Dave O’Grady is a folk and blues influenced singer-songwriter. Hailing from Dublin, he now calls Liverpool home. Working on Sandi Thom’s album, he met Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes. He has been touring America with Robinson for the past two years, and the two have formed new band Seafoam Green. Their debut album is to be released early in 2016. He spoke to Clarissa Land about his music and career.
iSing: What’s your song writing process?
Dave O’Grady: I have to be alone. As a singer, you’ve got to know that no one can hear you so you’re willing to push the boat out and try all the stuff that sounds silly or clichéd, to clear the pipes for the good stuff to come through. I write the music first and that derives an emotion from you. A chord will jog my memory, then I’ll stick with that train of thought until I get a line that’s undeniable. You’ve got to make decisions based on what’s best for the song. You have to remove your ego from the writing, because you’re just lucky that the ‘muse’ is using you, the channel, the tool.
iSing: Tell us about the album
DG: Because it’s a band record, I’m freed up mentally to try things that I wouldn’t be comfortable with ‘me’ doing. I’ve gone in musical directions that I didn’t know I was interested in. That’s the great thing about working under a pseudonym. There’s a folk/Americana, rootsy, earthy essence to it, but there are also some very psychedelic moments. Some songs are eight minutes long. We weren’t shackled by any preconceptions of what it was supposed to be.
iSing: What are your thoughts on the current state of the folk scene?
DG: It’s hard to use the work ‘folk’ as a genre anymore because, in America, it’s a lot more traditional and borders on Country/ Americana. Over here [in the UK and Ireland] you have anti-folk. Ireland gets everything from the UK. People in Ireland are going to hate me for saying that. There are some great Irish bands that do really well, but it trickles down from the UK. Everybody can sing in Ireland, and everybody can play, but it’s more an incubator for artists than a market place.
iSing: You toured the states for six months last year and again for four months this year. How have you managed all this without releasing a record yet?
DG: Word of mouth, I think. And the other day I discovered that I’m on a bunch of torrents. There’s a big thing in America called the taper community. Bands do different sets every night, so people record the whole show and put it up online. People listen to a whole tour, two or three hours every night, just to say ‘they haven’t played that since Tulsa ’09’!
iSing: How do you use social media to promote yourself?
DG: I always find that people who are great at social media are really annoying, because it’s just talking about yourself online. If I’m at a gig or doing something cool then I’ll tweet about it, but I think when you go out of your way to get 10, 000 followers on Twitter then you’re doing yourself a disservice by creating a false reflection of how many people actually give a shit about your music. Maintain the integrity in your art and if people really dig it, they really dig it, and if not, they’re not supposed to. I don’t think anybody who buys a Nicki Minaj record is going to love what I do. But do I give a shit? No. Does Nicki Minaj give a shit? No. The people that turn up to your gigs, that’s real, and they’re the people you should focus your attention on. It’s like you have a really nice girlfriend who loves you very much, but you’re always chasing this incredibly beautiful, unattainable girl.
iSing: Which current artists do you love?
DG: The first time I saw Foy Vance was life changing. He’s the only artist I’ve ever seen that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room and that’s an incredible gift. People go to a gig because they want to be sung to, so sing to them! Woo everybody in the audience.
iSing: Have you ever had to supplement your income?
DG: I had a couple of bar jobs when I was 18. People forget that it’s a trade. There are two types of musician: people who have to be musicians and people who want to be musicians. The difference being, when the going gets tough, people who want to be musicians will get a bar job. And people who have to be musicians have to do more music. When a carpenter’s broke, he doesn’t mend shoes, he makes more tables and chairs. So if I need more money, I just need to do more music, instead of jumping ship and getting £6.50 an hour pulling pints and telling people that I was in a band once.
iSing: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
DG: (From Rich Robinson) It’s really cool to be rich and famous. It’s even cooler to be a good artist.