Home Thoughts From Abroad

Eoghan O’Sullivan has a sort of homecoming with his Whale show on Friday, October 21st.

Having toured everywhere from Boston to Berlin over the past two decades, Irish troubadour found his musical muse by moving to Switzerland.

Because, eh, Greystones just wasn’t inspiring enough, we guess.

Still, bringing it all back home to Ireland is a big deal for the award-winning busker, and he’s marking his homecoming with a special Jigsaw fundraiser, Songs From The Bright Side, at The Whale on Friday, October 21st.

Before the big gig, we managed to catch 20 minutes with Eoghan to find out how he got from here to there, and back again…

That decision in 2002 to pick up your guitar and travel for a year – how did your family and
friends take that?
I went straight from school (St. David’s) to university (DCU), to a fulltime job, joining RTÉ when Lyric
FM was launched in Limerick in 1999. I didn’t have the gap-year experience that many others did.
While I was at RTÉ, I had the opportunity to do a media-related postgrad course in Switzerland. That
experience is probably what sparked a desire to see more of the world.

Beyond that, I had been doing a lot of live music, throughout my years in DCU and around the place
in Limerick. My friends and family knew music was a big thing for me. I suppose some may have
wondered whether I was really cut out for the life of a travelling musician, but I don’t think anyone was
particularly worried. I had already survived a move to Limerick!!

And how did you take it? Fully confident it would be a great adventure, or was there a fear of
falling flat on your face…?
I was confident I could make a go of it. I started out with three months in Paris, where I was quickly
playing in a different pub each night of the week (and I happened to meet Nadine, now my wife, in one of
those pubs!). And other musical adventures lay ahead, including in bars and on cruise ships around
Scandinavia, and here and there in the US.

Music has always been there – playing those gigs, helping set up Lyric FM in 1999, the
recordings, the cruise ships; where did that come from?
My parents – my mother, Mary, in particular – always encouraged me and my sisters in musical
activities. So, whether it was playing viola in the Greystones Junior Orchestra or singing in Pauline
Chambers’ famous school shows or church choirs, music was ever present.

Was there much outlet for a budding young rock God in Greystones growing up?
I’m not sure anyone has ever seen a rock god in me… I’m much more of a folkie, albeit one who
appreciates a good tune, whatever the genre.

Greystones Summer Project – or more specifically the social gatherings among the teenagers who
helped out there – was probably the first place where I regularly entertained friends with the guitar.
Much earlier than that, seeing GSP legend Mick Redmond playing his guitar when I was attending the
Project myself was certainly an inspiration. A few early lessons from Eoin Kavanagh (whose band
was, I think, called Septic Skank?) set me on the right track, while I learnt a lot jamming with
schoolmates like Clara Murray and Chris Singleton (who now has a band in London).

You’ve said you learnt early on that when it comes to music, it’s best to find something else to
pay the bills. A bitter pill to swallow…?
My year as a travelling musician taught me that I probably could make some sort of a living from
music; but I also realised that I might quickly lose the pleasure I got from it. So, I decided that I’d go
back to a more conventional day-job and keep music as a passion (that sometimes still helps to pay
the bills!). Job opportunities eventually took me to Geneva and then Amsterdam, before I settled back
in Switzerland. And I’ve never stopped singing, composing and performing along the way.

Settled in your house between Geneva and Lausanne sounds pretty idyllic – hard to find the
fire in your belly for songwriting with a sunny family life…?
I’ve certainly fallen on my feet in Switzerland, and I don’t think the good life is necessarily an enemy of
creativity. In the end, it’s about staying motivated, and I get huge pleasure from trying to craft songs
that will entertain and engage people in different ways. I have an optimistic outlook, so the songs I write
tend to reflect that. Family life can leave little time and headspace for writing, but I’ve managed to keep things ticking over, often on the basis of some sort of ‘commission’ to write songs for a given person or purpose.

The upcoming gig is for Jigsaw’s Wicklow Hub – how did that come about?
It was a result of several threads coming together. Brian, the artistic director at The Whale, got in touch
when he spotted an interview I did with The Irish Times. That interview happened because a song I wrote (in French!) about inclusion for a foundation here in Switzerland is now taught to schoolkids around the Lake Geneva area.

The tragic death of a good friend’s husband brought me back to Greystones last year for his funeral, where I helped with the music. Reconnecting with old friends in such sad circumstances got me thinking a lot about how short life is and how important it is to support each other. I spoke with The Whale soon after about doing a show. As the idea took shape, I knew I wanted it to focus on positives: friends, family, community. Hence Songs From The Bright Side. And it just seemed natural to me to use it as an opportunity to support Jigsaw, who are doing vital work in the region on youth mental health.

You can catch Eoghan O’Sullivan: Songs From The Bright Side on Friday, October 21st at 8pm.

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