Only Here For A Minute, An Interview With Niall Connolly About His Album “Sound”
“It’s not about me,” Niall Connolly states at the beginning of his new album Sound. The folk hero has proven time and again that it really isn’t just about him, hosting open mic nights around the city for burgeoning singer-songwriters around New York City for at least the past five years. I know this because I’ve been front-and-center for a good number of these open-mics, partially to perform for myself, but also because Naill is a magnetic force, bringing together hundreds of lonely songwriters find their path in this magical yet terrifying city.
Niall’s stage presence comes from a deep-set determination, fierce creativity and the unshakable confidence that comes with performing nearly every night for God only knows how long. The new album that he casually mentions occasionally while on stage is packed with inspiring and uber-catchy songs, and the studio-quality is magnified opposed to some of his earlier work. He is a hit-making machine, and many of the songs will undoubtedly get stuck in your head for the next few days after first listen.
His live performance is always accompanied by his beaten but lovely Martin guitar, which he encourages other musicians to utilize in order to cut down on transition time between acts. Here’s his new track, “Beef or Salmon”:
His performances always seem full-of-life, as if he is pulling from a depth of emotion that all songwriters strive to find. There are so many great songs on this new album that it’s hard to choose “favorites”, although the intensity of “Year of the Dragon” is hard to ignore. Based on his real-life experience of Superstorm Sandy, the song is laced with incredible emotion. “We’re still here!” he emotes at the end of the song. I got a chance to ask Niall some questions about his new album, the state of the “industry”, and a few other odds and ends, here’s what he had to say:
JS: Your style is incredibly diverse, yet seems centered in the realms of folk music. You seem to be bringing an edge to Sound that wasn’t as pronounced on previous records. Songs like “Samurai” and “Year of the Dragon” come to mind: what inspired these songs?
NC: I think the sound is shaped very much by the fact that we have been performing as band, this was not me as a songwriter adding a band for the record, we’d been performing together as a unit for a number of years before the album’s release. I’ve always been at least as inspired by indie and alternative rock as songwriter or folk music. So ‘Sound’ for me feels like a happy space between my love for Nirvana, Pavement, The National and sparser works of the likes of early Leonard Cohen. Interestingly, these are two of the more personal songs on the album.’Samurai’ was written as a pledge of friendship to a friend under pressure, someone I couldn’t really help, but wanted to let them know that if I could I would. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
‘The Year of the Dragon’ was written in response to calamitous events either side of the Atlantic that directly impacted my family during the year of the dragon. My parents house in Cork, Ireland was destroyed by a freak flood, then a few months later my aunt’s house in Rockaway Beach, NYC burnt down during hurricane Sandy. These feelings of random loss mixed with feelings of immense gratitude and relief for families survival, the power of the communities in both situations, the fact that I got married in the time in between, all contributed to the writing of this song.
JS:You’ve been in the folk music scene for a long time; what is it that inspires you to come back week to week and get these musicians together ?
NC: Big City Folk has become a great community of friends and colleagues, I enjoy hearing people develop and watching their careers progress. It has also been very helpful for me as a touring musician, as so many people pass through NYC it has helped open up my contacts and possibilities for touring worldwide. Some of the best songs I have ever heard have been played by relatively unknown acts in rooms with less than 20 people. I’m recording again, I have no immediate plans to release anything, I am still very much touring and promoting ‘Sound’ but I should have something new in a year or so.
JS: If you could change one thing about the current state of the “music industry” what would it be?
NC:I’d rather focus on being industrious than bemoan the state of the industry. One of the positive things about the industry’s struggle is that it has allowed independent acts to form their own industry, in a sense I’ve been working full time in music for 10 years, mostly outside of ‘the industry’.
JS:Sound ends with the song “Come Back To The Table” which seems like a fitting tribute to modern society; could you expand on what helped to inspire this song? Was it an actual event or is it just a plea to get us connected in a way we once were but seem to be losing?
NC:Sometimes I feel the more ways we have to communicate the worse we get at it. We are ‘connected’ 24/7. Connected to what? This was inspired by the cell phone, the oxymoron that is the smart phone’s destruction of manners. Turn of your fucking phone and talk to me. ( I acknowledge the inherent irony in responding to this by email.)
Relevant links for everything Niall Connolly:
For downloads Cdbaby is best for me, but I am everywhere digitally, look me up on your smart phone.