Over the past three months nearly a dozen people have asked me about my live streaming setup. So I am going to talk to you about my journey and hope it helps yours.
Live streaming is a minefield. It’s all we have at the moment. And it’s dependent on technology. To help with live streaming I did this little online course in it. The course was useful but it was clever too because it kind of sold an unachievable dream. Ireland hasn’t got a culture of tipping musicians. Nor has the UK. Monetizing a live stream is really difficult without making it an exclusive ticketed link. So don't worry about this unless you are Jim in Lanzorote playing "Grace" for Margaret in Youghal or something to that effect! My experience is from doing live streams to find more people who are interested in my Original music. and some Cover songs
So what could i do? Well firstly I asked around for help. The first person to help me was Uilleann piper Darragh O Heiligh. Darragh gave me a loan of a Zoom H6 portable recorder and interface. There are a few things this allows. It can be used as an external mike on a smartphone. It also has a built in compressor or limiter depending on what you need. All of my best live streams with Breifne were with an SM57, Rode NT1 and the stereo mikes on the Zoom H6, ALL of these location streams were on 4G (I use Wifi at home).
Tips for streaming with 4G or 5G:
I’ve seen government funded venues and arts centres, a few savvy graduate bands and well backed label acts pre-recording live streams professionally and then interacting with fans as they play them live. Some have even managed to do it with a 2 minute delay which is amazing and I would love to take part in something like that. The kind of equipment you need for this are:
How’s your week going? Have you got enough Lockdown time to catch up on things? This week’s post is about the interviews I had with Blarney Pilgrims Podcast host Darren O’Mahony last year.
The Blarney Pilgrims Podcast is worth taking in. The Episodes contain some of the best Irish Traditional Musicians from all over the world.
Darren and I spent our youth in the South Side of Drogheda. We know the same people and went to the same schools. Darren is a few years older than me. And you can say our trails of youth were very simliar! Even our sense of humour has a lot of shared context from growing up in the same place. So it was easy to get going during the interviews.
Before the interview I wasn’t familiar with the Blarney Pilgrims Podcast. Darren had asked me mid-album launch during a 5 gig long crazy Fleadh weekend in 2019. I agreed because I was good friends with some of his friends! This made for an interesting chat between us! The link to our chats are HERE.
Listening to Blarney Pilgrims Podcast has given me an unwaivering sense of ease when it comes to fitting into the sphere of Folk Music. In a way, We are all Charlatans. This whole subject of fitting in is so inherent in us as humans I believe. And during the writing for my upcoming album Welcome to Ballsgrove I wrote a song about this that didn’t make the final track list. It is called “We are all Charlatans”.
We are all Charlatans (Unreleased Original Song)
If your daddy was post man, would ye folly in his footsteps?
If your mother was a housewife, should ye folly in her footsteps?
This is your life here's the book, should you pick it up or drop it?
Commit or escape, For the art or the profit?
This path was not walked by lonely man,
Ideas they are shared with your fellow man,
You belong here… We are all Charlatans…
If the trades in your family, would you folly in their footsteps?
Or if they never built anything, should you folly in their footsteps?
Keep er lit man keep er lit, Every spirit is worth mixing,
If you were never born anything, Should you feel like something’s missing?...
If they put two hands in the fire, would ye folly in their footsteps?
If the truth proved them a liar, should ye folly in their footsteps?
Would ye just do it do it do it do it… Follow the blind logic?..
Should we resist the change, Embrace the condition,
Keep er lit man keep er lit….
Every spirit is worth mixing… Every Spirit is worth mixing.
Most days when I'm not working on or preparing for night shifts I wake at 7.30am or earlier. I would like to say I practice my transcendental meditation and do my Prahma Yoga stretches after a swim in the cold Irish Sea. But I don’t! I’ve learned slowly to be disciplined in a simple way.
I wake early, change nappies, prepare breakfast for twin baby girls and then I check in with social media and emails.
I’m simple. And my world is simple. The only difference between me and the next lad who is mad at the world is my mindset. And goals to drive my purpose. You can look at things and say “I can’t even go to the gym / pub / social club”. And I could look at things and say “I’m changing nappies and working and being a Dad and I don’t have time for anything else”. But I find the time. I drive myself into figuring out how the fuck I will promote my music in during a gig famine.
Where am I going with this? What about you? You can’t get out and do what you normally do at the moment, can you?
I remember talking to a Logotherapist who explained how mindset is important in crisis situations. With simple anecdotes he was able to explain this to me. Here are two anecdotes I really like.
Sports and Military philosophies are bubbling to the top during feckin COVID. In Sport, like GAA for example, you operate under restricted boundaries. Things happen beyond your control. Sometimes things happen in the GAA that are completely unjust. Controlling the reaction of any group to anything revolves around mindset. The Military is the same - imagine war for example. Is there time to dwell? The Military has made mindset an integral part of their training - the US Navy Seals for example.
So you. Are you feeling like this COVID shite won’t end? Like you aren’t connected to your friends anymore? Like you just can’t make something happen?
You have goals that you have always wanted to achieve. Or a bucket list! Don’t let money control it. Control the controllable! You can still draw up that list. You can still imagine what it’s like in that new place. You can still learn that beautiful language. Those 4 or 5 things will come clear to you in amongst the 1 thing that is wrong.
If in a few months I’m playing a gig somewhere and someone says “i looked up Logotherapy man”, I would end up talking to them all night. I like to talk about meaningful shite.
Set your goals and write a bit of a journal and carry on. Be simple. Simple is how we are meant to be lads and lassies.
GO. GO. And find those 4 or 5 things you can get right in amongst all these shitty virus driven wrongs. And get in touch if you are in a cul de sac. There's always a way brothers and sisters.
Therein is the hope that hope will give.
All the best,
When it comes to songwriting I started off writing Rock Songs. As a band called ‘Mediator’ we were best known for our song “Away from Here” which reached the finals of the 2FM Song Contest where we played to a sold out crowd in Vicar St. We didn’t win though. My voice cracked during the high part of the song during the last rehearsal which was recorded for the judges to decide the winner before the crowd got there. I was devastated. It was the greatest lesson of all to start singing songs closer to a key that suits me and - most of all - to prepare my voice properly before I sing high. If you want a laugh look at the videos below this blog post.
There’s a point you get to in life where you realise you aren’t going to change too fast. Usually at that point you start to know your weaknesses. We know ourselves enough to avoid our weaknesses. Musically speaking, a weakness I avoid is dwelling heavily on a piece of writing or a recording. There is this middle ground where the song lives. Where the essence of the song exists. And then there’s all the fluffy bits. Fluffy bits can be important. But not as important as the essence. So here’s what I tend to do:
Write the song -> Record a little demo -> Leave the song alone for a week
Go back to the song and gauge the mood of it -> Tweak it a little bit
Leave the song alone for another few days -> Decide where the song fits in.
Plenty of times this has gone out the window. I have gotten carried away in the moment by what was influencing and driving the song. Then the song ends up being shared on social media when it shouldn't have ended up there. And that has been a weakness I have tried to avoid. It’s at points like this where it is crucial to get some mentoring. Admittedly, I have lacked any guidance in my songwriting life. So I have ended up learning the hard way when a song's message is mixed up or if a song did not reach its potential.
This brings me to ‘Holy Hole’, the song I shared with you all this week. I considered many things before sharing the song. But the overriding thing was that the essence of the song felt appropriately timed. Lots of music artists hold back at this point and say “I have to get to the studio and wait til I get such and such to play strings on this and then we’ll do that”…Usually by then the fluffy bits take over. Videos. Press Releases. Promotion. Production. Mastering.
Sometimes the importance of an issue and raising awareness takes a front seat over impressing your peers with Fluffy bits. With “Holy Hole” this was the way I was thinking. I didn’t want to moan and share some quotes on Social Media. I wanted to share my bloody song because it says what I want to through music.
The Church and the State have so much to answer for. The victims are getting older and older. And they need to know what exactly went on over their heads. This HAS to come out.
For posterity alone, let’s say I momentarily give in to my weakness of over analysing ‘Holy Hole’, what does the song say?
“While the Taoiseach and TD’s they kneeled down for Mass, Our babies slept under the grass”
A green area with a small grotto was the only remains of the County Home in Tuam. Under the green area is a mass grave that still hasn’t been fully excavated. What I called a Holy Hole. Learning about this grave appeared to be the beginning of Catherine Corliss’ realisation that there was wrongdoing in Tuam. And from records in the 40s and 50s there appears to be enough evidence to show that the State was aware of the conditions in the County Home.
“While the Emperors Bath sits in the Vatican state”
Nero’s bath in the Vatican is an artifact that is not of ecclesiastical significance. It is estimated to be worth over 2 billion euro. It is an example of the type of Wealth the Church had acquired from the Roman Empire yet they ran these Homes in Ireland more or less at the expense of the State. They supplied cheap labour on all fronts from the people in the Laundries to the Nuns in Charge. The Church never purges it’s wealth but expects worshippers to do this. Is this so they can buy their way to Heaven?
“Children are wanted by American friends, Ordered by mail and the money was sent”
100’s of children in the mother and Baby homes were adopted by Middle Class American families. How many? We don’t know. How much money was received by the Church after the plane fare? We don’t know. We know most of the families meant well. But does that mean the truth shouldnt be out there? No. They shouldn't be allowed to bury this.
Everything I said was with careful consideration and respect. And through sheer human nature I can’t but be pleased when the song hits a note with somebody. This leaves me open to criticism and I accept that. I’m brave enough to put up with a few arseholes. No problem.
Have a nice weekend,
NOTE: I want to apologize at this point because I say “Orphans” in the song where I should have said “Children”. Because it was well known that the Orphans were treated slightly better than the kids of fallen Mothers.
How’s things? This year’s New Year fad is planting vegetables. I made a bit of a boo boo and planted some sprouting Garlic seeds the day before the Snow arrived this week! I have plenty of work to do on the raised beds though. If any of you folks have advice for me get in touch through my Mailing list or on Social media. I’m planning to plant Rocket, Spinach, Kale and of course, Garlic!
What have you got going on? One of the best things I ever did last year was subscribe to Audible. I read loads of books last year. Books I have read include:
Make your Bed by William H McRaven - a great read to show how simple military teachings can help us overcome the biggest challenges. This is a short audio book and is perfect for a lazy afternoon.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield - this is a book for anybody who doesn’t feel like they have reached their potential. Or who feels like they are procrastinating or are afraid to face any judgement. It was a good old kick up the arse for me. Thanks to my pal Welly for recommending this one.
Range by David Epstein - this is in the top 3 books I have ever read. The ideas fleshed out and suggested in this book are revolutionary. Everything from Golf to Music to Product development is used to describe how Generalists have begun to thrive in an increasingly specialized world.
The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan - this book has the simplest concept. Can we focus our energy onto one thing? Obviously family life and providing are the top priority. But outside of that?
The One Thing encouraged me to cancel a lot of commitments I had in my life outside of playing and promoting my music. It’s my belief that Ireland, with a population just over half the size of Greater London, can’t support many Full Time Folk Musicians. So I have committed to a dedicated Semi-Professional approach and I’m looking for like minded individuals to start a little team. “The One Thing” led me on to a really fruitful creative time which has continued up until now.
So I went from Garlic to Greater London, did you like that? If you did have a think about Subscribing to my mailing list.
All the best,
Craft Beer and Independent music are peas in a pod. Both industries are in adverse markets. With Craft Beer, it sometimes doesn’t matter how good the Beer is for some buyer to be tickled enough for it to land on the shelves of major retailers. And in Music, when Record Companies work with the right PR people who know big press you end up “on the shelves” quickly. Quality can be an afterthought. Money, the catalyst.
And then there is the Long Tail element. The Long Tail (left) is explained here. About 15 years ago I did a songwriting workshop with Canadian Songwriter Emm Gryner in the Droichead Arts Centre. At this point I was green when it came to networking and etiquette. Almost rude I admit! So not a lot went in despite having a good teacher. (Sorry Emm)
Emm was a pro and delivered the workshop in style. At the end of the week Emm gifted us all with a copy of Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail. The book sat in my bedroom for about 6 months until I started to read it. Many years later I found myself realising it had predicted how diverse the music industry would become. And Craft Beer boomed too. Independent Musicians took more and more market share. The Long Tail it seems has come to fruition. What a nice gift. Thanks, Emm.
"What makes the ‘Tail” so healthy?"
Well for example Craft Beers can get launched with hilarious names like “Fresh Prince of Kildare” by Trouble Brewing. They don’t just get launched after a million meetings with suits. They get launched FAST. Which means trends can come and go but the agility is breathtaking. And the names are hilarious. In music it's possible to release Grammy winning pieces of work from your bedroom. A la Billy Eilish. Its also possible to quickly record and launch a single in a matter of weeks. To be more opinionated. And Independant.
What’s more there is a great community. And success stories to boot, like Brewdog and Hozier (Rubyworks). Both Craft Beer and Independent music is still growing. Yes it might cost a little more to grab a vinyl from a self funded Indie but a massive chunk of that money isn’t covering 4 star hotels and meeting room expenses or rates in some City Skyscraper. It's a small manageable set up cut to suit it's needs.
"Heres a stat for you"...
Craft Beer is SIX TIMES more labour intensive than Macro Beer. Meaning only one thing - lots more potential jobs!
"But I just don’t like Craft Beer its really bitter"
Craft Beer makes all styles of Beer. Not just IPA’s and Pale Ales. You can buy Helles, Lager, Kolsch, Cider and Table Beers. Non alcoholic beers! And the Alcoholic strength varies too, Table Beer and Micro IPA’s can range from 2.0% to 3.8% whilst Lagers are generally 4.0% to 4.8% the same as the Marco Lagers. And what’s more in Ireland the Barley is generally Irish, made by Irish workers, labels by Irish producers with the only imports being the Bottles and the Hops. Some breweries, like Wicklow Wolf produce a small quantity of their own hops in Locavore - a fantastic seasonal beer.
"I don't pay for music. It’s not worth it when I can stream it"
Then don’t pay for the music! If you like the Artist, share what they do on social media. Go to their gig! Stop at the Merch stand and see if something floats your boat. In the long run this will matter more to the Artist. Just like Beer there isn’t one choice and your hard earned wonga will land in the right places if you want it to!
This Christmas have a think about the little circle that society has. Where do you fit in? Are you taking in or giving back? Nobody is asking you to go all out with this. But it would be nice to imagine where that Euro actually goes just before you buy.
For a list of truly independent beer producers check out BEOIR. Don’t get hoodwinked by the big boys!
Happy Listening and Boozing this Christmas,
Zoom / Whatsapp / Skype etc. Portals! This ability to connect through a device. Anyone remember the movie “Demolition Man”? Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock have this sex scene. Are we going that way?! Holy Mother of Divine baby Jaysus - I hope not!
Music sessions have been a tiny bit like Demolition Man. Headset on, visuals engaged, doing our best! And in fairness, a bit of a buzz. But is it the same? Kind of!
The joy in virtual sessions for me has been seeing older people really buying into technology. I go to singing sessions on Zoom. One in particular has many older folk. And they have really gotten into it. And I think Jaysus, what a leap it is to get into it. Fair play to them. I really hope I never abandon technology! Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to be a Peter Pan but there is a joy in discovering or even speaking the same language as younger people.
This is why I like Tik Tok so much. I howl every time I log onto it even though I'm 34. So much funny stuff and clever comedy. For me Tik Tok is a big laugh. Facebook is community. Instagram is for vanity and Twitter is for people with notions. That’s my take - don’t shoot!
But with Zoom music sessions in mind I have to mention Sean Faulkner, Dara Yeates and the Goilin crew. There are so many more. I’ve heard Robbie’s first Friday and the Bray Singing Circle have dipped their toes in Demolition Man world. Fair play to you all. As an observer I’m delighted to hear about the singers you have hosted. I commend your diligence. And adore your passion. I wouldn’t be great with words but I hope you catch the sentiment. Keep on keeping on!
All the best,
How are things? You have probably seen that the single launch for Welcome to Ballsgrove was cancelled. I was 99.9% sure Level 3 would mean the proper opening of pubs. It was not to be chaps and chapettes!
Let’s talk about the brass tax.
Recording of Video & Song: 1000 euro
Promotion, Graphic Design & Photography: 400 euro
Bandcamp net sales to date: 32 euro
Radioplay royalties etc: < 100 euro (not in yet)
Hours of contacting stations / publicity etc: 100 + hours
The single launch gig was important. It was to recoup some losses from the months of saving to get the Welcome to Ballsgrove out. To have some craic and feel the buzz of a gig again! Recoup enough to get the wheels turning again.
Spotify doesn’t pay anything. Well it does if you get connected to a playlist curator, get regular national exposure or if bloggers/tastemakers get the horn for what you do! One thing doesn’t usually happen without the other unless you have the contacts built up. But everyone needs Spotify. Isn’t it all a bit catch 22? And all a bit sore on the Póca.
I shouldn’t dwell on this. But I am letting you know about the costs because Artists have basically no Gigging income now.
Consequently the whole Welcome to Ballsgrove album launch is now delayed by a few months. One must weigh up paying the bills against pursuit of anything. There's maturity needed. And that’s it.
All this talk reminds me of when I graduated from college into a recession. I took a job in an office checking invoices. Nothing to do with what I studied. But the student loan had to be paid. So off i went travelling 12 hours a week to Dublin for 330 euro a week. When you take out 60 euro for bus and another 30 euro a week or lunches I wasn’t far off the Dole (less than the COVID payment!).
Sometimes you have to swallow your pride for the greater goal. Which is why I am happy to share why the Album has now been delayed.
Take it easy and talk soon.
All the best,
How are things? Something occurred to me. It was that I haven’t been in a real music session in ages. If I was getting a session together in Drogheda I have my hitlist of people to call! These people pop into my mind now although there are dozens more who grace us with their presence from time to time!
I’ll start with Breifne Holohan and Trudy Maguire who play in a group called Uisneach. They both have collaborated since their college days in Dundalk IT and continue to play together. At the 2019 Fleadh, Uisneach played a set on RTE Radio 1’s John Creedon Show.
Donal Ó Maoileán is another man who would get the whatsapp nod! Donal has a ton of talents in his locker. I remember watching him act in a play called “The Stag” just days before the first lockdown in March. He has a big ballads voice. Loves the craic. He’d be my favourite teacher if I had him teaching me in the Gaelscoil!
Seamus Walsh would also be contacted by whatever means necessary and between Seamus and Donal the bodhran duties would be exchanged!
How could I leave out the Tí Chairbre gang? Every Wednesday for over 30 years an unaccompanied singing session takes place in Tí Chairbre. Is it the longest running weekly session in Ireland? It’s a Zoom session at the moment! It moved around over the years in day, place and time but has been a constant in Drogheda. Too many names to mention here but I will mention three. Seán Faulkner, Ruth Campbell and Dessie Howard would be getting a bell and some more of our mutual friends from Tí Chairbre would oblige them no doubt!
Dromiskin based Fiddler Roisín Ward Morrow would be getting the oul texsht as well. Roisín and her Drogheda Mammy Maria Clarke are always good for a song! Roisín has an album out called By the Light of the Moon. This is an album of slow airs in which she collaborated with Breifne Holohan. Go check it out here.
SJ and Barry from Kern, Niamh Parsons, The Dunne Family, Seán Conway, along with Fearghal and Bronagh Barnes have all been in and around Drogheda many times. Both Niamh Parsons, Eimear Carroll and Seamus Sheils now help run a session called The Black Bird Singing Club every second Tuesday of the month in a pub called The Punt in Drogheda.
Last but not least is the pivot point in the Drogheda Folk Scene, Darragh Ó Heiligh. To be honest it’s likely Darragh would be making the calls. As they say in Drogheda, “he’s an oul neighbour of mine” as he lives a 5 minute walk from me. Darragh began to play at Drogheda’s landmarks long before I did. He has started something that is continuing now and that he is reknown for. I won’t always keep up with Darragh in a session but I will always have my ear turned towards the pipes when he is playing. PS - he’s a savage bodrhán player too!
What I like about this collection of people in Drogheda is that none of them are precious about songs and song collecting. Us younger ones could argue we never knew the joy of song collecting as it was a generation ago when you had to get the old tape recorder out and meet people. This type of work is a craft and I would urge any of the old collectors to inspire us younger folk. There are still plenty of great songs out there waiting to be heard.
The world has niched many of its its niches. And in this there is a pigeon holing of values both musical and in etiquette. I say boo to that. Folk music is always about the people so lets make it up as we go along again like our ancestors did. Like Frank Harte said “"those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs”.
So what about Drogheda then? Is it that mad place you heard about in the News? Absolutely not. A little homework will leave you in no doubt that the issue with trouble in Drogheda always was Garda resources. Notice how everything kind of stopped around the 2018 Fleadh and at Election time? Notice how it hasn’t kicked off since? There you go. Drogheda is no different to any large town. There are no demographical anomalies (although there might be if the Dart line goes any further North!).
Drogheda is a relatively normal town with a commuter class on its fringes and the soul of an old medievil town that has origins over 1000 years old. It has so it has!
Have I sold you on Drogheda yet?