Hotly tipped singer-songwriter from Belfast Conor Scott told David Hennessy about his new music, his appearance on The Voice back in 2013 and the day when, as a schoolboy, he convinced an at first sceptical Eamonn Holmes they were related.
Conor Scott from Belfast was only eighteen when he auditoned for The Voice in 2013. He impressed enough with his performance of Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding to get Danny O’Donoghue to turn for him. He would join The Script frontman’s team before bowing out at the battles stage.
From there he moved to London where he spent years playing the pubs and clubs to ‘progress’ himself as a performer.
Well, progress has certainly been made because he has been tipped by Clash Magazine, Hot Press, and BBC Radio 1 Presenter Gemma Bradley as Northern Ireland’s next big thing.
Written during lockdown, Conor’s new single Life Now is about adapting to a new way of living and accepting how life is at least temporarily while also being tinged with hope.
Conor tells The Irish World: “There was a lot of pessimism and negativity and everybody was definitely fearful. I didn’t have anything necessarily optimistic to write myself so I kind of set up a home recording studio in my spare room here and it just came out that way but then at the end of it all I tried to pretty much post a positive light in the song as well to be, ‘This isn’t forever and this is a time when we can really evaluate who we are and how we can take these negative or fearful experiences and turn them into strength and carry them with us and make the world better for ourselves.
“I think everybody obviously just has to take it in. It’s been a year now which is crazy. It doesn’t really feel like it. This is the life now, this is how everybody is experiencing it now but I’ve got my fingers crossed that we won’t be like this for long with good news like the vaccinations working and social distancing and the lockdowns are all working.
“It’s necessary but I’m sure we all can’t wait to go visit our friends and our family, go to gigs, go to sports games and go to the pub most importantly.
“I wrote it in the middle of May. It would have been right at the height of the first lockdown and everybody was still getting used to this new way of living.
“Everything is being experienced through the media pretty much whether it’s on your phone or social media or just kind of just through the television.”
Conor has made the most out of lockdown but admits it has been up and down.
“Every day is a little bit different. There’s maybe more days where I’m more productive than not but I’ve definitely tried to make the most of it. I kind of said to myself at the start of it, ‘I would hate to come out of this and kind of look back and be, what have I done with this time?’
“Even if it was the smallest thing, I would play my guitar every day. I would sit down and I would play for a little bit for fun, I wouldn’t intentionally go down to try and write something. If the inspiration hit me on that day then it would kind of flow out of me that way.
“Then there have been days when I’ve just sat and watched Netflix and just ate lots of chocolate so each day is different but it has been a good time to be productive.”
Conor could quite easily have seen the crisis out in London as it was only late 2019 that he moved back to Belfast having spent more than three years here.
“London’s a great place to spend your early 20s, I think, just for the music scene, going out and experiencing different music and cultures. You know what London is like, it just has everything available for you at any time so it was a great place for me to go just after leaving school and just trying to progress as a musician. It was great so I had really, really great times over there.
“I lived in west London the entire time I was there. I was in Ealing. I would have played in and around Neasden, Wembley. I used to play in the Parish Bar. And Willesden and all sorts of places, Ruislip as well. I was playing quite a lot of places.
“It was kind of like my bread and butter so on the weekend I was going to the local Irish bars and just kind of played the mixture of the traditional stuff and just the typical sets that you would get in the pubs so it was always quite- Even though I was obviously in London but you never felt far from home in any of the Irish bars that you walked into.”
Conor never got to play GAA over here but confesses he was really keen to.
“I never made it to any of the GAA games. I’m a mad hurler myself but I couldn’t really find the time to get into playing a wee bit of anything because there was just so many things happening and then the whole insurance policy. If I got a stick to the hand then that could have been me out of work for God knows how long. I would have definitely loved to have played it a little bit but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to.”
How does Conor look back on his experience on TV’s The Voice now? “It was nearly eight years ago now, 2013, so I was still still in school. It was my final year and I was finishing off my A Levels.
“Looking back on it now, I just feel the naivety of myself kind of going into that. I was really wide-eyed and really enthusiastic and I have no regrets. I do look back at it really fondly because I really feel as though it has helped shape the kind of artist that that I’ve grown to be.
“It’s put me in touch with a lot of people who I still work with and can reach out to for a helping hand at any time but sometimes looking back at it it does feel like a different life.
“I was a big Script fan as well so to get to work with Danny was really helpful and then even when I was living in Ealing he was just around the corner in Chiswick as well. He was always there to give me a little nuggets of information and he’s somebody that I can reach out to if I ever do need a little bit of help.
“I think just having the Irish connection, being on a UK show, definitely really, really helped and it was great to just have somebody put their trust in you and put their faith in you but carrying on from that he definitely gave me great nuggets of information. It’s really helped to establish myself as an artist whether it be little bits for the songwriting process or little processes for working in the studio and things like that. He’s been really helpful.
“Getting to meet the rest of the band, the guitarist Mark also lived in Ealing so I was always constantly running to him walking his dog in the park and things like that so it was kind of nice to have those guys just to call upon.”
His old coach Danny says Conor is ‘an amazing talent’, while Gemma Bradley of BBC Radio 1 Introducing says of him, ‘He blew me away’.
Conor got to tour the UK and Europe along with the Down singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan who himself built a large following through supporting Ed Sheeran.
“Ryan’s a good friend. I’ve known Ryan- God, maybe ten years now. We used to play all the same pubs and clubs in Belfast because he’s from just down the road and we just always kept really, really close.
“He got really super lucky obviously doing a tour with Ed Sheeran and that just massively helped him so whenever he reached out to me about going and supporting him for the UK and European shows, I had never really done a full tour, I had done little random one off shows here and there.
“It was a really surreal experience to consecutively tour like living out of your suitcase and four or five hour bus journeys throughout the night. Just to get out and experience that was amazing and also at that time I had just released new music so to play that was really eye opening and it was really cathartic just to meet new people and to just get my music out to an audience. The shows were amazing.
“We played Dingwalls in Camden and that was definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever played so I’m always grateful to Ryan for having me and I can’t wait to see him for a pint whenever all this is over as well.”
While Conor is being tipped for big things, a member of his family is already a household name.
“You’ve done your research,” he says when we bring up his connection to TV host Eamonn Holmes. “Eamonn is my mum’s first cousin, I don’t know what that makes him to me. I think he might be my second cousin or once removed or something like that but his father and my mum’s father are brothers.
“He’s from the same area, he grew up in north Belfast and went to the same school as me. I went to a school called St. Malachy’s and the first time that I met him we had a big annual school concert. It was a big anniversary concert in the waterfront Hall and Eamonn was the host for the evening and I was 12 or 13 at the time. It was the first time that I had met him and I was kind of standing at the side of the stage and I kind of tapped him on the shoulder and I said, ‘Hi, how’s it going? You’re my cousin’. And he goes, ‘Yeah, yeah’. And I goes, ‘No, my granny, (his aunt), is out there. WIll you come and say hello?’ And he goes, ‘Ah right, okay’. And then he came out and ever since then, I speak to him the odd time, not too much but yeah, he’s family.”
So what is next for Conor? Well, his EP is due this month but it sounds like he has much more planned while remaining hopeful that live gigs can return in the foreseeable.
“I’ve been writing a couple of songs with Danny O’Reilly from the Coronas and I’ve been doing a few things with Ryan as well. I’m just trying to stay creative and just trying to keep putting stuff out there and then hopefully one day we can get to a point where we might have an album ready but there’s still plenty to be done before that.
“We’re just really keeping our ears to the ground about live shows so we’re just trying to see what festivals are happening towards the end of the year and just booking little tours here and there so at the minute. We’re really looking forward to trying to play as many shows as we can and then if we get a chance I’ll definitely be getting back to the UK.”
Life Now is out now.
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