Hello Cathal – so, where are you from & where are you living today?
I was born and raised in Camlough in Ireland – a classic tiny Irish village. I then studied for three years in Belfast (to get a physics degree I’ll never use) and then moved to Edinburgh in the midst of lockdown! Absolutely loving Scotland and the people, I feel like the Scottish and the Irish are very similar people and we share a sort of camaraderie.
Why the move to Edinburgh, & how do you find its music scene?
It’s funny to me when people ask why I moved to Edinburgh and not Glasgow because Edinburgh is a bit more of a tourist city. When you think of it though I really am just a tourist that refuses to leave. I think it’s just the most beautiful city and from a tour, coming back to this city just still makes me so excited! The music scene is great – it made it really easy for me to get back to being a full-time musician after lockdown.
What is your first musical memory?
I have too many first musical memories I think this is the problem. I come from a large family that’s steeped in Irish music… drowning is probably more accurate. We all play music and growing up, music was always playing and heading off to concerts every weekend. It was amazing being the youngest too because it meant I got to learn a lot from my siblings. My brother taught me guitar and was the first person to teach me songs that were outside of Irish music which is what led me to my sound today.
What instruments do you play & how did you pick them up in the first place?
Guitar and Kit mostly – I play drums for a band that I’ve been in for years now, Cuig. I started touring with Cuig when I was 15 / 16 years old and from then on I knew music is what I wanted to do with my life. My brother taught me guitar but picking up music initially was when I was maybe 8 years old or younger maybe. I was Irish stereotype of playing the tin whistle growing up.
Who has been your greatest musical influences over the years?
My influences are constantly changing, I think a huge moment for me that changed that way I heard music was discovering classics from Chet baker and Ray Charles and a lot of Randy Newman tunes. I remember noticing they all approached their recordings in a ‘less is more type of way’ and just really thoughtfully choosing the right voicings and inversions in their piano parts. But subconsciously I think people from my childhood like Cara Dillon and Jarlath Henderson are always going to have an influence on my playing, because that’s what my musical understanding was built on!
Desert island, solar power’d CD player, 3 albums – what are they?
It’s got to be;
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Chet Baker – Chet Baker Sings
In 2022, what are the essence of, & the ingredients to, your music?
I feel like my music is very guitar-centric and so writing for me always starts with something new on guitar wether it’s a new chord voicing, a new tuning and a new guitar tone and makes me feel like I’m treading on new territory.
Can you tell us about Montreal Sessions?
First of all… it’s out on the 21st of October! In February of this year I flew out to Montreal to work with one of my absolute heroes, Ariel Posen. It was off the back of coming out of lockdown and I went through period of feeling like I was making any progress and wasn’t happy with where I was at in my music career. Naturally when someone of Ariel’s caliber invited me out to record some music I was booking flights before the call was over. It was incredible – Ariel was able to call on some top class musicians to really nail down the vibe we were chasing.
What was the creative impulse that began the project & how did it evolve?
I wrote the songs back in Edinburgh and sent through some demos to Ariel and we just jumped on a few zoom calls and talked a lot of about the production side of things and references other tracks, we ended up with a solid idea of how the tracks would sound. We first got drums and bass drafted in from two guys from Winnipeg Kieran Placatka and Roman Clarke. Once that was done we headed back into the amazing ToneBender Studios in Montreal and recorded guitars and vocals. I just loved recording in Montreal and I think this could a theme I keep up for recording – heading somewhere completely new and getting out of my comfort zone. The tracks were mixed and mastered by Otis McDonald in New York, I first came across Otis in some videos from the band Scary Pockets, he is an incredible producer and multi-instrumentalist and it was dream to have him on the tracks!
What is your personal process, from writing a song to recording it in the studio?
I usually start with a small musical idea but a very strong sense of production in mind. I track the idea and produce around it to get the production elements around it. This helps me get inspired and to hear where the song could go next. In terms of lyrics – this is always something I do last once I have a basis of the melody. I take myself away from my guitars and everything distracting and focus on the lyrics separately.
You’ve just been touring the Montreal Sessions around Britain – how did it all go?
The tour has been amazing. Some of the biggest solo gigs I’ve played yet. One of the highlights was playing Londons O2 academy in Islington – because of the nature of Ariel’s fans being musicians, the audiences were so respectful and engaged. Half of the rooms were always guitarists. You would have a room of 500 people really listening and not making a sound during the set – it was really special!
You’ve got another gig coming up in Edinburgh this Monday, can you tell us about it?
The gig on the 17th is in Sneaky Petes and it sold out last week! It’s my first headline in Edinburgh. I’m bringing my band through for it also! It’s going to be a pretty special one for me. I just can’t believe it sold out so soon.