This much I know: Mick Hanly, singer/songwriter

Life should be a colourful experience. My advice is to try not to get trapped in the grey areas.

This much I know: Mick Hanly, singer/songwriter

I was quite an anxious child. I didn’t feel well liked or popular. I was always bashing into things and couldn’t slow down.

I needed to work off a huge amount of energy and I was looking for a way to gain approval. Maybe music gave me that.

The first time I performed in public was in fourth class in primary school. The teacher had announced we were going to do a class concert.

I went home and told my mum I needed a guitar. She suggested that I make one. So, I made a guitar from a cardboard box and practiced Cliff Richard’s ‘Living Doll’, I think it was, in front of the mirror.

On the day of the concert, I threw caution to the winds and borrowed my mother’s sun hat and a scarf. But, the teacher had completely forgotten about the concert and I was left standing in the yard with the outfit, and the cardboard guitar stuffed into a pillow case.

It was a huge school and drawing attention to myself was the last thing I wanted to do, but the minute we got into class, the boys yelled ‘Hanly has a guitar’ and they made me get up. I was terrified.

They yelled ‘he has a hat as well’. So, I donned the hat and scarf and gritted my teeth and did my song.

There was silence — followed by huge applause. It went on for ages.

That’s when I decided I wanted a real guitar.

When I left school, I tried doing engineering in UCD for a year but I didn’t fit in, more socially than academically.

I worked in the ESB for two and a half years. There was no bravery involved in leaving that job although I didn’t know how big the risk was.

I didn’t give it a huge amount of thought although I knew it would be terrifying for my parents when I told them I was moving to Dublin to pursue music.

They were proved right. Six months later I was working as a navvy in Tallaght.

But then I fell on my feet. I played gigs in Slattery’s and soon met Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.

Within a couple of months they became an overnight sensation with Chirsty Moore and Planxty. I opened for their first tour.

A lot in this business is luck.

There have been poor times sure, but I followed the dream and then ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ became a massive hit in America. I just happened to be in right place at right time.

I found performing in public difficult. For years, I was hiding behind the guitar really. It took me a long time to enjoy it.

There was an amount of fate in meeting my wife Marie. She was organising a fundraising festival in Thomastown, which is where we now live.

I work in the mornings, from 9.30am to 12.30pm. No more than that.

Songwriting is a hit and miss affair. You have to turn up each day. I have a plan for about an hour, seeing if a song develops. I envy people who write novels, who can make longer plans.

I pick my guitar up every day. It gives me absolute, pure pleasure.

My idea of misery is having anyone steal it.

If I could be someone else for a day, I’d like to experience being a native in Viking Dublin.

I’m an atheist. I have no time for organised religion. I think it has wreaked havoc on the world.

My biggest challenge was quite recently, I was diagnosed with bi-polar 10 years ago, but three and half years ago I had a serious dip. I went really down for a long time.

Eventually I flipped. I walked out on my wife and family and nobody knew why I did it. I didn’t know myself. Instead of going down I became manic.

Thankfully, I found a medication that worked. I take it every day and go for an hours walk on my own. I try to watch what I eat, I don’t drink or smoke and haven’t had one bad day in the last 18 months.

I was extremely fortunate and was able to repair my differences with my wife and children. I am thrilled that my enthusiasm has returned.

Now, I love gigging. I’m quite proud of my latest CD Homeland. I see it as another step.

I’m into my 60s now and have spent my whole life, and 14 albums, looking for my voice. This is the closest I’ve ever got.

I have no regrets. That is the best philosophy to have.

So far life has taught me that If you have a talent, you should try and honour it.

  • Mick Hanly will be on tour across Ireland during May. 
  • For more details, log onto www.mickhanly.com 

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