Tell me a story…

Sometimes we miss obvious things. It has been said to me twice in the last few weeks that a big reason why country music works is because it’s songs often focus on telling a story. And even though I have heard many great stories told in country songs over the years I never made this connection. Regina is a recent member of our theme night gang. Many of you will remember her singing Summer in Dublin on Theme Night #27. And she and her team have put a huge creative and organisational effort into a new single she has out – a country cover of Valerie. And while the story may not shine through as obviously as other songs in this genre, sometimes that works too. Check it out here.

John, Mary and Lionel…

John (not his real name) had been coming to piano lessons since the age of 8. He was talented, musical and diligent, but for some reason always had trouble perfecting a piece. He told me he had trouble focusing, and that his mind had a tendency to wander, leading to a loss of concentration and then mistakes. And it bugged him. He was someone who liked to get things right, and so mistakes frustrated him. He talked about leaving a few times but between my efforts and those of his parents he ended up staying until well into his teenage years. One day he told me he wanted to get involved in the Teenage Theme Nights – the musical events I run for teenage musicians in The Model and The Hawk’s Well. While on the outside I was enthusiastic and encouraging, on the inside I was nervous, because I knew that if this didn’t go well for him, it could

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Moving House

We expect to have to move the couches, beds and tables. We always underestimate the rest though. All the smaller bits and pieces in cupboards, boxes and drawers. That’s what takes the real time when packing up to move house. And it’s the same with your new project. If you give it any sort of attention at all you should be able to figure out all the big parts you need to cover. But like the stain on the oven or the missing teddy, it will be something smaller that catches you out. So don’t be surprised. Be ready. PS speaking of moving…here’s a beautiful song about moving through time and place. Travelling Nation, by Seamie O’Dowd – performed on Episode 1 of our new podcast In The Lamplight. You can listen back here.

Episode 1 Out Now!

A big day for Luke, Rory and I – we are delighted to present to you all Episode 1 of In The Lamplight. With special guest Seamie O’Dowd – regular blog readers will remember these two blogs and will know the esteem in which I hold him. It was a real treat to have him in – we played Thom Moore’s Carolina Rua, Seamie’s own song Travelling Nation, and a hornpipe from the album we recorded together called City of Savannah. But apart from the songs, the stories were great too…we heard about the time Christy Moore left him waiting, a brilliant demonstration of how Thom Moore crafted Carolina Rua, and how he feels as a father playing regularly with his two sons. On top of that, Rory and I had great craic rumbling Luke for protesting too much on last week’s pilot show, and our attempts to find a decent sign-off continue. Go on – check it out –

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The ‘Sensitive Female Chord Progression’

There was a big lightbulb moment in a house in Sligo on Sunday. A student of mine showed her sister that if she used the chords from one of the only songs she could still play on the piano (Shakira’s Waka Waka) and sang the melody of the chorus of Dermot Kennedy’s Rome (check out Rory Maitland’s cover here), it worked! In other words – the same chords were used in each song, and if you played those same four chords, you could sing the melody of either song over those chords and it would sound correct. But more importantly, it sparked something in this young lady, and apparently she hasn’t stopped playing piano since. Which leads me to the rather interesting title of this blog. I’m not sure why the author gave the chord progression in question this particular title, but this blog contains an insane amount of songs which use one particular four chord progression (the same four

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The art of the solo…

I heard a conversation on football punditry earlier today. In it, the presenters were discussing whether it was more difficult to make a point effectively if you had 5 minutes in which to do so or if you had 90 seconds. And it reminded me of playing a solo in music, and a similar discussion I have had with many colleagues over the years – is it harder to play a solo in jazz, let’s say, where you have a longer time in which to do so, or in rock music for example, where you have 8 or maybe 16 bars and every bit has to be perfect? I’m not going to answer that question today, rather I will treat you all to 5 of my favourite solos of all types from over the years in music – and maybe you will come up with some answers of your own after hearing them. Oscar Peterson (piano) – from Hymn to

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Enjoy the wins

My dog is like Roy Keane. Not that I imagine Roy chills out lying on a pink blanket on a Sunday evening, but I am reminded of one of Ireland’s greatest ever footballers every mealtime. And of his attitude to winning in particular. I remember him saying that the feeling of elation after winning a Premier League title lasted with him for a day at most, before his mind moved on to the next challenge. And my dog is the same. No sooner has he guzzled the latest treat given to him at the table that he is looking to where the next one is coming from. There are plenty of disappointments in life. And for every champion team there are dozens who weren’t quite good enough. So regardless of whether they are big or small, we may as well savour the victories when they do come about.

Saturday night

It was, and will be again, the busiest night out of the week. The hardest night to get a booking in your favourite restaurant, the most difficult to get a taxi home. But if you go out on a Saturday, you’re guaranteed a buzz. The electricity created by lots of other people out to have fun. And that’s what many people want. Of course if you go out on Friday, Sunday or even Tuesday, you have more chance of getting that table, more chance that your taxi home will arrive when you’re looking for it. There might not be the same buzz, but there are other (maybe not quite as many) people who are happy with that. The Saturday night gang are a bit like the children who want the ‘in’ toy every Christmas – because if you want what lots of others want, it’s going to make your life that bit more difficult. It might not be available, you

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Stuck in the mud

It was going to be tight. Google Maps said I would make it with only a few mins to spare. Unload the keyboard and the rest of the gear, get setup, a quick conversation about the songs and keys, and we would be hopefully good to go by the time the bride was ready to walk down the aisle. But Google Maps isn’t always correct. And this time, of all times, the time when I really needed it to be, it wasn’t. It brought me down an unused road, which was initially passable, but soon became a dirt track. I knew it seemed risky., but I didn’t have time to turn around and find an alternative route. It was this or be 30 mins late. But it had been raining. Heavily. And so the car ground to a halt. Agonisingly close to the end of the track. I could even see the point where the surface improved, and I was

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‘I’ll play you songs you were in’

I couldn’t figure out what it meant. It’s a line from the chorus of the Dermot Kennedy song Rome and it confused me. A song you were in – what is that? The musician in me immediately thought it must be a song on which you played, or a song you sang, but that seems too narrow an explanation somehow. So the meaning I have settled on is that it’s a song that reminds me of you. Possibly a song we sang together, or a song that was big at the time we hung around together, or perhaps a song that you even don’t know reminds me of you but there’s something about it that does. A nice sentiment whichever way you look at it. But if we’re in a song, it means that we have made an impact on someone, so much so that when they listen to the song, they think of us. Which leads back to the

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