- 29 Jun 21
Don't miss the enthralling new music video, premiering exclusively on our Hot Press YouTube channel at 3pm, June 29.
Jack O’Rourke has been enchanting live audiences since the release of his debut album, Dreamcatcher, in 2016. But when he returned to the studio in 2021, it marked something of a new departure for the enigmatic singer-songwriter. Now returning with a live video for his latest single 'Opera On The Top Floor' – recorded upstairs at Mike The Pies – the Cork native breathes new life into the tune.
The song itself was inspired by Michael O'Connor, the former owner of the iconic Listowel bar Mike The Pies.
"A lot of the songwriters that I love – like John Prine, who died during Covid – can write from the perspective of other people," O'Rourke says. "He has a song that he wrote about the guy who played the Elephant Boy, where he’s on tour, and is being jeered at. I think that ultimately, all songs come back to yourself – because all songwriters are narcissistic people!" he laughs. "But sometimes you identify with someone…
"I remember playing that gig at Mike the Pies. Aiden, the owner, brought me up to the attic, and he said, ‘My uncle used to run this place. He never married – he was quiet, stoic, and sensitive.’ He had a double life up in the attic after he closed the pub. He would paint, and he’d listen to opera. He was probably a man before his time. I found that idea amazing – this world that he created on his own. It’s sad in a way, because he kept it private. But in another way it’s cool, because he had a sanctuary to embrace those aspects of himself.
"I thought it was a great story," he continues. "I like writing about outsiders. I’m an outsider myself, so I can identify with that."
Writing the song on the piano initially, O'Rourke added a string quartet to the recording. "I imagined it with trad musicians," he explains. "It’s kind of got a folky melody. I don’t know why, but I can imagine someone like Lisa O’Neill singing it, or Lankum."
About recording the live video, O'Rourke says, "There’s something special about the intimacy of it – being in that room, recording it up there. I mean, it’s a little bit arrogant of me to write from what I imagine his voice was, having not met him. But I think it’s a celebration of his life as well.
"And the idea that he had this place where he could feel free, and be creative, and make beautiful art. It was cool to be up there doing it – it was like coming home."
‘Opera in the Top Floor’ is the first taster of Jack’s new album, My Own Valhalla, and is a paean to a previous owner of one of Ireland’s most iconic venues in recent times. Recently, the acclaimed singer-songwriter was chosen as a composer/songwriter in residence for 2022 at Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, and will perform with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in a tribute to Aretha Franklin (to be aired soon).
"We still have all of these songs – this is the first one," he says coyly of his upcoming plans. "I won’t say it’s a concept album, but the songs were all written during lockdown, in a very solitary space, on the piano. The emphasis was on the lyrics. The last album I did was much more pop-based. I was thinking about hooks, and synths. It was just a different vibe.
"I’m very eclectic in my tastes, but this one is about going back to my roots. The first instrument I learned was piano. That’s where my heart is – writing good stories, on the piano."
Be sure to tune into the stunning live video of O'Rourke's 'Opera On The Top Floor' below, at 3pm.