In a brand new series of articles, Oxygen.ie interviews Ireland’s best upcoming musicians and chats about their influences, performing in Ireland and their hopes for the future. This week, Daniel O’Connor chats to Dublin singer-songwriter Colm Gavin
Musicians can often be divided into two categories; those who treat music astheir life, and those who simply don’t. Colm Gavin definitely falls into the first category.
From arranging the time of our interview around a music workshop he was teaching the day we spoke, to the way he casually name drops old Blues artists or Irish trad legends, you can tell straight away that Gavin’s life revolves around music.
It definitely shows in the quality of the body of his work. Since launching his solo career just three years ago, the young Dubliner has already been signed to BEO records, released a debut EP and album ‘A Voice For The Urban Darlings‘, and played gigs with some of Ireland’s most notable artists.
He insists though throughout our chat that this has been a long, ongoing journey which began when he was only 10 years old;
“Mam and Dad were massive music enthusiasts but neither of them were musicians,” Colm explains.
“I got advice from my music teacher to go into town, somewhere like Grafton St or Temple Bar and sing the songs you love listening to.”
“For me, that was the likes of Van Morrison, Elton John, Bob Dylan; that was my early education in performing”
Throughout his childhood, Gavin would continue his musical journey by being trained classically and playing in a number of different bands, experimenting with genres such as funk and reggae.
Eventually though, he would find himself alone in the spotlight as a solo performer. While you wouldn’t think it given the quality of his music now, he still insists that performing isn’t something that has come naturally to him.
“I found it massively daunting to begin with, because I am not a naturally gifted musician by any stretch of the imagination. Anything I got, I had to work for”
This work would pay off when he was signed by Irish record label BEO Records, something he describes as a “huge confidence boost”.
Under this label, he would release the 12-track album ‘A Voice For The Urban Darlings’ which serves as sonic proof of Gavin’s status as an alternative to the typical “singer-songwriter”.
On paper, the idea of personal, folk style ballads mixed in with blues-inspired, distorted rock tunes might seem jarring, but Gavin’s unique voice and songwriting style brings cohesion to the musical mix.
The jazzy single ‘Since Baby Went Away’ is something that comes across as both contemporary and retro, ‘Rollin’ River’ brings the tempo up with a song that is both subdued but highly impactful, and ‘Heaven Closed It Doors’ allows Gavin’s rock and blues influences to shine through while showcasing his talent as a guitarist.
Arguably the highlight though is the infectiously catchy ‘Good Morning Stephanie’; it’s simple, straight-forward and sounds like it could have come straight from the 1970s but it’s memorable vocal melodies, joyful chord progression and Gavin’s voice shining in the forefront that makes it a stand-out moment from the album.
It’s offering a little something to fans of a variety of genres, with Gavin explaining that he always wanted the variety of music he listens to shine out in the ecletic mix that is found on the album.
“One of the things I wanted to do was take a multitude of influences and synthesise them into 12 tracks”
“I’ve been lucky in the sense that being a solo artist I’ve never pigeonholed myself. I haven’t locked myself into one genre that if I did a jazz or blues track, it’d come across as unusual.”
“I never had the fear of asking am I this or am I something else? I try and freeform it as much as possible.”
The acclaim for the album has seen Gavin’s stock as songwriter rise, having already played a supporting slot at the Vicar Street venue and even receive radio airplay in the United States.
As much as the conversation between us might drift towards notable successes and milestones, Gavin always remains grounded. It becomes clear through his words and what he has already accomplished that this sense of humility is the key to his identity and success as a performer.
“Staying consistent is key; as John Lennon said “99% of the job is showing up at the desk”. If you can remain consistent it will give you the upper hand”
“One of the things have stood to me that I have adapted a sense of discipline; every day I do my four to four and a half hours of writing”
“Work will reveal itself. There are all moments where we lack in confidence but if you feel like you’re working, and working to your potential, it helps with that”.
Dublin, and Ireland in general, is lucky at the moment to have such a healthy scene which Gavin describes as “the healthiest it’s been in 8-10 years”.
While that leaves punters with plenty to choose from, singer-songwriters are facing the challenge of making the most of their opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
If nothing else, Colm Gavin is a stand-out artist. Not just through his songs, but through the personality and love of music he displays.
Plans for a second album are in the pipeline for 2018, but as I expected at the end of our conversation Gavin has his feet firmly on the ground by simply enjoying what he is doing and moving forward.
“For any truly great to happen, you have to be moving forward for a long period of time.
“It’s when you stop and look at far how you have come you think that if you had have stopped 3 years ago, this would have never happened,”
“There is a danger of looking back too much at past glories so it’s healthy to have an appetite to keep moving forward and being the best version of yourself.”
Gavin has both eyes on the future, and we’ve no doubt his listeners will too; exciting things are to be expected.
‘A Voice For The Urban Darlings’ is currently available on iTunes/Spotify/Amazon Music & Google Play.
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