- 04 Dec 20
Tipped as one of the Hot Press 'Hot For 2020' acts, Co. Down folk artist Matt McGinn has spent the last few years establishing himself as one of the most talented songsmiths in Ireland, with four acclaimed albums.
Over lockdown, Matt McGinn kept himself busy recording a new album – releasing 'Annie (Many Moons Ago)', the first single from the project, in August.
Matt McGinn wastes no time in kickstarting his livestream with his trademark husky vocal strength and ability to connect with any audience. With influences in folk and country music, garnering comparisons to the likes of Glen Hansard and Paul Simon, McGinn's unique storytelling abilities are unique to himself. His new album, Lessons of War, follows on from 2018's excellent The End of the Common Man.
Performing a track co-written with Bridget O'Neill that was inspired by the Syrian war and resulting mass displacement, McGinn's song 'Refugee' contains beautifully simple lyrics of compassion and melancholy. "I tried to avoid the news for many years and all of a sudden I had a smartphone and the news was right in my face, I couldn't escape it," he says of the track's origins. "I heard about what was happening in Syria, and this is the result."
Painting a portrait of what asylum seekers, migrants and refugees must sacrifice and suffer to try and find a safe haven, where often they are rejected, the song could relate to numerous other current tragic circumstances and human rights abuses. "You want want answers of why we had to leave / I can't reason, only just believe / But if I can't show you, I'll take you there / As long as we're not worlds apart / we can travel there on unmarked charts," McGinn sings, his raspy intonations adding a rawness to the track.
Mentioning his upcoming gig on December 12th with fellow Northern Irish songwriter Malojian, who he toured with in 2016 under the moniker 'Northern Lights' with Ben Glover, McGinn says that the show will also be available online. Next up is a stirring rendition of his most recent single, 'Annie (Many Moons Ago)'. Describing it as a "lockdown creation", the musician describes adding drums and harmonies and the talent of Niamh Dunne. Boasting a brace of Beoga members on accordion and fiddle, the song tells a tale of past lives and loves, and the absorbing lyrics and gentle melodies stop you in your tracks.
McGinn tells the tale of joining forces with Mick Flannery in Limerick, later writing a jarringly touching song with Ciara O'Neill inspired by the teenage diaries of Bronagh McAtasney. Scribed daily throughout the Troubles in 1980s Derry, McAtasney now tweets her former entries as @NrnIrnGirl1981, wondering whether she’ll get her hair permed in the same sentence as recounting the IRA men getting shot by SAS soldiers. The lyrics of 'Bubblegum' speak of boys and homework before touching on bombs in bars, riots and hunger strikes. The lack of understanding as a young adult makes the song all the more plaintive, as well as the desensitisation to violence without her will.
Another nostalgic story comes in the form of recent single, 'Lighthouse Joe', inspired by an island off Ireland that used to house a population of around 100 people and the former homes now lie empty. "Thanks for the years Joe, goodbye and good luck / leave the light on whenever you go," McGinn croons before recalling a time where he stayed in a lighthouse near Rathlin, with an ambience of past memories. He mentioned that Coldplay's long-time roadie is also called Matt McGinn, so if anyone wants to follow him on socials, don't confuse him with the roadie or the Scottish songsmith who passed away.
A track dedicated to a friend who was living with mental health issues follows, 'Darkest Before the Days'. The song couldn't have come at a more necessary time, with Christmas set to amplify loneliness for many people in Ireland after a tough year of loss and sacrifice for everyone. McGinn's words always appear to capture the right mood, with the ideal melodies for easy listening. Forming a close bond between audience and performer, his talents lie with his spirited way of relating to others and light-hearted ability to both orally and musically weave a tale with every note. Mentioning his 'Cocoons' weekly virtual stream, alongside Cormac Neeson of The Answer every Saturday, McGinn comments that their next guests will be Nashville musician James Isaac Elliott and Belfast songwriter The Mad Dalton.
Overall, Matt McGinn's Y&E Series livestream is not to be missed for any folk fan.
Watch his full Y&E Series performance below:
Up next on the Y&E Series:
Thursday, December 3: GEORGE HUTTON
Acclaimed Irish folksinger and lyric tenor George Hutton has shared stages with Glen Hansard, Phil Coulter, Hozier, Moya Brennan and more. He launched his solo career with the release of Chapter One in 2018, followed by Home earlier this year. George recently returned with an acclaimed new single, 'The Light'.
Friday, December 4: GAVIN JAMES
To coincide with the release of his highly anticipated new single 'Man On The Moon', Gavin James is set to make a special guest appearance on the Hot Press Lockdown Sessions' Y&E Series.
With 1.5 billion streams, 5.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify and sold-out arena shows, Gavin James has achieved phenomenal global success – simply by letting his songs speak for themselves. Now he's ready to step into the spotlight with one of his finest releases to date. His emotionally-charged new single, out this Friday, December 4, tells the story of the desolate loneliness of the 'Man On The Moon'.