Arts

Noise Annoys: Out To Lunch festival artist in residence Myles McCormack

Belfast-based singer/songwriter Myles McCormack

JANUARY was going to be a great kick-starter for musician Myles McCormack’s 2022, with the Belfast-based singer-songwriter set to serve as the first ever Artist in Residence at the Out To Lunch (OTL) festival.

While OTL was scheduled to get underway last Friday, alas renewed Covid concerns have resulted on a big chunk of the festival’s live shows being rescheduled for later in the year – see the handy panel elsewhere on this page for the latest details on that.

However, McCormack, who made his name as part of acclaimed prog-folk ensemble Lonesome George and now enjoys a well-received solo career alongside that project, was still good enough to answer a few questions about what is role in the OTL festival was to be (and hopefully, still will be), his musical training in trad and metal, coping with a lack of live music during lockdown and the plans for a follow-up to his excellent 2019 debut LP, Real Talk.

Congratulations on becoming the first ever Artist In Residence at the Out To Lunch Festival – how did this come about?

Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. I had initially reached out just to say I’d like to play sometime, and then the offer I got back was this, which was a really nice surprise.

What exactly does the role entail, and how has it been affected by the recent rescheduling of several events due to Covid concerns?

Essentially, it means the festival would put me forward as a support act for various appropriate (folky/songwriter type) shows, as well as having my own headline gig towards the end of the festival.

I’m not sure yet about [how the rescheduling will affect] the support slots but the headline gig has been moved to April 28 at St Joseph’s Church, Sailortown.

How have you coped with the lack of outlets for playing/enjoying live music during the pandemic?

Well, luckily I live with a couple of other traditional musicians and we all play together for fun, so we’ve kind of never stopped. It can be a bit maddening though, especially when there are rules in place which affect us indirectly. For example table service in pubs often means there’s no room physically or financially for a trad session, even though music is technically allowed.

You released a couple of singles last year, can we expect a full-length album soon?

Yes – I have a single called Comfort Zone coming out very soon, as well as an album that’s about halfway done. It has been a bit tricky getting studio time and musicians sorted over the last while but it’s coming together and to be honest I rushed the last one, so I’m happy to be taking a bit more care this time around. I will be much happier when it’s done though.

You’re also a member of Lonesome George, is it important to have that collaborative musical outlet alongside your solo endeavours?

Yes, especially because of how much fun those guys are. When I write on my own I’m rarely thinking about performing, more just about the composition itself, but with LG we kind of arrange things with gigs in mind. It’s been on the backburner because we haven’t been able to travel but we do have things brewing, including an album and shows – so keep an ear out.

When did you first have the urge to write and perform music and have you had any useful training?

I began writing scraps of songs when I was about 14 and took a very long time getting the confidence to release any of it. I think because there are so so many singer-songwriters, I kind of assumed no-one would care, when in reality writing music is like a big open conversation and every contribution is valuable in order for it to keep moving forward. I got into traditional music by accident but it’s definitely the best training a person could have. Even just sitting and watching more experienced players helped me push myself.

Was there a particular moment when you realised you were good at songwriting – and what do you regard as your greatest musical achievement to date?

No, and I still don’t. If I try and write something it is usually bad, so my best songs all happen by accident. I don’t know if that even counts as a skill or talent. But when it turns out well it is always a nice surprise.

There was one time when I was playing with Lonesome George in what was probably an illegal bar in the centre of Istanbul, and the roof literally opened up. Not exactly an achievement but it is staying top of the list.

You’re best known for folky acoustic material these days but I believe you’re also into metal. Do you ever still turn things up to 11?

Haha, you’re just right. In school me and some friends had a metal/prog rock band called Sage and we had the biggest amps we could get our hands on. I have just recently got into playing electric again and I’m not sure quite where it’s going, so maybe. I do love some of those bands still though, especially Mastodon and Tool.

Are there any particular bands/artists who have influenced you, musically or otherwise?

I remember the day I first listened to the Joanna Newsom album Ys. I sat and read the lyrics along with the entire album. These days it’s still probably my favourite album to put on when I’m on my own. Every line is packed with colour and character, and the whole thing twists and turns in unexpected ways from start to finish. I admire her ability to write so freely and somehow use words and phrases that are unique to her.

“I wasn’t born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight, no; I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright.”

Where should newcomers to Myles McCormack start listening?

I have CDs available through Bandcamp and my music can be streamed in all the normal places. These days you can read along with the lyrics on most of the streaming services too, if you like that sort of thing.

:: Myles plays St Joseph’s Church in Sailortown on April 28 as part of the rescheduled Out To Lunch festival. Listen at Mylesmccormack.bandcamp.com.

Idlewild man Roddy Woomble plays a re-scheduled show at The Black Box on May 8. Picture by Euan Robertson.

OUT TO LUNCH – RESCHEDULED SHOWS

Myles McCormack – April 28, St Joseph's Church
Ciara O'Neill – April 30, The Sunflower
The Dodge Brothers – April 30, The Black Box
Ríoghnach Connolly & Ellis Davies – May 1, The Black Box
Rory Nellis – May 1, McHugh's
Grace Petrie – May 1, The Black Box
John Francis Flynn – May 3, The Black Box
Ruth McGinley – May 6, The Black Box
Gwenifer Raymond – May 6, The Sunflower
Aja: The Music of Steely Dan – May 8, The Black Box
Roddy Woomble – May 8, The Black Box

:: Latest programme updates and tickets at cqaf.com.

 

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