To quote American cultural icon Dick Clarke, “Music is the soundtrack of our lives.”
There’s a reason that music fans love music documentaries: they can show us a new side to our favorite artists – or make us fall in love with a musician we knew nothing about.
So why aren’t there more documentaries made about up-and-coming artists we’ve never heard of?
With this interview series I’m on a mission to change that by giving play time to artists who deserve to be heard.
The first installment of this series explores the life and musical adventures of Dublin based singer/songwriter Eoghan Ó Coileáin.
Eoghan has had the type of career most musicians dream of, smoothly under the radar, avoiding caustic breakups, indefinite hiatuses, onstage brawls, and spectacular flameouts.
At the moment, I’m sitting down with him in the music room of his house in Dublin 12. His home is comfortable, inviting, warm, and full of musical instruments.
A quick glance around this one room you’ll find a piano under the window with a beautiful view of the canal, a giant hand-made German double bass perched in the corner (dust free, recently played), a cool looking Fender Stratocaster electric guitar leaning gently against the wall, and a stunning Avalon acoustic guitar hand-made in Belfast. All the instruments are well played and proudly showcased.
Q: Eoghan thanks so much for letting me come hangout with you today.
EO: Absolutely ! Thank you for stopping by.
Q: First things first — Origin story — Give me the details … What first got you into music?
EO: Music has always played such a big part in my family. I first got into music at a very early age from hearing it in my own home. My dad is a very eager singer, and a very good singer. He’s always the first person up with a party piece at a session. I think that love of music and enthusiasm just kind of spilled over into me. Our home was always full of music. Between myself, my sister, and my two brothers, we always had so many different styles of music flooding through the halls of our home growing up. Even now as adults, we are always going through different phases so whenever we do meet up we like playing songs, whatever kind of comes into our heads, whatever we might be into and listening to at the time. I’ve been writing and performing music since I was around 14-years-old. So it’s just a big part of who I am fundamentally.
Q: The guitar seems to be your favorite but, looking around the room, I can see its not the only instrument you can play.
EO: I started out with piano lessons at a young age, and then when I got to secondary school I picked up the guitar. My friend’s dad had a guitar and he caught me picking it up, and offered to show me how to play. I just kind of learned a few chords off him, and then spent hours just getting the chords down and finding my rhythm. From there I developed a love of learning new instruments. I may not always be the best, I know about 40% of loads of songs, but I think that’s part of the fun.
Q: What does music mean to you?
EO: Life around us there’s a constant rhythm to everything so I think music stems from that. Stems from the heart beat. From the origins of everything. It’s always evolving, it’s always changing, it sounds different year to year but it is a constant and for me it’s something that is as important to me as air. Music is important to me because it’s always been a very social thing to meet people and bond with people. Also, it’s a creative process, it’s a way of just escaping and switching off. Just getting into the flow of playing something and not thinking.
Q: You formed a few bands throughout the years. Was it ever your goal to make it big? Or what were you aiming for?
EO: The idea of kind of getting a record deal in one of my earlier bands was definitely a dream when I was a teenager. But realistically I think, for me, it’s much more fulfilling just to have music be something that you love that brings a lot of comfort and provides a way to express yourself, but isn’t necessary to put food on the table.
Q: You may not be a full time musician, but your music has certainly taken you all over the world, performing in some pretty unreal places.
OG: Yeah, I’ve been really fortunate to play with some amazing musicians from all over the world. I love making new friends and I respect people for a lot of different reasons. For me, great music doesn’t just have to fall into one category or one genre and I love appreciating all kinds of music. Putting my own spin on classics and Irish Trad is always fun. I’ve gotten to go and do all these things that I’ve dreamed about doing. It’s just been a really, really amazing thing.
BG: Tell me about Vietnam … You just packed your bags and said see ya later?
EO: Pretty much! I went over to Hanoi in Vietnam when I was 27 to teach English for a little while and I realized very soon after arriving that there was a lot of music in the foreigner community there. So we started little bands together and put on concerts. There was a lot of interest, throughout Vietnam, in live music. That was something that just kind of took off out of nowhere. I got the chance to play about 180 gigs over three years. A really fun band I really enjoyed being a member of was the Hanoing Jazz Band. As a solo act I was asked to play music and sing in Vietnamese during the countries New Year’s Eve celebration. It was televised for millions of people. Another time my band was asked to fly to Phú Quốc. It’s a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia, to play for a few weeks.
Q: Your New Year’s Eve gig wasn’t the only Tv appearance you made while in Vietnam. Talk me through Vietnam’s Got Talent. That must have been a cool experience.
EO: Yeah, definitely another highlight was playing on Vietnam’s Got Talent. A band I played with plus a Vietnamese singer. She sang Hello by Adele.
EO: We didn’t get through. But it was really cool experience. We were on television for millions of people so that was fun for awhile. People kind of saw it and recognized me from it, so that was pretty funny.
Q: Back home in Ireland you’ve still been performing. I was able to see you busk during the Galway Races. It was a really surreal experience I must say …
EO: Busking when it’s good I think it’s fantastic because it’s unexpected rocking up and pulling out your instruments and hoping you get a good response. But yeah, playing in Galway in 2019 for the Race weekend was a particular highlight. Playing in a small group, lots of people passing by, stopping for a second to hear the music we were playing, moving to the rhythm, hang out for a minute then maybe moving on. It’s very exciting to be in the middle of that so that’s something I’d really like to do again.
Q: You write some of your own music. I’m curious what your process is when you’re writing …
EO: When a song sticks in my head all day long, I say, ‘Let’s pursue that, let’s go with that!’ We need those earworms that don’t leave you. I try to write songs. Like most people, I start out with my influences, but I find it hard. I’m not much a lyrical mind as a musical mind. So I find it easy to kind of make up little melodies and chord structures and what not. But I find writing lyrics kind of cringy. But it’s still something that I try and improve on.
Q: Talk me through some of your all-time favourite songwriters and artists…
EO: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen. They inspired me in the sense that the music is so great that it provokes strong emotion. For me as a song-writer, I might take inspiration from something here and there, and I guess they helped inspire what my own voice has become.
Check out this video documentary to hear Eoghan’s entire interview, hear his music, and watch some of the performances mentioned above.
Video Documentary produced, written, filmed, and edited by Britney Gooden.
Britney Gooden is a freelance writer, producer, and blogger who covers concerts and music festivals around the country. In constant pursuit of the next show to attend and band to interview, Britney keeps up her own blog, On the Record with Britney, where you can read more on the latest up-and-coming bands.