ECLAN SINNOTT waited a while to go solo. He has been making music for 50 years. He was a member of Horslips and of Moving Hearts, and a foil for Christy Moore for 30 years.
Only now has he released his second solo album, Window on the World, a collection of songs that mixes the mournful and the merry in lyrics as clear as water. It has been three years since his first album, I Love the Noise it Makes. It took so long to go solo because of a lack of confidence and also because he was finally asked to do it.
“It’s easier for me to explain why I did do it than why I didn’t. I was 61 years of age and this guy offered me a record deal. It was genuine, from Warner Classics in the UK. I turned my back on a few things, because I wasn’t sure I was up to it, but in this case I thought ‘I’ll have to do it’.”
This time around, he’s helped by the harmonies of Vickie Keating.
Sinnott grew up in Wexford, the son of a jeweller and optician. His access to pop music and the blues was patchy, restricted to 15 minutes a week on RTÉ radio, stolen moments listening to Radio Luxembourg under the covers of the bed he shared with his brother, out of earshot from disapproving parents, and the three blues albums he shared with three mates at school. One of them had to go without on the merry-go-round. He learned the guitar by eavesdropping on a neighbour.
“I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 13. There was a fella who lived not too from me who played in a showband. He used to practice in his front room. I used to go down and stand with my back to the wall, beside the window, and listen to what he was practising. I spent the last 40 years thinking he didn’t know I was there, but he told me he always knew I was.”
At 19 years of age, Sinnott set off for Dublin, to get closer to where the music was happening, putting his name down on the list at any of the blues or folk club venues that allowed musicians to get up on stage if they had a few songs to play. Phil Lynott was at the same game.
After the sessions, Sinnott would cadge a spare bed in someone’s house, or else sleep rough in St Stephen’s Green or on concrete floors at the back of Trinity College. It was at one of those coffee-house sessions that Eamon Carr spotted him. The pair later formed part of the original line-up for Horslips. Sinnott left the band before it released its first album. He was disillusioned with the direction the band was heading, which he believed prized style over substance.
“I disagreed with the band a lot. I couldn’t see what it was about. I still don’t see what it’s about. It’s not my kind of music. I got that it had a cool, kind of new thing about it, but I thought the music was shabby,” Sinnott says.
Several years later, he ended up alongside Moore and Dónal Lunny in Moving Hearts. For a while, in the early 1980s, which included a legendary three-day-a-week residency at the Baggot Inn, in Dublin, they created some live magic. “People were just blown away. The records don’t do justice to the band’s live sound.I would say, for two-and-a-half years, at its best, it was an incredible band. We were like a heartattack.”
Declan Sinnott’s album, Window on the World, is now available on CD and iTunes. Upcoming gigs include Saturday, July 4, with Christy Moore and Jim Higgins, at Live at the Marquee, Cork. clansinnott.com.