanted these songs to sound like. I ran a crowdfunding campaign throughout June 2011 which enabled me to head back into the studio in July and finish off the record.

Find out more about each track on their individual pages:

  1. The Bliss Returns
  2. Helen
  3. I Wish You Were Here
  4. Codail Sámh
  5. Is This What They Call Romance?
  6. Phoenix
  7. Restless
  8. Rerun
  9. Take Me Away
  10. Sanatorium
  11. Galway Rain
  12. Wet Feet




Download this version of the digipack artwork (pdf) to make your own album art if you’ve bought the digital version of the record, but fancy having something tangible.

This artwork was designed by the very talented Dónal Mulligan.

Annika Hammer

This is my dear friend Annika Hammer, (Nika), who I was in university with many years back. We don’t see each other very often, but when we do, we invariably end up at a piano at some point. She’s one of the few people I’ll fire off demos of new songs to and be comfortable knowing that I’ll get really constructive feedback from her, and her musical sense is one that I trust.

Although we studied classical piano together, she was very much steeped in Swedish folk music, and has been in a few different Swedish folk groups since, as well as maintaining her classical and solo pop stuff too.

Before Christmas, she uploaded some demos of her own songs and some gorgeous cover versions, which I’ve been completely addicted to ever since. I’d heard her doing a cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” the last time she visited me here in Ireland, and I absolutely adored her take on the song, so I was glad to see that she’d posted that on Soundcloud too:

However, perhaps my favourite of the covers is a Swedish song that I didn’t know of before hearing her sing it, but it seems to be quite well known. “Utan dina andetag” written by Joakim Berg, from the band Kent, and seems to have been a B-side, according to what wikipedia tells me. Another Swedish singer Carolina Wallin Pérez did a lovely stripped back version of it in 2010.

But, I’m a complete sucker for Annika’s voice and her piano playing, and I’m loving her version of this song. Even if you don’t understand a word of Swedish, the melody of this song is undeniably gorgeous. Beautifully written.

This one is her own, and she’d previously sent me this and another track to lend an ear to, and this one was my instant favourite and still is:

You can hear more from Annika over on her own Soundcloud page where you’ll find two more original songs, and some gorgeous Swedish folk songs too.
Over on her MySpace page she still has a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Conversation” up, which was recorded on the piano downstairs here, and she also has a recording of her classical side, playing a Mozart piano sonata. (There’s nothing this woman cannot do.)

The Swedish trad band she is in also, Sheik, are on Soundcloud too (I recommend their youtube too, as the band are all beautiful.) And her gorgeous piano & flute folk duo, JONI are only on Myspace from what I can see, but trust me, you want to hear those tunes. Just flute and piano, and gorgeous.