Her Irish Artist Of The Week... Marc O' Reilly
This week we had the pleasure of catching up with Irish alternative roots artist, Marc O’ Reilly.
Marc, who hails from Co. Waterford, first came to attention back in 2011 following the release of his critically acclaimed debut record, ‘My Friend Marx.’ This year he is back with another musical offering that rivals its predecessor and 2014 is without doubt going to be yet another stellar year for singer/songwriter.
We caught up Marc ahead of his home gigs in Cork and Dublin this weekend to chat about his new album, ‘sheepeople’, intimate crowds, other Irish artists and share our mutual appreciation for Fleetwood Mac.
Like most, growing up Marc was heavily influenced by what those surrounding him listened to. The son of a musician – his father was a member of a folk-rock band - and being the youngest in the O’Reilly clan meant that he didn’t really have much of a choice.
“I am the youngest of five and I was listening to particularly what my brother Paudi was listening to – he went through a metal phase – and then it changed as I got older”.
Marc, who has established himself as a truly skilled musician, first picked up a guitar before he went into double digits and began songwriting shortly after.
“Songwriting has always been there from the very start. I started playing the guitar when I was about nine and I think the first song I wrote was when I was about 10 called the ‘Lonely Man’, which was really, really crap.
“It was kind of something that came naturally – there was a very strong instinct to do it fairly quickly. How seriously I took the songs really changed as I got older, I really started to properly evolve in my early twenties.
The Waterford native has just released his second album, ‘Human Herdings’, a perfect combination of Marc’s trademark folk-bluesy vibe and retro rock styling.
Marc’s friend, David, designed the artwork for album and although his mother made a comment about the title being ‘grammatically incorrect,’ we’re huge fans of every aspect of his latest work.
“I didn’t have any working title and I was finishing off the album all through November to December and realised - not that it was any conscious decision – but some of the songs are dealing with points that would fit well with the issue that we are essentially sheep.
“As in so many aspects in society of life, I realised that many of the songs on the album are dealing with us moving as a unit, copying what the trends are until maybe one person breaks the mould – it just fitted.
“David done a lot of research and there is a term that’s used now in sociological disciplines called ‘sheepeople’ and it’s the reference of people being herded like sheep – I didn’t even know about the term until he told me”.
Marc’s latest single, ‘Reach Out’, just happened to be the first track we listened to on the album, and we must admit, we did question whether he could possibly have a track to beat it, but as we soon learnt, every single song showcases his intelligent lyrics, impressive vocals and well-crafted guitar skills.
We have our favourites but does Marc favour one track over the rest?
“There’s songs you love listening to and there’s ones you prefer to play live,” he admits.
“From the first album ‘Scottish Widow’ is probably my favourite song because it came out exactly the way I had it in my head. In the new album it would have to be a toss between ‘Wayward Shepherd’ and ‘Bleed’.
“There’s a few mean quite a lot to me, particularly on the new album – the ones that I tend to treat a little more seriously lyrically are the softer ones, you can get more across with those”.
With every artist musical comparisons are made to acts that have gone before them, and Marc is no different. His original work on debut album, ‘My Friend Marx’ has often been referred to having a sound similar to that of Ray Lamontagne or John Mayer, his live shows with a band in tow however have earned him, at times, quite an eclectic mix of comments.
“When I’m with the band it’s been a little bit more varied, you get the likes of Canned Heat - someone once said to me it was a cross between Queens of the Stone Age and Fleetwood Mac mashed into one – so I was delighted with that.
“Different people hear different things. I was recently doing a tour with a band in Holland and a guy came up to me afterwards and was like ‘I knew this guy was Irish because I could hear Thin Lizzy in it’, - I was like ‘really?!’ – that’s the first time anyone has ever said something like that to me”.
Radio edit of track, 'Lighthouse', taken from his second album.
Marc spent much of 2013 on the festival circuit, with performances at one of the most prestigious global musical summer events, Glastonbury, and of course, our very own Electric Picnic.
This year he is reconnecting with fans in smaller, more intimate venues. Marc plays both Cork and The Academy 2 Dublin this weekend, and although he has become somewhat of a gig veteran over the last four years, he still suffers from nerves before taking to the stage.
“Every single gig I get nervous it doesn’t matter how big or small it is, I always get nervous. I think it’s a good thing, unbelievably tiring, but it’s definitely a good thing”.
Marc’s standout moment to date came last month while finishing up a Dutch tour with Grammy Award winners, Two Snarky Puppy.
“There’s a couple of real special moments - the most recent standout one was when I was doing a Dutch tour only two weeks ago with Two Snarky Puppy, they’re an American jazz fusion band and they won a Grammy in February, on paper it was like how is that going to work? But it worked really well.
“First of all they were amazing musicians and such nice guys, I did three dates with them in Holland. We did Paradiso in Amsterdam; it was sold out about 1500 people, that was really cool. On the last night of the tour, I think when I went on stage there was about 500 or 600 in the room, I thought ‘this is probably going to be shit’. Sometimes when you play to a crowd that big it’s very hard to connect, you’re only one man with your guitar but by the time I got into the second verse of the second song the whole place went quiet, and stayed quiet. That was just epic”.
Since the beginning of the year Her.ie has had the opportunity to interview quite a varied mix of Irish artists. From retro electronic to heavy rock, traditional folk to indie-pop, and Marc, who admits himself is difficult to categorise into a genre, has his favourite Irish acts at the minute.
“There’s an awful lot of really, really good Irish bands out there at the moment, that’s why this is so hard to answer, which is a brilliant complaint.
“I’m listening to a lot of Cork bands; The Vincents are very interesting, The Hard Ground, and the likes of Elastic Sleep. Ultan Conlon from Galway is a legend of a guy and a legend of a songwriter.
“I think the best two songwriters to come out of Ireland in the last six or seven years have to be Fionn Regan and James Vincent McMorrow, just unbelievable, talented, phenomenal songwriters”.
What is striking about Marc is his unbelievable humility, which bubbles through his entire album. Any music lover will admit that it is a rare occasion to pick up a record these days and listen to it in its entirety without skipping at least one song, however that was the case with Marc’s album. With his husky vocals and razor sharp guitar style, down-to-earth attitude and genuine sound, if there’s one album you invest in this year, make it this.
Other things you should know about Marc O' Reilly…
Favourite lyric you’ve ever penned?
After some hesitation Marc decided on - “Two lives becomes undone through the lies of the chosen one, from a song ‘Letting Go”.
If you had to claim another song by another artist as your own what track would you choose?
“It would probably have to be ‘Go Your Own Way’ or ‘The Chain’. Fuck it, I’ll say ‘The Chain’, everyone wants to be able to write a song like that”.
First album you ever purchased?
Single: What’s The Story Morning Glory? – Oasis.
Album: Hundred Mile Hugh City – Ocean Colour Scene
“I was mental about them [Ocean Colour Scene], they were one of my favourite bands when I was 14-15. – They had that Indie feel but with a shit hot guitarist – it was my first ever gig actually”.
Sum up your sound in three words.
“Folk, Blues and Roots”