Declan O’Rourke, the Irish singer-songwriter, may have parted on bad terms with his record company – but the Dubliner says that this won’t stop him from making music.
O’Rourke shot to fame in Ireland with his 2004 album, “Since Kyabram,” which went treble platinum in Ireland. A fusion of traditional Irish music with roots and folk, it was one of the most promising debut albums from an Irish artist in years. His remarkable voice, a deep baritone, shone through on every song, which shifts from the joyful, tap-along “Your World” to the sublime, meditative “Galileo.”
That was followed up with 2007’s “Big, Bad Beautiful World.” This was critically well received, but failed to match the commercial success of its predecessor.
The troubadour has not had the best of luck with record companies. He was signed to V2 records in 2005, before parting ways in 2007. Then in 2007 he had a disagreement with N4, the independent record label that put out his second album, which he refuses to talk about for legal reasons – except to say that it didn’t push the record hard enough and that “independence is the way to go.”
“I produced the first two records myself anyways,” he told Irish Central. “So I have no trouble making records in that respect.”
“If a bank gave you a loan, you’d just have to repay the money with interest. You do it with a record label and they own the record, and you only get a small percentage of it. So it’s better to have to complete creative control.”
O’Rourke moved in to a new house in Co. Galway two years ago, and wired the house for recording. “It’s as good as any studio,” he explains. “People can record anywhere these days.”
He plans to record an album this year, which he doesn’t expect will be out until next year. One of the things he is working which is close to finish is a set of songs about the famine. “It’s in the same vein as the songs I was brought up on,” he says. “It’s more folk and traditional stuff.”
While performing at The Living Room in New York’s Lower East Side in January, O’Rourke looks very relaxed and at ease – even though much of the audience, which is made up of as many Americans as Irish, isn’t familiar with his music.
Although he started performing quite late, he adds that he was always confident on stage. “It comes naturally enough,” he says. “One of the things I enjoy most about performing is getting up there and lashing it out.”
Being described a “singer-songwriter” is something that O’Rourke doesn’t enjoy – it conjures images of “the angst-ey teenager, sitting on his bed, crying on his shoes. It pigeonholes people in that way. It doesn’t describe the genre of music I write. I’d say my music is kind of rootsey – folk – and in broader sense, poppy, jazzy. I don’t think I fit into any particular box.”
Finally, I remind Declan O’Rourke of a comment he made to an interviewer some years ago, when he said that when he started off his musical career, he viewed the music industry “as a scary place.” Have his fears come to pass?
“It’s a friendly monster, which is the worst thing about it,” he jokes. “But everybody has hard luck stories at the beginning of their career. It’s something you just have to go though – It’s certainly not going to stop me.”