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Rourke this way
Not very long ago, Declan O’Rourke looked set for the big time. His fanbase included Paul Weller and he’d just signed to a major label. Global success IMMINENT – but things didn’t QUITE work out that way. Now signed to his own label, he talks about his period in the wilderness and explains why his latest album represents a whole new BEGINNING.
Olaf Tyaransen, 12 May 2011
The vast majority of Irish people probably don’t have all that very much to thank the Catholic Church for, but acclaimed singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke is a notable exception. When the Dubliner was just 13 years old, and living with his family in Kyabram, Australia, a local priest recognised his obvious musical potential and gave him a gift of a guitar.
“I always wanted to be involved in music when I was a kid,” the wonderfully corkscrew-haired musician recalls. “I was always kind of singing and stuff like that. And it happened to be a priest who gave me a guitar. It was a very nice gesture. I mean, I’d had a few guitars over the years – Santa brought me a couple of things, but all I did was bash them or break strings – but the priest actually showed me two chords as well. And that was the beginning of
O’Rourke’s musical journey is still ongoing. Fifteen years after that divine priestly intervention, he released his aptly titled and well-received debut album, Since Kyabram, in 2004. Today, we’re sitting in a snug in Neachtain’s Bar in Galway on a quiet Tuesday lunchtime (when not in Dublin, he spends much of his time in nearby Kinvara), and the musician is sipping tea and all set to promote his third album, Mag Pai Zai, released on his own independent label following an unhappy experience with a major.
Thing is, though, he’s not really the self-promotional type. Quiet, modest, laconic and self-deprecating, he’s definitely not on a hard sell. “There’s a few things there, alright,” he shrugs, when asked about the album’s themes. “Bit of love and storytelling and stuff. It’s a bit of a healing record in many ways.”
Healing from what?
“I dunno,” he laughs. “Probably just early thirties change of life – and lifestyle. I’m going ‘how the fuck did I get here? 35!’”
A former flatmate of Paddy Casey’s, he reckons he’s been making a full-time living from music since about 2003. “I had real jobs for years. Worked on sites and stuff. Worked with my dad. I struggled for years. But I always had this stubborn refusal to give in.”