How did you end up getting together with Out On A Limb?
It happened very quickly … or maybe it didn’t. I think when I had just started playing gigs on my own, I dunno when that was, it must have been 2009 or something like that, they had said that they were asking people to submit stuff. So I sent in a demo, and never heard anything back, ever. Then about a year or so later, Windings were playing Dublin. I think they asked me to support them at a gig there, in the Workmans or something like that, and I was sort of coming to the end of finishing the first album then. And I was talking to Steve Ryan about it then, and that was good because he’d just sort of been through the same motions. I was just at that stage where it’s almost done, and for a while everything sounds like shit, everything just is completely discombobulated, and it’s just a big mess, it’s just a load of noise, it’s lost all meaning to you by that point. And I was kind of struggling with that and he was sort of saying ‘No it’s alright, it’s just part of the process, don’t worry about it too much’. And then the album was finished, and I was just gonna put it up on the internet as a free download before Christmas. So I announced that on thumped or something like that, and then Ciaran Ryan got on to me, from Out On A Limb, saying ‘Hey, we’d like to hear the album, we’d possibly like to put it out’. So I sent them the album then straight away. Then in the space of about a week, they said they’d do it. So then very quickly the artwork and all the other stuff had to be prepared and sent to them, and then it was all sent off I think in the space of about two weeks. It just became suddenly that it was gonna happen; it just got sent off to get pressed before Christmas. So that was great. Just, it happened so fast, I didn’t have too much time to think about, just get all the work done very quickly and stuff like that. That was it pretty much it. It’s all quite informal, we haven’t any legal contracts or anything like that (laughs).
What’s your take on the relationship between record labels and musicians, in an age when record labels are sort of … the need for them has kind of diminished a bit. Like, if you were just gonna self-release it …
What was the difference?
The big difference, say in a place like Ireland, the difference between self-releasing and releasing with say a label like Out On A Limb Records is that if you’re releasing something for the first time and you don’t have much of a background in the music scene or anything like that, or if you’re not established in a certain sphere or genre, unless your shit’s really good, it’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna take a lot of work to contact so many amounts of blogs and newspapers, or unless you’re gonna hire a publicist to do that, it’s gonna take you a lot of work just to reach a certain point of recognition, or of being known by people. Whereas if you release on a label like Out On A Limb, chances are anything that they release is going to be at least listened to by most of the music media in this country, and blogs and stuff like that, just purely because they’re a label that’s been around for a long time. So an established label, especially an independent label, is still really important. Also they press your records as well, which saves you a few thousand euro (laughs).
And again, a label, a well-established independent label, will already have a network of suppliers and distribution, and all that kind of stuff. If you’re doing that on your own … that’s a lot of work. Maybe if it’s a band and it’s a large number of people it’s a bit easier, but if it’s one individual … it would be too much work for me to do. I wouldn’t be able to operate at the level that I am with Out On A Limb on my own. Absolutely not.
Has the role of playing music in your life shifted over time? Say from when you were younger to where you are now?
Mmm, yeah. Well, I wasn’t really thinking about it when I was younger. I was just doing it without thinking too critically about it. Maybe because I started doing it so young as well. We were playing gigs before we should even have been allowed to be in bars or anything like that, though I think the laws were a little bit more flexible back then. So I think when you’re doing something from that young an age, up to the time I was about 25 or whatever, I wasn’t thinking too hard on it really. I was just doing it because it was something that I always did. Let’s play gigs, let’s record, let’s do this, let’s travel, let’s go on tour. All that kind of stuff. It’s just what you do. But now, well on the one hand my time is a lot more precious because of other commitments. So when I do tour or travel or go anywhere to play a gig it has to be worth … something. Either financially or in terms of it’s going to be hopefully a good gig that will be well organised, that will have all the right elements in place and stuff like that. Like, there won’t be a barn with no PA system and no one’s gonna show up to it. That kind of stuff. I guess I’d be a little bit more professional about the organisation of it nowadays. Playing solo is kind of harder as well then, just because you’re on your own. You don’t have loud drums and loud amps and all that kind of stuff behind you to cover up the mistakes. Everything has to be quite perfect, which adds a lot of pressure a lot of the time. It’s one thing that I would like to do, is to be able to tour more, and I can’t do that for the next few years until my son gets older, because he needs me around obviously! (laughs). So I do it as much as I can, my time is precious, so I’m just trying to be as professional as possible in terms of how I play, or perform.
Are you looking forward to the launch gig?
The Unitarian Church seems like it’d be an amazing place to play.
Yeah I’ve been to one gig there before. It was James Blackshaw during the summer I think. I go past it on the LUAS every morning bringing my son to school, so it’s kind of weird looking at it every morning going ‘I’m gonna play in there soon’. But yeah, I’m looking forward to it. It’s like … it’s a big moment. With the new band and stuff as well, I’m just mainly focusing on rehearsing as much as possible in the run up to that. I’m looking forward to it. And I’m also looking forward to it being over and relaxing afterwards (laughs).
I think an interesting thing about it, just the setting it’s in, the audience has this sort of automatic response of … reverence, almost.
Yeah, that was one of the main reasons for picking it. I knew that doing it in a pub or anything like that would be very difficult, just in terms of background noise and everything else. Yeah, it can just become a complete talk-fest sometimes. I did a gig, I think it was in February this year. I got a support slot with that band The War on Drugs from Philadelphia, and I just did it solo and … it was horrible. Like, it was a sold out gig. For The War on Drugs obviously, not for me. So the place was completely packed and I was playing to about maybe twenty people at the front who were listening. And then pretty much everyone else was just chatting away and I guess getting their Friday night buzz on. So that was difficult, slightly soul destroying, to sit there and pour your heart out to a room full of people getting drunk.
Do you encounter that a lot? Is that just to do with the venue most of the time or…
Yeah, not all the time. I think it was just the venue, the context, it was kind of an odd support slot. But it’s happened to me on tour as well when I’m playing in a bar, and it might start out quiet, but as the night progresses it just gets louder and louder and louder as people get more drunk and stuff like that. So this time around, I’m trying to avoid that a bit more, although again, with the new band there shouldn’t be as much of an issue in terms of noise. But I do like to get back to just solo quieter stuff. In a full performance I like to have a mix of the two. And I like to have an audience who’s there to listen to that.
Owensie launches Citizens on Friday the 26th of October in the Unitarian Church on St. Stephen’s Green. Admission is 10 euro or 15 euro with a copy of the album on vinyl. Also performing will be Bill Blood (Niall Byrne of the Redneck Manifesto) and Roy Duffy of Squarehead.
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