Episode 71: Villagers – Conor O’Brien

I am constantly amazed by the guests who say YES to coming on the podcast. So many hugely talented individuals with connections to Paul Weller – and I was absolutely blown away to get a message back a few months ago that the huge talent that is Conor O Brien, otherwise known as the man behind Villagers, would be up for chatting. Amazing!.

EP71 – Villagers – Conor O‘Brien – Singer-Songwriter — ”Here‘s one for the Searching soul in the moonlight, it‘s alright…” Desperately Seeking Paul : Paul Weller Fan Podcast

I first discovered the music of Villagers, like so many people, back in 2010 with that astonishingly brilliant, Mercury Music Prize nominated, debut LP Becoming The Jackal. I loved the lyrics, the sound, the melodies and of course that amazing voice. Just incredible. I even got see to Villagers live for a really unique gig, just Conor and his acoustic guitar at London Waterloo – which was magical. It was a real privilege to be in the audience for the first ever gig in The Old Vic Theatre Tunnels, a series of caverns under Waterloo Station. Around 200 of us in the crowd for an intimate run-through of that magical LP. Just brilliant.

In terms of connections with Mr Weller, well there are plenty.
Firstly, Paul is a massive fan who regularly calls our Villagers as a favourite. In fact in the latest Mojo magazine he says – “I’m a big fan of Villagers – and I always look forward to Conor’s records coz their always very different. The new one Fever Dreams is very textured, very layered. But I think his lyrics, his arrangements and everything are off the charts.

Villagers supported Paul Weller on his 2015 Saturns Pattern US Tour – even getting up on stage to play Wild Wood with Paul on the encore on one of the nights in California (October 9th 2015 at Fox Theater in Pomona in case you are wondering).

Their first collaboration on record came with Paul’s thirteenth studio album – 2017’s A Kind Revolution – as Conor remixed She Moves with the Fayre for the deluxe edition. Listen on Spotify here

When Paul was creating his True Meanings album, it was Conor that he turned to for collaboration on the opening track – The Soul Searchers. The making of which we chat about on my podcast.
The song was also performed live at London’s Roundhouse in October 2021 with Paul being the surprise special guest for Villagers live show. I was lucky enough to be front row for the occasion and it was a real treat to see PW walk out on stage and plug in for a special rendition of the song.
Paul had performed the song on his Royal Festival Hall shows (captured for the Other Aspects live album) but there was something really amazing about seeing the two of them perform their creation together for a one off performance – Paul also returned for a proper rock out at the end of the gig on Circles In The Firing Line too.
Photos from jamiemacmillanphotos.com

Conor / Villagers has performed on Paul’s YouTube Series – Black Barn Sessions – episode 2 with just him and a guitar for a stunning version of Nothing Arrived and again on episode 3 for a take on Summer’s Song with Paul Weller and band. Paul on Piano, Steve Cradock and Andy Crofts on guitars, Steve Pilgrim on acoustic, Ben Gordelier on Drums, and Tom Heel on keys. You can watch both below.

On to the latest album Fever Dreams, released in August 2021, it was written over the course of two years. The main bodies of the songs were recorded in a series of full-band studio sessions in late 2019 and early 2020 – with that final session coming just hours before a national lockdown. During those long, slow pandemic days, Conor refined them in his home studio in Dublin, and the album was then mixed by David Wrench (Frank Ocean, The xx, FKA Twigs). The LP has had rave reviews across the board with NME calling it woozy, psychedelic soul that conjures another world and HotPress saying Fever Dreams is a beautiful record, full of hope and colour and joy. It really is an outstanding piece of work from a magnificent songwriter. I encourage you to dive in.

Check out Villagers YouTube Channel here

  • 2010 – Becoming a Jackal
  • 2013 – { Awayland }
  • 2015 – Darling Arithmetic
  • 2016 – Where Have You Been All My Life? (Live LP)
  • 2018 – The Art of Pretending To Swim
  • 2021 – Fever Dreams

2017 – Paul Weller – A Kind Revolution

She Moves with the Fayre – Villagers RemixListen on Spotify here

2018 – Paul Weller – True Meanings

Track 1 – The Soul Searchers , written by Paul Weller & Conor O’Brien, opens the True Meanings album with Paul on vocals, acoustic & electric guitar and wurlitzer and Conor on vocals, bass, mini-moog and rhodes piano (not all at the same time surely?!)
Jan Stan Kybert adds percussion, with Rod Argent from The Zombies on Hammond, Tom Heel & Maxine Boxall providing backing vocals, with a string arrangement from Hannah Peel, and strings from Stella Page, Antonia Pagulatos, Kotono Sato and Isabelle Dunn.

2021 – Villagers – Fever Dreams LP

Conor O’Brien presents Villagers’ fifth studio album Fever Dreams. Escapism is a very necessary pursuit right now, and ‘Fever Dreams’ follows it to mesmerising effect. It works like all the best records – it becomes a mode of transport; it picks you up from where you are and sets you down elsewhere.
Conor says on the gestation of Fever Dreams“I had an urge to write something that was as generous to the listener as it was to myself. Sometimes the most delirious states can produce the most ecstatic, euphoric and escapist dreams.”
You can buy the album here

Video – The Black Barn Session – Episode 2

10’20” – Villagers – Nothing Arrived

Video – The Black Barn Session – Episode 3

Summer’s Song – Villagers with Paul Weller & Band

Oct 2021 – Villagers + Paul Weller – The Soul Searchers – Roundhouse

Video – 2021 – The Eve of Fever Dreams – Villagers Live

Published by PaulWellerFanPodcast

The World’s first Paul Weller Fan Podcast - For the fans by the fans. A musical journey from In The City to Fat Pop (Vol 1). A radio broadcaster who gave up his career with one big regret. Never getting to interview the legendary British musician Paul Weller. This podcast exists purely to solve that issue. Welcome to Desperately Seeking Paul...

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