Usually, I start with a phrase or a few simple lyrics, then I try to find a melody to suit what I’m trying to say.
I grew up over a pub in Birr. I saw people from all walks of life coming in and out. There was always music in the bar, on the eight-track.
I was an outgoing kid. I started guitar when I was five. My parents got one for myself and my older brother. I was 14 when I started playing, wrote my first song at 15, and at 17 I had a band in school.
I was really into horse-riding and hurling and swimming, but music was the first thing I was good at without it having to be a competition.
I never wanted to be out front, that is such a weight to carry, and I wasn’t confident singing. I just wanted to lose myself in my guitar. But then we couldn’t find a singer for the Christmas concert, so I had to step in.
I got into music saying this is my way out of town, from the politics of it all — but I realise now that there are more politics in the music business.
At 17, I moved to Dublin and stayed with my aunt. She was very good to me. I started busking, playing pubs, making twenty quid here and there. I went to The International every Tuesday to play with people like Damien Dempsey and Luka Bloom.
One night, I was told two English guys from a record company wanted to talk to me. I was wary, I’d been warned about A&R guys, but they were for real. I signed a publishing deal, then a record deal. At 19, I was on the road with Alanis Morissette.
But I felt a lot of pressure and people started treating me differently, although I was still the same. Then my eight-year relationship ended. I started getting panic attacks.
The stage fright and panic and anxiety was terrible because I enjoyed gigging so much but I started doubting my ability. On stage, I felt claustrophobic, as if there was no escape.
The songs I’d written were so personal, I couldn’t believe so many people could get so much joy out of so much pain. I asked Glen Hansard for help, he said ring Luka Bloom, he said ring Christy Moore. He really did help but it was a long journey.
I was signed to Epic but dropped after two albums. I’d come back from a break in a recording session and the A&R guy would have made his changes, been and gone, leaving the work sounding much cleaner than I’d want. I felt I was losing control. Of course, I miss all the work a record company does for an artist.
I can be organised when I have to be but I didn’t get into music to be doing spreadsheets. At the moment, that’s what it’s like. I’m doing everything myself — from scheduling tours to helping raise money for the album on Pledge Music.
Being a songwriter and not being in a band has its benefits, as you have so much creative freedom, but it means you are always trying to get musicians together to gig with you.
It takes about a year for an audience to learn your album, when you’re out there promoting the songs. Then there is a glorious moment when you’re doing a gig and you realise, you don’t own the songs anymore — they do.
I started meditating a few years ago, which helps, and I know the value of exercise. I get back to swimming in UCD whenever I have to open an extra notch on the belt.
I believe you make your own luck happen. But maybe there is such a thing as fate. I met my wife Sarah on a skiing holiday, which I only went on at the very last minute.
I’d never have met her otherwise as we didn’t hang around in the same circles in Dublin. She works in advertising. We have two small kids, six and four.
Mundy, my new release, is my sixth studio album. It’s produced by Youth [AKA Martin Glover, Killing Joke bassist].
He produced my first. I hadn’t seen in 16 years when we met by chance. I told him I had writer’s block, finding it hard to write now I have kids.
He suggested we try a bit of co-writing. I explained I was still finding it easy enough to write the slow, from-the-heart, ballads but I was struggling with the upbeat ones.
He said: “You don’t realise it but you have those ones too — you’re just playing them too slow.” He came along just at the right time.
I’m not sure about an afterlife. I’m just trying to get through this one. I would be disappointed, though, if the next life hit me with a bill for the one I’m having.
So far, life has taught me that you never really know who anybody is. So best to be nice to them all.
My biggest fault is swimming out too far. I get lost in time and sometimes realise it’s a fair trek back.
The self-titled album, Mundy, is out now in most record stores or digitally on iTunes. Mundy plays Roisin Dubh in Galway on May 22, Whelans, Dublin, on May 23, the Pavillion, Cork, on May 29, Salmon Fest, Leixlip, on May 30, Dunmore East on June 20, Inis Fest, Ennis, on June 27, and Killarney Music and Food Fest on June 28. For more more details, see www.mundy.ie
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