It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since we first spoke to Robert O’Connor in March 2018 after releasing his single “You Found Me”, since then Robert has been busy with gigs and making new music.
Robert has taken time out of his busy schedule to have a catch up with us, here’s what he had to say.
What have you been up to since we last spoke?
“I have been busy! When we last spoke I was just about to release my comeback single “You Found Me” and I had no clue if I’d even get any radio play, or if anyone would care. I’ve had so much support and met so many amazing people since then over the course of four single releases. It has been hard work too, the man hours that have gone into getting the singles heard, and sometimes it feels like it’s a waste of time because a lot of the commercial stations and websites don’t even reply to you, but then you’ll hear back from someone who has been really touched by the song and writes a review that makes you think “Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be doing?” At the beginning of this year I started looking for musicians for my live band, and eventually I found a line-up that worked. We’ve been playing gigs since spring and it’s been amazing to have people to share the journey with. Sometimes I look around our rehearsal studio and just feel so flattered that the boys take the time to learn these songs I’ve written, and they play them with such pride”.
You have a new single “Real Good Fight” can you tell us a bit about the song?
“I wrote “Real Good Fight” last summer and I thought it was going to be another country-oriented track like the songs I had recorded last year, but then something happened in the gap between my Christmas single and going into the studio to record the song. I started listening to a lot more electronic music and thinking “how can I put my country storytelling song-writing into an electronic landscape?” and myself and Stuart Gray just played around in such a carefree way after I played him a few tracks by Kygo, The Chainsmokers, acts like that. Then I started to talk about more early 00’s production that I loved growing up – the likes of William Orbit and Mirwais Ahmadzai. At one point Stuart was just like “Are there maybe too many synths” but I couldn’t bear to let go of any of them because I loved it so much, it felt like a song that really summed me up. The new remix that’s just come out is by a man called Jordan Arteaga who goes by the name Skynem GT, and I think it’s a lot lighter and more effervescent, but it stills resonates in an emotional way. It also feels very current and accessible to me, I think it could bring me to a new audience”.
You also have a new EP coming out, can you tell us about that?
“It’s a Remix EP for the single so it’s not new songs, but it’s still something I really enjoy assembling. I did it for “You Found Me” last year and then didn’t do it for the following two singles, so it feels really fresh to do it again. Basically, I ran a contest on my Instagram page reaching out to underground producers who wanted to remix “Real Good Fight”, and the best one would feature on the EP. In the end, I had over 50 producers enter, and I discovered some great talent. As well as Skynem GT’s remix, there’s a really atmospheric remix by Aiyi that reminds me of something Avicci would have done, then there’s a really punchy EDM remix by Michele Pezone that restructures the song, a vibey chillout remix collaboration between L.E.G.I.O.N and LFLN, and the most experimental remix I’ve ever put my name to, the Knockout Remix by Crucethus, a producer from Canada who also contributed to the “You Found Me” Remix EP. If you pre-order the EP from Bandcamp you’ll also get two bonus extended remixes by Michele Pezone and Skynem GT”.
Any funny/interesting gig stories?
“At my last gig I was insistent on doing a cover of Charlie Puth’s “Attention”. We did our full set and had a little time left, but we had only played it through once the night before at the end of our rehearsal – but typically I was like “come on I really wanna do it”. So my guitarists started playing and I came in an octave higher than I should have then panicked as I was rapidly approaching the chorus knowing I wouldn’t be able to hit these high notes. I was looking at Gavin my acoustic guitarist like “are you playing in a different key or what’s going on?!…I don’t know what I expected him to do at that point”. At the time it wasn’t funny because I’m a perfectionist and I just see red but I ended up just singing two verses and some ad-libs, it was like a weird dub remix! I think I’ve learned my lesson to give songs adequate rehearsal time though”.
What has been your best/worst gig?
“Every gig gets better with my new band. I have a lot of aspirations for where we can go, and I know we have a long way to go to reach our full potential, but at our last gig in Dublin at Drop Dead Twice I felt we really hit our stride – we had some of our friends and a few of the indie radio guys from Ireland there too and that just gave me an incentive to really go for it. Worst gig I ever had was during my first album campaign when my session guitarist turned up and was listening – presumably learning – the songs in his earphones on his iPhone while we were playing the gig. I was so raging I couldn’t relax and get into the show. It was incidents like that one that sort of made me fall out of love with playing gigs the first time around”.
What would you say the music scene is like where you’re based?
“It’s tricky! People think Ireland is this place where you can go out and play gigs every week if you want, but it’s not really like that unless you’re a cover band working at weddings and corporate events – or if you’re willing to just go around in circles at the open mic nights. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things but for an original band wanting to go out and play a full set, it can be very challenging to find the gigs. Now that my band is well rehearsed and ready, I am trying to secure some support gigs, so that we can just show-up and have a ready-made audience. An opportunity to be heard. I’ll be excited for us when that happens”.
Tell us about your music?
“My music is quite the blend. It’s always somewhat Pop – that’s what I grew up on, the structures and the melodies. But I also really fell in love with the new generation of Country coming out of Nashville, so there’s a lot of country-style story-telling in the songs. I would say it’s un-self-concious about being trendy or fitting in – I make songs that I want to sound as great in ten years’ time as they sound now. My hope is that it makes people feel something, the way my favourite artists have made me feel”.
Any other gigs coming up?
“We’re playing at The Crystal Skull Sessions at a Dublin venue called Sin E on September 26, and then on September 29 we’re playing The Show-off Sessions at Keelings of Donabate. Now that the remix single is out, I’ll be shifting my focus to booking more gigs – I want a full diary!”
What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
“Since I released the teasers for the Remix EP I have been approached by quite a few producers more in the EDM arena asking about collaborations, so I’m going to take a look at that – I think featuring as a guest vocalist on another act’s single is something I’d really enjoy. Plus, Jordan Arteaga who produced this current remix single is working on some ideas for another track and if the response is good to “Real Good Fight” maybe that will come next. I also want to bring a couple of the new songs I’ve written to my band for a live project I have in mind. I like the idea of us recording a live EP, and having a brand new song we’ve written together to lead that”.
By Siân Parker