- 09 Dec 20
Some of Ireland's brightest talents are joining forces in the unusual setting of Iarnród Éireann stations to raise money for homelessness causes this week.
Covid-19 hasn't stopped Irish artists from partnering with the Focus Ireland and Iarnród Éireann for a fourth year to raise vital funds on the charity's Facebook and YouTube pages. Previously, choirs and bucket collectors were on hand in nationwide stations for the charity, rather than recording artists.
Hot Press speaks to Jack O'Rourke ahead of his gig tonight - Wednesday, December 9 - at 8pm in Cork's Kent Station alongside the Emer O'Flaherty Quartet, Mick Flannery and Emma Langford. Last night saw Mundy, Brian Kennedy, Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Coughlan and the Riptide Movement perform at Heuston Station.
First coming to prominence with 'Silence', which became an anthem for the Irish marriage equality referendum, Jack went on to release his debut album Dreamcatcher to widespread acclaim – peaking at No.5 in the Irish album charts. The Cork musician has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in Irish music – including Glen Hansard at Other Voices; the Irish Chamber Orchestra at Vicar St and vocals with Imelda May, Hot House Flowers and Bell X1. Jack is currently working on his next album, following the release of his critically acclaimed Ivory Towers last year.
Focus Ireland has been at the forefront of Ireland's homelessness services for years, what does the charity mean to you?
There’s many struggling on the streets of Cork and obviously, throughout the country. It’s heartbreaking and shocking. Focus Ireland are a vital resource of dedicated and caring heroes. So many need their help, I’ve chatted to musicians and artists, young lads and girls from all aspects of life at night. Many I’ve chatted to are LGBTI+ who were told to leave home, which struck a chord with me. So many marginalised groups and minorities need our support. There’s a perception that many sleeping rough are users or struggling with addiction. Some are and need are support. But many just have no foundation of help - employment gone or people just abandoned because of who they are - they need to be lifted up by the rest of society. Focus Ireland are a vital organisation to help so many forgotten individuals
Do you think that this year is even more crucial for these services, given the pandemic and tough economic times?
Of course. We’ve all become more vulnerable during the pandemic but we can’t forget those who need our support the most. Hopefully Covid has made us all more empathetic.
Can you tell us about your involvement in Iarnróid Éireann's 'Stations Sessions' gigs?
I'm buzzing to be involved, and it’s such a worthy cause. I miss playing to live audiences or the opportunity to play beautiful settings. A train station is so evocative, especially at night with mist and fog and lighting. There’s so many songs that romanticise trains and stations. People are leaving situations or lovers or returning to hugs and reconciliation. They’re so symbolic. When you throw music and songwriters in, that symbolism becomes magic. I’m very grateful to Irish Rail and Focus Ireland for the opportunity.
What artist are you most excited to see perform at the Station Sessions gigs?
I love Mick Flannery as a writer so his set will be engaging as always. Emma Langford is a great singer and I love Mary Coughlan’s new record where she’s recorded this stunning 'Blue Nile' song. I’m looking forward to seeing my tunes - the ones I performed are songs I wrote recently. I think I sneezed in the middle of both, so hopefully that’s been edited out!
What are your hopes for Ireland's live music industry in 2021 and touring in general?
I hope we can all bend together. The Department of Culture and Arts and FMC have Been helpful with grants. We will have to think of a way or build venues that cater to socially distant crowds! Bring on the vaccine! I miss the intimacy and feeding off the energy of a crowd.
How will you be spending Christmas this year, given the unusual circumstances?
I will be going for a Christmas sea swim I hope. I’m spending time with family and mates and I hope to write and get my upcoming album ready. And have a couple of pints!
Tomorrow's Station Sessions gig will see State Lights, Ollie Cole, Damien Dempsey and Erica Cody finish off the week's gigs in Pearse Station at 8pm. Tune in through the Focus Ireland Facebook page here or YouTube channel here.