Taken from Dreaming is Allowed, my debut album, The Commuters Song has been a polarising song for reasons that I understand and acknowledge with respect.
It seems like now is the right time to talk about the song in the context I intended it.
A couple of years ago I remember doing an interview for Irish Music Magazine. Seán Laffey (from the Magazine) called me up and we spoke for almost an hour about a varying degree of things! Then Seán mentioned the Fado Musicians in Lisbon. These Musicians were early European songsters who wrote Urban Folk songs about their world, their city. A sad fact about these musicians and this genre is that the Touristification of Lisbon has gotten so huge that most of the musicians now have to be BUSSED IN to play their gigs to the Tourists in the City. The Fado identity is being changed by poor policy decisions in Lisbon.
Above: Fado Sculptures in Lisbon, where Female Fado singers do most or all of the singing
Back to Dublin. And to Drogheda. When we fly into Dublin Airport we are struck by the green fields of Fingal, the area North of Dublin Airport. How beautiful it is. Has anybody wondered why Ashbourne, Rathoath, Drogheda, Laytown and Bettystown have thousands of homes with no amenities built around them? When there is practically no development in places like The Naul and Balrothery? There are some big additions like Balbriggan / Millfield and Rush / Lusk - all are close to the Railway lines. All are good for the commuter. There are reasons for this. But that’s a whole different can of worms I won’t open here!
Ultimately it was our Government who decided how to develop Dublin during our last great housing boom from 2003-07. People like O’Donnell, the character in The Commuter Song, ended up having the unique opportunity to buy back his rented house from Dublin Corporation for a really good price. People like O’Donnell then sold their houses on the private market for up to 100% more than what they paid for the house originally - because they wanted a bigger home with all the mod cons. But the bigger home came with a catch. It was miles away. Just like the Fado musicians, they traded off the local knowhow, the friendly faces and the childhood haunts for lower rents, bigger apartments/houses and for a fresh start.
How many families in Glasnevin or the now gentrified Stoneybatter hold all their identity and their childhood memories there? How many reluctantly traded it off for a move to another Town? That's what the song is about. It’s about the common irony of convenience. There always seems to be a price on things.
Drogheda's property inflation has effected my life. And it has effected all my friends who I grew up with and friends who I played GAA with. If I moved to Dundalk for example, I would pay about 60,000 euro less for a modest three bedroom home. Thats because of external bidders, not local demand.
So when I ask O’Donnell, “are the hours on the road worth your big Semi - D?", I am saying to people who move to Drogheda - move and be a part of the community. Move and take an interest in Regional Town life. Move and tell your children they were born in and are from Drogheda like Jim Gavin's Co Clare parents did when he went on to play for and manage Dublins Football team to unrivalled success in the GAA. Move to and spend your money in Drogheda. Move here and increase the value of life here. Create your own Culture around you. The price isn't so high when you do those things. Christ, why do you think I call my music Urban Folk? It is what it is. I'm writing about things that are actually happening in my town, Welcoming you to Ballsgrove on my next album! Move here if you want all those things. Thousands of you did. Thousands of you didn't. O'Donnell was one who didn't... but there is a happy sequel to The Commuter Song... and it's coming soon to you!
PS - on the subject, look up the Instagram page “Crazy house Prices”. This profile is run by a Dublin couple with an amazing attitude. They want to remain in Dublin. And they want to highlight the lunacy of the Dublin Market. David McWilliams (Irelands most renown Economist) had them on his podcast a few weeks ago and they really won me over. Go Follow them!
All the best,
The Guardians article on the Fado musicians
The Commuter Song!