- 11 Aug 20
The Cork native's fifth studio album is out now.
Cormac O Caoimh is fresh off the widely successful release of his latest solo album Swim Crawl Walk Run. On release, it was named 'Album of The Week' by RTÉ Radio 1 and called "delightfully sunny, yet poignant" by Hot Press.
The jazz-infused folk pop has a touch of the experimental about it, and Cormac blends genres with both innovation and ease. Sitting down to a phone call with the Cork-based musician, we discuss the ins and outs of the album, the streaming climate, and how the music industry has changed since he began his storied career.
What was Cork like to grow up in?
It's lovely. Small enough that you can walk everywhere, which is nice. A perfect size, full of music and full of art.
Who were your influences growing up?
As much as I was influenced by acts like the Hothouse Flowers, Something Happens, The Stunning, and Aslan, I was also hugely influenced by listening to the radio and UK and American acts. Go Betweens and Nick Drake would have been a favourite of mine.
Was this record influenced by those artists at all?
I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake, yeah. The first vinyl I ever got was Nick Drake, and it was like the old days where I was listening to the one album over and over and over again. But I was more interested in the rhythm of his words this time around, and with the title track, 'Swim Crawl Walk Run Ride Drive Fly', each word in that phrase seemed to be like a sentence and the whole line together seemed to be like a story. Rather than talking or writing poetry, in songs you can say one word and move on to the next thought.
Did you have any reservations about releasing the record during the pandemic?
Yes, I possibly could have changed the release date, but everything was already set in motion before the pandemic kicked off. It kind of relates to Luka Bloom's open letter on Hot Press talking about Spotify – the idea that there is alternatives. By the time the pandemic hit, I was already selling the album on Bandcamp. Bandcamp has that presale option, months before the release. I had four months of sales, and anybody who was a fan had already bought it in those four months, well before it was on any of the streaming services.
The whole conversation right now surrounding Bandcamp and Spotify is really interesting.
Yes, it definitely is. Spotify say it's an open thing and everyone has the same chance, but I certainly don't believe that. And I don't think they have time to listen to all the music. The last question that they ask when you're sending music to them is "how will you go about promoting the song yourself on Spotify?" That's not them judging the music, it's seems more about promoting the Spotify platform. Like, they're a massive global platform – and I've written the song! It should really be their job to promote it. The submissions they're getting every day are massive, I don't think they'd be able to listen to every song.
Was it a conscious decision to try to make this album more modern than your previous releases?
I didn't necessarily feel that was a conscious decision. I think it sounds the fullest and the biggest and the most well-produced. But in terms of a decision to get there, I'm not sure it was. It's still got the jazz-folk thing going though, for sure. But it sounds that way because of Martin Leahy, who produced it. The list of instruments he plays is so long. There's thousands of them. Drums, percussion, electric guitar, bass, I could go on all day.
Do you think that you like collaboration more or are you someone who has to sit in a studio by themselves?
I'd nearly always write songs on my own, that's one of those solo things. There are one or two co-writes on this, which was very new. We did them more for the craic, I didn't think they were going to appear on the final album. But they fit in quite well, so we left them in. In terms of the recording process, I'm less involved. I put my trust in whoever's there producing it. I'd record my bits and we'd talk about what vibe we were looking for. There's more involvement in discussing what songs are going to go down. I've been playing with Martin for years, so we'd be very close. I was kind of unsure about the track list, I knew there were two or three that I wanted on it, so I said to Martin 'here's three songs, you choose which one you want to record?' and he was very clear about it. There was no hesitation, he' pick one and that was the end of it. There was no humming and hawing about which song. As soon as you sit down and play a song, all the flaws come to life much quicker.
But even before he started putting stuff down, he'd be listening to me playing and tapping his foot, going, 'that's quite catchy', so when we were having a dilemma about what could be a single he seemed to immediately know.
Listen to and purchase Swim Crawl Walk Run below.