John Buckley McQuaid’s eagerly awaited seventh album “BE YOURSELF” was released on March 1 and has been described as “storytelling with sound.”

McQuaid, who was born in Dublin and lives in Denmark, worked in a factory by day and played gigs at night until he had enough gigs to support himself at the start of his career.

He has been a professional musician since 1979 and also describes himself as “an entertainer, storyteller, singer/songwriter, lyricist, illustrator, painter, photographer, maker of videos, and author of fairy tales."

He has played all over Europe, for eclectic audiences in pubs, clubs, cafés, libraries, museums, schools, prisons, and festivals along with an appearance at the fifth edition of the Cercle Littéraire Irlandais annual event “Celebrating Women With Words.”

McQuaid’s curiosity keeps him creatively inspired and he sees inspiration everywhere.

“Anything can set me off," he says. "There are times when I write lyrics every day to keep the flow going. I spend a couple of hours at my favourite café staring into space - not thinking, just writing whatever comes into my head and then sorting things out as I go along.”

The songs on “BE YOURSELF” were written over years and are both serious and funny. McQuaid feels “Laughter brings warmth to the world and the best jokes often have a serious agenda, hopefully inspiring reflection in the listener.” He feels there are many ways of entertaining people, “by surprising them, by making them laugh and by making them think. People are hungry for laughter and content. They crave sensation and to be taken out of themselves, if only for a moment. Songs are a way of stopping time.”

The variety of songs on this album is incredible and I feel the best way to give you a feeling for McQuaid’s new album, is to give you a sample of the songs.

His song “Enemies Are Dancing” is dedicated to dreamers everywhere.

Enemies are dancing cheek to cheek

No one ever dares to smile or speak

Not that they have anything to say

Paradise is just a click away

Enemies are dancing cheek to cheek

Everybody thinks they're so unique

Wonder if they've ever had the balls

To unveil the writing on their walls

“Eyes In The Back Of My Head” acknowledges paranoia and the joyful promise of flight:

 Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

If I had wings I could fly like a bird

Oh! What a flight it would be!

I could see McQuaid’s beautiful old-fashioned waltz “Dance With Me" being a huge hit at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking festival September 1 - 30. The waltz slowly whirls around loneliness and the hectic pursuit of perfection. It’s a perfect song for the Roadside Tavern or the Spa Wells, where eyes still meet eyes across the dance floor in that mythical ballroom of romance.

Call me a fool

But I’ll take a chance

On my eyes meeting yours

And yours meeting mine.

Have you ever been enjoying sitting alone in a café reading or writing or just having an enjoyable pensive moment when that irritating, rude, and noisy person ruins the experience? McQuaid was writing in his window seat at his local Café Hideaway one morning when a small group entered. One of them was complaining loudly from the moment they entered the café, which irritated him and inspired the following lyrics:


What if you lost your voice?

What if you couldn’t complain?

What if there was no choice?

What if you had to remain?

What if the world as you know it exploded?

 What kind of life would it be?

If the conundrums of childhood were coded?

What if you hadn’t the key?

Heartbreak was also a source of inspiration for McQuaid and “What’s-his-name?" was inspired by the break-up of a relationship, employing humor, as Irish people so often do, as a coping mechanism. It’s a show-stopper when performed live.


Isn't that what's-his-name, what's-his-name, what's-his-name, 

Isn't that what's-his-name, what's his name?

 I'm sure it must be Flanagan, Flanagan, Flanagan 

And if it isn't Flanagan, he looks the same...

The first time McQuaid visited New York, sitting in a taxi, jetlagged and overwhelmed by skyscrapers, smoke and steam, he was suddenly confronted by the facade of Macy’s Department Store, and the line “Martha Went To Macy’s” popped into his head. Over the following days, he finished the lyrics, which tell the tale of Martha, a happily married lady, who upon discovering her husband’s infidelity, grabs his credit card and goes amok with it in Macy’s. A case of revenge shopping.

“Martha Went to Macy’s

Martha went to Macy’s

and she wore a crooked smile

Her palms were armed with plastic

and her heart was filled with bile

When it comes to infidelity,

the stakes get awful high

Martha went to Macy’s with a list of things to buy.

McQuaid feels collaborating with another artist can also play a crucial role. Music to two of the songs on the album, "Rendezvous" and "The Dance Never Ends" was written by Lone Poulsen, who has arranged, produced, mixed and mastered the album and played on all of the songs.

“Lone is a brilliant musician, composer and producer with an amazing intuition. She plays all the instruments on 'Rendezvous' except Celtic Harp.”

McQuaid and Lone have collaborated since the 80s. He sends her lyrics and she writes music to the ones that inspire her. 

Two songs on the album hold up a mirror of Irish society today. “Dear Mister Taoíseach” and “Homeless Hotels.” “Dear Mister Taoíseach” begins humorously, commenting on the insatiable greed of those in power and the obsolete official media that keeps people passive with empty smiles and mindless catchphrases.

“Dear Mister Taoíseach”

Give us this day, Lord, our villas in Spain,

Lord Give us our castles with breakfast in bed

Send us a case of expensive champagne,

Lord Give us a place, Lord, to lay down our heads

We are the bowsies, the bullies and blackguards

We are the rulers of all we survey

We are the Masters of fabulous flashcards

We're the broadcasters with nothing to say

 Chorus: Dear Mister Taoiseach from Cobh to Killarney

How is old Ireland's proverbial bliss?

Slather its lips with your blather and blarney

We'd be delighted to give it a kiss

Dear Mister Taoiseach, where can we be off to?

 Following leaders to Heaven or Hell

People are people from cradle to coffin

Somebody's always got something to sell.

It continues in the second verse, to describe the horrendous abuse suffered by women and children at the hands of the Catholic Church. The third verse tells of the giants of mythology and history, upon whose shoulders we stand.

Diarmuid and Gráinne and mighty Finn ragin'

Deirdre and Naoise who took to the hills

Joseph and Grace they were wed in Kilmainham

Oscar believed that indifference kills

Patrick and Hilda still missing each other

William B. Yeats and a Maud who was gone

Leaving the poet she loved like a brother

Singing the praises of fifty-nine swans.

One of the last times McQuaid visited his mother in the nursing home where she was living for the last years of her life, she gave him a piercing look and said: “I’ve just been sitting here thinking about which side of the family you remind me of....” “Which?” he asked. “Yourself” she replied.

It seems once again the Irish Mammy hit the nail on the head. McQuaid is an Irish diasporic, modern-day seanchaí, and incredible artist who with his genius, originality, and lyrics that cut to the bone, has lived up to that difficult challenge, that tall order of life to “BE YOURSELF!”

McQuaid will be performing at the Bennett Centre, Frome, UK on Saturday, April 13. The show is organised by Patrick Moss, owner of Magpie Records and presenter of Magpie’s Folk Café,” Sundays on Frome FM 96.6FM. You can find John Buckley McQuaid’s music on his website.

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