- 08 Oct 19
One of the biggest pop-rock acts in Ireland, Little Hours has just released his long-awaited debut album. He talks writing from the heart, recording in the Donegal wilderness, and what the future holds.
John Doherty is reserved by nature. Though his music has become a fixture on the Irish airwaves, when you meet him in person, he’s decidedly soft-spoken.
We’re chatting during a busy lunch-hour in a pub in the centre of Dublin. Little Hours is getting set to release his debut album, Now The Lights Have Changed, a terrific effort filled with rousing pop-rock anthems. It’s an album about home, childhood and romance, sung in John’s beautiful honest voice.
“There’s songs on this that were written two or three weeks before going into the studio,” he says over coffee, looking fresh-faced despite a busy day of press. “Then there’s songs that are about five years old. It’s a good mix, and everything that’s there has a place on the album.”
John began to take songwriting seriously back when he was a teenager, penning tunes in his bedroom as a substitute for studying for his Leaving Cert. They were songs about small town living in his home in Donegal, but they seemed to ring true across the country. Having been nominated for the Choice Prize for Song of the Year back in 2015, and having been playlisted by major radio stations throughout the country, is it safe to say that he knows how to make a bona fide hit now?
He laughs. “The only thing that I think to say is, if you’re writing songs, you have to be honest. If it doesn’t mean something to you and you don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no point. A lot of my songs will start from me taking down these intense personal experiences, so that when I’m playing the song, I’ll come back to the moment that started it – then it’s real. It’s an honest thing. I think that’s the only way you can start it. You should write songs for yourself before anyone else.”
In the recording of the album, John teamed up with his old friend Tommy McLaughin, well known for his work with everyone from SOAK to Villagers.
“I’ve been friends with Tommy for years,” notes John. “I’ve done a lot of recording with him in the past, and I knew that Attica Studios in Donegal was where I wanted to do the album. And I’m really happy with how it went. We’ve just been on the same page from the start.
“It’s also just an amazing studio. It’s in the middle of nowhere. There’s no phone coverage, there’s nothing. You just go out there on your own for weeks and everything you make sounds so unique. It’s hard to describe, but it’s an incredible place to work and write.”
In recent years, Little Hours has toured with the likes of Hudson Taylor and Kodaline, and found himself placed in the same pop-rock category. But his music is perhaps more akin to artists like Foy Vance and Duke Special, in that he completely embraces his Northern accent.
“Again it comes down to honesty,” he says. “Honesty in the way you write, honesty in the way you sing. There’s no point singing in an American accent if that’s not where you’re from. It’s a unique thing. I’m glad to hear that people think it sounds different.”
Two years ago, it was announced that his bandmate Ryan McCloskey was leaving Little Hours. John has said that there’s no bad blood between the pair, but what exactly happened?
“Being in a band and doing music is just such a difficult thing,” John sighs. “I’m lucky that I knew that this was always what I wanted to do. Ryan just didn’t want to do that. It’s not for everybody. There’s no 9-5.
“But look, me and Ryan still get on so well. We still keep in contact. I was speaking to him recently and he wants nothing more than for this album to do well – so he’s still supportive. It just wasn’t for him.”
Was it a body-blow when Ryan first announced he was leaving?
“You know… we were just so busy. We were doing so much at the time, that all I thought was, ‘Just keep going.’ Obviously it was a shame, and it was weird for a while without him, but it’s slightly different. It’s a new chapter now.”
• Now The Lights Have Changed is out now.