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Coming from the flats

Dublin- based artist Galvo told David Hennessy about his forthcoming debut album, the ‘madness’ of growing up in the Ballymun flats and why he boycotted the World Cup in Qatar.

Singer- songwriter Galvo, also known as James Galvo Parker, releases his debut album The HeARTist this year. The 14-track indie-folk project is heralded by the release of its lead single Getting Better on 13 July.

Hot Press say of Galvo’s work, ‘One of the most accomplished and exciting debuts that have passed through HP Towers this year’.

Getting Better carries an optimistic message of self-improvement while the accompanying music video shows Galvo as a man cursed with tiny hands that struggles with even the simplest tasks until he makes a deal with a shaman who grants him monstrously huge hands.

The video sometimes plays for laughs but also has a powerful message about learning to find comfort in who you are.

Galvo told The Irish World about the album: “When people listen to it, they’ll hear someone that has a unique voice that isn’t afraid to be raw and vulnerable.

“I’m not auto tuned. There are parts in the songs that aren’t perfect.

“Overall, there’s a decent level of craft and songwriting in it.

“I think it’s really going to resonate with a lot of people.

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“I’m looking forward to how it’s going to be received.”

People say you sound like Elliot Smith and Billy Corgan among others, how do you feel about such comparisons? “People say I sound like them because my voice is in that kind of range.

“I don’t feel I’m quite like them but I think there’s aspects of them that are there.

“I think I’m kind of a bit raw

“Radical Face is another one I’ve heard people say.

“But I think, without being egotistical, I’ve earned the right to be my own person.

“And I hope that’s what’s going to be seen.

“When people see that they go, ‘Oh, he’s kind of unique and he’s kind of doing something different’.

“I think I’ll be a bit Marmite to certain people.

“I think certain people are gonna love it, I think other people are gonna go, ‘Uh, I don’t like that’.

“And that’s fine, that’s just life.”

Some may recognise Galvo from his other music project, the band A Dark Horse which also comprises Hugh Rodgers and Niall Woods who also feature on this record.

Is the band still going? “The band is still kind of somewhat alive, but at the same time, you have people who have families and you have people who have other careers.

“We have an album finished, just needs to be mixed.

“But it’s a matter of when.

“The reason I did the album is that one of the lads in the band had a baby and it was this whole gap.

“I was like, ‘You know what? I can’t wait around anymore in my life for the right set of circumstances. I’m just going to do an album anyway’.

“And this is all me doing it because I can’t wait for people’s lives to align.

“The (A Dark Horse) album is going to be excellent.

“We were critically acclaimed with the EP. We had loads of record labels after us, this is way back when.

“When it gets its day, it’s going to be a great album but I don’t know when it’s going to happen.

“It’s like we’re all suffering from PTSD (from COVID).

“At the same time, I just decided in the middle of all that, I’m just going to do an album.

“I’ve done a load of videos as well.”

Doing videos is a joy for Galvo who has experience in that industry.

“I’m a trained actor and I like directing. I have a very fertile imagination.

“I’m very creative but I’ve also got a very good work ethic and I’m able to focus on things and this is the stuff that motivates me.

“I also think a lot of people are moving towards this idea you only need to do 30 second clips to capture people’s attention, but I feel like art visually or a storyline or something that’s going on with the music really enhances the music.

“I come from that old school where I used to just sit and watch hours and hours of music videos, and most of them were terrible but there were one or two that were like Smashing Pumpkins videos or Black Hole Sun Soundgarden or things like that where there was a thought behind it and an artistic quality to it and that’s what I feel like.

“I don’t have a problem with multi-tasking so I can direct, produce, act and then see the vision with the whole thing together.

“I have a support network of people who want to get involved so it’s pretty cool.

“I make my videos for under €500.

“I don’t see myself as a musician or an actor or director

“I just see myself as an artist.

“When I’m making a song, I also can see what the video is going to be like as well.

“I’m able to almost visualise it and put it together.

“My dream is, if it’s possible, to make a video for every song on the album.

“I’ve got six videos done of the 14.

“I want to put together a piece that will be from start to finish visual and you’ll just be able to watch it from start to finish all the videos together.”

Galvo had to come through a difficult upbringing in the Ballymun flats to get where he is.

“We were growing up in the flats in Ballymun, there was loads of madness going on.

“My brother was thrown up on barbed wire.

“My sister was nearly kidnapped a few times in Ballymum.

“There were people trying to get us on heroin all the time.

“My parents used to batter the heads off each other as well.

“We would wake up and things would be smashed all over the place.

“I’ve no shame in that either because I want to be an example to show that you can still come from that and be relatively normal.

“Ballymum in the 80s was a pretty radical place.

“My parents are good people but they weren’t a good match.

“I grew up in Ballymun and then I moved to a place called River Valley in Swords which was kind of an eye opening experience to realise that not everyone starts fights with you all the time, and there was normality.

“Because I was constantly in fights when I was a kid, because that’s what you had to do when you grew up in Ballymun.

“To survive, you would have to stand your ground all the time and when I moved there about eight or nine, I was like, ‘Ah, this is a normal place’.”

Galvo’s father was a musician born in Barnet and used to hang out with Rod Stewart.

Galvo spent some time in London himself.

“I was there in 2013/ 2014.

“I was living up in Kilburn, the classic Irish place.

“I don’t know how I got it but I got a job off Gumtree running a Pakistani hip hop label which was very bizarre.

“The guy used to parade me around.

“I don’t know what is in that culture but him having me as a white guy was like a trophy or something like that: Very bizarre.

“It was very like, ‘What are you doing, man?’

“I see everyone as normal, I don’t see any of that stuff but he was really proud he had this Irish guy running his label: Very strange lad.

“But it was a nice experience. I met lots of different Bangladeshis and Indians.

“And then I was doing extra work on films and all that kind of stuff.

“I’ve been in about like 200 or 300 different films.”

Galvo was a Knight of the Vale in Game of Thrones but is more proud of stage work he has done.

“I did a load of sold out plays here in Ireland when there was the centenary for the rising.

“There was five nights sold out for a rebellion play and I was the lead actor.

“That was pretty cool.”

Galvo made a video last year denouncing the World Cup in Qatar. He felt so strongly about the human rights issues, he said he was boycotting it and others should too.

“I’m mad about football.

“I love the World Cup.

“My dad was a brickie and migrant workers died in that and they didn’t give a penny to any of them.

“I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t morally watch the World Cup. I haven’t seen one goal or anything.

“Normally I would take time off work to watch the World Cup.

“That’s how mad I am into it but I couldn’t. It felt wrong. It is wrong.

“It shouldn’t have been there and the amount of money that they made from it.

“You have to understand if you take that line out- that man that’s gone over, that woman that’s gone over- the whole community dies, the family dies.

“You cut that line out, they’re gone.

“And they’re buried in unmarked graves over there.

“Horrific stuff.”
Galvo says high profile figures like Harry Kane and Lionel Messi had a chance to make a point such as how Kane was supposed to wear a one love armband in solidarity with the LGBTQ community but in the end decided not to in fear of getting a yellow card.

“Teams could have done stuff.

“Harry Kane said he was gonna do that for all the gay people.

“I would have taken a red card, ‘I’ll wear that thing, I’ll take the red card’.

“I just think a lot of people say a lot of things but when it comes down to the bottom line, when it’s about money and it’s about this and that, they don’t do it.

“It’s all good to talk and say things but you have to live that thing.”

Getting Better will release across all platforms  13 July.

The HeARTist will release across all platforms later this year. 

For more information, click here.

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