The Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF) is well underway, with big acts such as The National and Imelda May having already performed in the Festival Big Top, and several other artists preparing to wow Galway City in the coming week.
Sin caught up with and spoke to one such artist; Dublin-born musician Mark Geary, who is currently working on his fifth studio album.
Mark will play Monroe’s Live on Friday 25 July. Tickets, priced at €15, can be purchased from the GIAF website.
Tell me about your new album.
So I’ve really just started the process; drums are recorded for about eight songs. I’m writing and making it up as I go. Seems to be the thing I do now; almost the terror of going in with nothing. So I wrote some ideas and just played and sang as the band recorded and helped me through. It’s the ‘gun to the head’ style of songwriting.
That’s really it at the moment. There’s the Galway arts festival and a festival in Derry. But I’ll lie low. And work away… Well now that I’m thinking, there’s Switzerland in September, and the UK. And Czech Republic in October.
What’s it like being on stage now compared to when you started out?
It’s just a complete privilege to have played and played so many shows. Different places. You just get used to being on stage. And it’s less panic and more joy. That’s the difference. The things I want to try on stage, or sing or talk; it’s all much easier because of the ‘doing’. Being a musician is ‘action’.
How does your audience make you feel?
Most of the time it’s really a privilege. And I’ve never lost that excitement. And there’s always the notion that I can steer it off the cliff too. My audience, I think, know that that’s part of the deal. No script and no wires.
What’s your favourite thing about being a musician?
My favourite thing really is just the simple thing of being creative. I’ve not had such huge success that I can skip a line at a restaurant or whatever. I’m not sure that would be my thing, even if I could.
It has a mattered to me greatly that I managed to hang on to the joy of writing; just the simple art of singing to oneself is incredibly grounding for a flighty one like me.
What have been the highs and lows in your career so far?
There have been some lows or disappointments; tours that don’t go well; shitty managers, shitty labels, who don’t know how to help you, so they tell you how if you were someone else it would be better! Ha ha.
But I got here because I’m me and think and write and talk like me. I’ve no interest being someone else.
What’s your opinion of your own music?
Ha. My opinion?! Sometimes I don’t even think of it like it’s mine or that I have ownership of it. I am proud of the records I have released though. When I hear them, I can at least recognise that I was attempting something. No bullshit. That’s not a bad place to find yourself.
What influences or inspires your music?
Well I’ve started to unplug from music at the moment, just so I can be more creative with the songs I’m coming up with. It’s very interesting what comes out when you’re not hearing music every day.
There’s some JJ Cale in a song I started writing in Swiss. There’s a soul of The Jam and The Strokes, which I think people wouldn’t think I’d be doing.
I read my books and watch my telly and listen to stories. It all gets mixed up in my tumble dryer and that’s what comes out.
What advice would you give aspiring musicians?
I have thought about this. I was very lucky that I ran away from Ireland at 18 and went to New York. We live in a life where we have a voice. You have to be completely, fully formed as a writer and as a package. That’s one aspect of the music industry. A working musician was always the road I wanted to go on.
A lot of shows on TV these days are horse shit, claiming you’re going to be a star when in actual fact you’re just the t-shirt of the week and you’re not even singing your own songs.
I would say choose your battles and try to write songs the way you would sing them. More often than not, you write in the way you’re thinking – everyone does it differently.
That’s the magic; trying to sound like Adele, or an imitation is only an imitation. There’s already an Adele and that’s the way she sings. So choose your battles. Try to find your audience. Don’t judge yourself so harshly. Develop your own armour and learn how to be on stage.
It takes time. It isn’t about perfection; there’s nothing more boring than perfection.
Where do you want to be in five years?
I want to be here. And there. And everywhere… With hair.
What are your thoughts on Galway and the Galway International Arts Festival?
I’ve been playing shows in Galway for years now. You know there was a time I knew nothing about shows in Ireland or touring and finding those magic places; those years of NYC and just trying to tread water and write and stay alive.
But Galway has always been a special one. I did a show with Josh Ritter and Glen Hansard years ago and felt so keenly that this was an important place; that it would be necessary to learn how to harness and understand a place like Galway. I’ve been trying ever since.
I wanted the routine of getting on the road and watching the countryside change. When you start seeing the walls of limestone and the little roads, you know you’re close.
I wanted that so keenly; like a yearning to do my own shows.
I’ve not done the arts festival before so I was thrilled to be considered this year.
Mark Geary will perform at Monroe’s Live on Friday 25 July at 8pm. Tickets are priced at €15 each and are available from the GIAF website.
More information on Mark Geary can be found at his website, www.markgeary.com.