Arts Q&A: Declan O'Rourke on Paul Brady, Ernest Hemingway and the musical dream team that performed at his wedding

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Dublin singer-songwriter Declan O'Rourke

Declan O'Rourke performs at the Heaney HomePlace on Saturday

1. When did you think about a career in music what were your first steps into it?From as far back as I can remember I wanted to be an artist, and music was a close second. My parents were very encouraging, and I even remember my father telling me repeatedly, "if you stick with art or music you'll never go wrong". It was always going to be one or the other, but at a certain point in my life music took over.

2. Best gigs you've been to? My first ever gig was Neil Young at Slane when I was 16 – that blew my mind. After that I would say some of the best gigs I've seen are things I've been a part of, and where I've got to watch some great people from the other side of the stage. I do love going to see art exhibitions. My most recent favourite experience was going to the Vermeer exhibition at the National Gallery in Dublin last year. Before that, the Uffizi galleria in Florence. I could literally stare at some of the sculptures there for hours.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? I got married three years ago, and the wedding band included Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Paddy Casey, and John Sheahan. Don't mean to brag, but hey it was literally a dream team.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island and why? Either You're Welcome Here Kind Stranger by Paul Brady (1978), or Andy Irvine/Paul Brady (1976). I was raised on these records and they're still up there as among my favourite albums of all time.

5. And the book? Probably a blank one with lots of pages – and some pencils.

6. Top three films? 12 Angry Men, The Life of Brian and Wag the Dog.

7. Worst film you've seen and why? The Iceman Cometh. Jaysus it was like watching paint dry. A friend of mine and I watched it on a cheap DVD years ago. After a half hour we were completely sick of it but we just wanted to see how bad it got, or if it could possibly redeem itself. It didn't.

8. Favourite authors? Hemingway, for his simplicity. I would try anything by him – but I love The Old Man and The Sea. After that I like to read about subjects – science, philosophy and history in particular. I have read a lot of books on the famine and the history of Antarctic exploration.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team? I tried all kinds of sports growing up and particularly enjoyed squash.

10. Ideal holiday destination? The best place I've ever been in terms of cultural saturation is Florence.

11. Pet hate? Clutter.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Pesto penne, with pine nuts and a bit of black pepper.

Dessert? Crackers and cheese. I actually thought I hated cheese until I was 21, and someone made me try some Tasmanian smoked heritage cheese. I have tried every cheese under the sun since.

Drink? I like a drop of white wine. My sister gave me a pink gin last weekend – all the rage, apparently.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? I have a few very close friends who've been stalwarts for many years in my life.

14. Is there a God? Nature is my God, and therefore if there is a God, nature is that God. Its many things, all around us, working in a wondrous kind of chaotic harmony. I don't see a case for a God that is one particular intelligent entity.

:: So Sing On with Declan O'Rourke takes place at The Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy, on Saturday August 11. (tickets at

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