Murray Leith and Jo Laing
GLASGOW Irish Bands and Gigs this month takes a trip over to Dublin to catch up with the talented Kevin O’Driscoll. Kev (above) burst onto the livestream scene at the beginning of lockdown and has been a regular ever since, gathering a world wide audience. Let’s find out a bit more about him.
At what age did you gain an interest in music and why?
From a very young age. I grew up listening to Irish Rebel music which I still love to this day. As I got into my teenage years, it was all Oasis, Nirvana, REM and so on, so I still love rock music too.
Were your family musical? And if so did they encourage you to pick up the guitar?
No, my family are not musical at all. They were more Gaelic football and soccer orientated. The guitar was never encouraged, which is why, I suppose, I kept learning and playing more and more.
Who inspired you to write and perform the songs you do?
It can’t be narrowed down to one person or one songwriter. It was a slow, gradual process. For me, songwriting is just figuring things out in your mind, writing your thoughts on paper and moulding it piece-by-piece into a song.
How did you learn to write your own material?
By listening to bands and musicians that I loved growing up. Songwriting is just something you develop over time. I enjoy the storytelling in a song—songs that convey a message.
Have you always played solo or have you played as part of a band? If so which do you prefer?
Definitely solo. I don’t do the band thing, haha. But I really do appreciate bands because it’s such hard work. You rely on each other on stage, you read each other’s playing style and work in harmony together. Egos can be a massive put off with band’s which I try to avoid.
Who is your favourite musician and why?
I love so many musicians. For me, it has to be Kurt Cobain. The guy was a genius. His anger, his lyrics, his rage, his guitar playing, his persona… He is, without a doubt, a legend!
You play a wide variety of venues in and around Dublin. Which is your favourite venue and why?
There are so many brilliant venues and great crowds in Ireland. I loved playing in Rosie Joe’s in Derry. Their Rebel Sundays were brilliant. The crowd were always up for it. You feed off their enthusiasm and the more crowd enjoy the gig, the more you want to play
Following on from that, are there any venues you’d love to play?
I’ve never played in Glasgow, but if I did it would probably have to be Grace’s Bar. I’ve been to Glasgow loads of times, but never to play a gig, so that is something I would love to do.
Do you have a favourite song to perform and why?
A Sniper’s Promise. It was always one of my favourite songs growing up and I’ve been told by a few people that my version of the song is not too bad. The words just resonate as you sing it, you imagine yourself as the protagonist in the song.
What style of music would you say you play and why did you choose that style?
I suppose if I can try to categorise or describe the style of music I play, it would be rock, rebel and country.
You recently wrote and recorded a brilliant album called Rebel Blood, Fenian Heart how did you find the process?
I loved making the album Rebel Blood, Fenian Heart. I wrote three songs on the album—Rebel Soul, We Hail To Celtic and Our Island. It was recorded in Strabane, Tyrone, with a good friend of mine, Sticks Doherty. Sticks is such a brilliant musician and adds so much to a song. He has so many great ideas for my songs, can add so many instruments and can play them all himself. I added seven well-known rebel songs too like Sean South and Celtic Symphony too
The music industry took a massive hit during lockdown. What do you think could be done to improve the industry in the future?
There are too many people involved in the music industry for the wrong reasons. I understand that people want to make money from the music industry, but some people in the music business or industry are driven solely by making money or profit and they don’t even like music. How that can change? Unfortunately, I don’t think it can.
Do you ever watch your online gigs back and think there are things you would change or improve on on?
I hate watching or seeing myself online, but I will always try and get better, improve as a musician and learn from other singers and musicians too. A musician should never, ever think that they are the finished article. Everyone can always improve regardless of how good or bad they are
Has Spotify, iTunes and other music streaming sights made your job easier or more difficult?
I would have to say that they have definitely made my job as a musician easier. It’s so easy for people to hear your own music now. Music is so much more accessible now. People do still listen to CDs and I still post my CDs to people all over the world, but now, if someone wants to listen to an artist or musician, they can just listen on their phone.
How did you find the online streams during lockdown?
I loved it. It was like therapy. I never would’ve played online if lockdown hadn’t happened. I always played in the pubs and live venues, but that option was taken away from us when lockdown happened. I met so many great people through the online gigs during lockdown. Some of them I can honestly say will be lifelong friends. It was a great and positive experience.
Aside from music, what are your other hobbies?
Definitely football as I’m a big Celtic fan and I love films as well. I’d watch The Shawshank Redemption every day if I had the time!
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline? If so what are they?
I’m definitely going to record another album, but it will be all my own original music. I’ve easily got more than 100 songs that I have written over years and years, which I am determined to get recorded to a quality standard. Also, I definitely hope to tour in Scotland and play some great venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
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Murray Leith and Jo Laing