Fogarty finally gains the upper hand

After years of fruitless struggle Seamus Fogarty is poised for stardom, writes Ed Power

Seamus Fogarty’s music should, on paper at least, be a bit of a muddle. The London-based Mayo songwriter splices heartfelt folk, confessional rock and experimental electronica — genres that do not necessarily play well together. But he makes it work — gloriously so, on his acclaimed new album, The Curious Hand.

“I embrace my mistakes,” he says. “I’m not chasing perfection. Accidents can actually help. What it’s about, really, is creating a little world inside the song.”

After years of thankless struggle, Fogarty is on the brink of becoming a big deal. The Curious Hand is released by Domino Records, one of Europe’s major independent record labels, with Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand among its success stories.

The reviews, moreover, have been swooning. Hot Press awarded The Curious Hand eight stars, The Guardian hailed the album as “stunning and mercurial”; Clash magazine praised it as “rollicking” and “refreshing”.

“It’s nice that people are having the same reaction I had when I was sitting in the control room listening back,” says Fogarty. “It’s the response you dream about.”

What’s especially impressive is how he conveys the joys, frustrations and dark humour that are part of growing up in small town Ireland — without sinking into the performative, self-hating Irishness that tends to go down well with the chattering classes in the UK, where Fogarty has been based since 2012.

“It’s that classic thing where you move away from home and you become more selective about the good parts and the bad parts,” says Fogarty, a native of Swinford (pop 1,400).

“You live somewhere like London and it’s the exact opposite of Mayo. It’s nice to get home — the air is so clean. Swinford was a formative place for me — a small community, which by definition has good and bad points. I would have grown up around a lot of strong characters — they do have an impact.”

Fogarty moved to London for love. He was previously been based in Limerick and had come into contact with acclaimed folk label the Fence Collective when invited out of the blue to support Fence stalwart James Yorkston in Kilkenny. It was the beginning of a creative relationship that would transform his career.

“I was in Limerick and a bit fed up,” he remembers. “At the time, I didn’t really know much about James. I thought, ‘well I’ll do the show’. So I went to Kilkenny and we got on well. About a month after that, the Fence Collective was putting on a festival in Scotland. I kept hassling them to get onto that. It was a woman that originally brought me over to London. The Fence connection was a factor too. I thought I would up sticks and give it a shot.”

Music is a full time occupation and behind the rumpled, self-deprecating manner Fogarty is clearly ambitious. His prospects are further boosted by the fact that his music is both earthy and avant-garde.

A commission for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in collaboration with a contemporary opera company, is testament to his ability to shoot high. He’s also at home in a more uproarious club environment.

“I just do what I like listening to myself,” he shrugs. “You just try different things and go with it.”

Fogarty is thoroughly unfazed by all the acclaim — and if happy to be part of the family at Domino, certainly isn’t intimidated by the label or its storied history. “You just try different things and go with it.”

“I actually recorded the album a year ago — before I’d even signed for Domino. It’s so long ago, you kind of forget was it any good. Then it comes out and it’s nice to have the reaction. I say to friends that if I’d known this time a year ago it would be appearing on Domino I’d have pinched myself. It’s great to be on the rise. We’ll go with it and see where it leads.”

  • Seamus Fogarty plays Workman’s Club, Dublin tomorrow; Roisin Dubh Galway Thursday; Roundy Cork on Sunday. The Curious Hand is out now


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