Declan O’Rourke has been a favourite of mine since hearing a recommendation from Paul Weller for the song Galileo (Someone Like You) and the outstanding debut album, Since Kyabram back in 2004.
Fast forward to 2021 and not only do I get to record a very special episode of The Paul Weller Fan Podcast with Declan (recorded over Zoom from his home in Ireland) and chat for a couple of hours about his amazing career, beautiful music, and connections / work with Paul Weller but I also got to say Hello in person at the end of a recent London Gig at Kings Place, get my copy of his book signed, finally get my missing vinyls from his shop, hang out for a while with him and Charles Rees (Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studio Engineer – but that’s a whole other story!) and handover his special Gold Podcast Badge!
There’s something very special about Declan’s music and his approach to its creation. Lyrics that tell stories that grab your attention, that travel from your brain straight to your heart, stories that educate, inform and entertain – all told through that hypnotic voice that grabs all of your senses – and man alive those tunes. This fella can write a melody too.
Ask Alexa to play ‘The Stars over Kinvara’ from the new LP and then follow it up with ‘Whatever Else Happens’ from Big Bad Beautiful World and then jump into ‘Marrying the Sea’ ( the magnificent closer from that debut LP) and you’ll be hooked.
In our chat, we dug in to some of the stories behind those magical songs, heard about his move to Australia as a young man and return to Ireland aged 24 and how he landed in the middle of a fiercely creative music scene in Dublin, surrounded by a ridiculous amount of talent from the likes of Glen Hansard (If you haven’t seen the film Once then find it right now!) Paddy Casey, Gemma Hayes, Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan, and many more.
It was a real highlight to also properly chat about his magical new LP – Arrivals – which was released in April 2021.
Described as the most emotionally raw and affecting album of his career, it was recorded over six days, in two bursts – 15-17 April & 3-5 July 2019 at Paul Weller’s HQ – Black Barn studios in Ripley, Surrey, with Paul producing (‘he was there every moment, before, during and long after, discussing ideas about this and that, even down to the artwork. It was hugely impressive…’).
Declan talks about the trio of opening songs being something very personal and special and he’s not wrong. The album opens with In Painters Light with Declan on guitar and vocals and Paul on vibes (more about that in the podcast – yes I am an idiot), The Harbour features Paul on Hammond and beautiful strings come from The Demon Strings, with arrangement by Hannah Peel, and then we are in to The Stars over Kinvara, one of Declan’s finest ever songs IMO with a lovely cello in the mix from Izzi Dunn. Olympian tells the story of Syrian refugee-turned-Olympian, Yusra Mardini through song, with Paul on harmonium. It’s the sort of story song that Declan really is in a class of his own on – incredible. Arrivals has Declan moving to piano and beautiful, stirring lyrics through ‘shrieks of joy, tears of joy.’ Andy Sells Coke sees the return of Paul Weller, this time on bass and wurlitzer with Weller bandmate, Ben Gordelier on drums. Have you not heard the war is over? and Convict Ways take the LP to new heights before a rather tongue in cheek song about a conversation between Greek gods Zeus and Apollo that sees the return of The Demon Strings and Hannah Peel. We close with This Thing That We Share which is the song Declan talks about in the podcast and Paul’s mad piano playing. It’s a very special track with Ben Gordelier back on drums and it’s lovely to hear Anthony Gaylard from Stone Foundation on Sax too.
There’s a nice touch to the album artwork too with photography from Lawrence Watson and shout outs to Paul’s guitar tech ‘Roger Trotman – Guitar man at the barn and king of 12 string zing’ , Paul’s driver ‘Gez – vibe merchant and driving guru’ and ‘Charles Rees! For the immeasurable love and care you put in here. Love Claire Moon, for smoothing the path, Liz at Black Barn’
The back of the LP cover closes with ‘Eternal thanks to Paul for smashing expectations and bein’ the bomb to work with.’
EP60 – Declan O‘Rourke – Singer-Songwriter – ”He went off, like a rocket touched…” – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
2004 – Since Kyabram
2007 – Big Bad Beautiful World
2011 – Mag Pai Zai
2015 – Gold Bars in the Sun
2016 – In Full Colour
2017 – Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine
2021 – Arrivals
2021 – Arrivals
Declan’s 2021 Paul Weller-produced album, Arrivals, is the most emotionally raw and affecting album of his career. Recorded over six days at Black Barn studios in Surrey, with Weller producing, Arrivals sees the sound stripped back to Declan’s soulful and resonant voice, the virtuosic acoustic guitar playing for which he’s renowned and only the occasional sparse arrangement of strings and late-night drums bringing colour and light to the LP’s 10 songs.
Buy The Pawn Broker’s Reward
Declan O’Rourke’s award-winning album, Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine, was released to critical acclaim in 2017. It illuminated an extraordinary series of eye-witness accounts, including the story of Pádraig and Cáit ua Buachalla. Four years on, in Declan’s meticulously researched literary debut, the story of the ua Buachalla family is woven into a powerful, multilayered work showing us the famine as it happened through the lens of a single town – Macroom, Co. Cork – and its environs.
Local pawnbroker Cornelius Creed is at the juncture between the classes. Sensitive and empathetic, he is a voice on behalf of the poor, and his story is entwined with that of Pádraig ua Buachalla. Through these characters – utilising local history and documentary evidence. Declan creates a kaleidoscopic view of this defining moment in Ireland’s history.
You can buy the book here