Folk singer- songwriter John Lynch told David Hennessy about his new single and EP that looks at current and historical issues affecting Ireland and themes of leaving home and returning after time away.
Hot Press call John Lynch ‘one of the country’s most promising singer- songwriters’.
John has just released Guardians, a song based on the coastal village of Ringsend, home to the iconic chimney towers.
It is a song about leaving home and coming back.
This was John’s life for many years as he worked away from his native Dublin and spent much time in London and elsewhere in the UK working as an electrician.
However, it was the Covid-19 pandemic that inspired him to pursue music full-time.
Although he admits it may sound ‘counterintuitive’ to be chasing anything musical when live gigs were off the table, he says it worked as all performers were in exactly the same boat.
John’s career has gone from strength to strength with the release of his debut album City Stars in 2021.
He continued to gather momentum by selling out the Sugar Club, as well as selling out his UK dates.
John has shared the bill with the likes of Christy Moore, Jerry Fish, Mary Coughlan and more.
Guardians is the first taste of John’s forthcoming EP, 1922.
John explains the song was inspired by Dublin’s iconic chimney towers.
John told The Irish World: “In Dublin, there’s a famous scene on the sky line.
“It’s an old ESB generating station that was built in the 70s.
“And at the time, there was a bit of controversy because there was never any high rises in Dublin.
“And these two big gaudy looking towers, red and white industrial looking towers came up over the Dublin skyline.
“But eventually, they became an almost iconic symbol of Dublin, they almost represent Dublin.
“I’m a child of the 70s, so they were always there.
“I could see them wherever I was, wherever we lived and I grew up not far away from the actual centre of Dublin and right in front of the River Liffey.
“And then of course working for many years as an electrician, I’d be going backwards and forwards towards London or towards the UK and you’d be leaving the port of Dublin on a Sunday afternoon and that’s the last thing you see as you leave, but it’s also what you see as you arrive.
“They always looked very ominous as you sailed in and they reminded me of bouncers.
“They’re kind of watching everybody coming and going.
“So I said, ‘They’re the guardians, they’re watching over Dublin’.
“They kind of look like this industrial robot type of thing so that’s how the song started to formulate.
“But of course there’s a huge history in that area, Poolbeg and Dublin docks.
“There’s a south wall that started to be constructed in 1756 and that was just to make it safer for ships to enter the port and to widen the channel up to the Custom House.
“And there’s a lighthouse at the end of that, Poolbeg Lighthouse and I just became fascinated with the story of how people had to maintain lighthouses and the channels in.
“They’re the backdrop of the Guardian so it kind of intertwines with that lovely walk. It’s 1.6 kilometres out to the sea so you walk out on the wall to touch that lighthouse.
“The ships roll in as you’re entering the port.
“You can nearly touch them, they’re so big.
“So it all kind of wrapped together into that song.”
As he says, John knows what it is like to be away from home.
“I’d work Monday to Friday in London.
“On my first album City Stars I have a song called London Bridge and that’s the inspiration behind that.
“Because every morning at 8am I used to find myself walking across London Bridge into the financial district. I would work in high rises there.
“I remember how anonymous I was being on my own in London, an Irish man.
“It took me a long time to find my people over there.
“And then you latch into a group of people, but you miss home.
“And then having to spend that amount of time away from home you just wonder, ‘The missus back home, is she still there?’
“Everything would go through your head.
“I actually loved London.
“I missed it then when I didn’t go there.
“When you’re there, you want to come home.
“When you’re at home, you want to be in London.
“It’s a great scene, I really enjoyed it.
“I met some great people over there that are still friends today.
“I spent a lot of time in Bristol. So the Southwest really woke me up to folk music again.
“Cornwall and Devon all places like that.
“There’s an amazing scene for folk music there.
“That’s where I discovered a band called Show of Hands.
“Oh my God, they’re brilliant.
“Steve Knightley, Phil Beer: Excellent.
“And I met a whole group of musicians there that I never knew existed.
“I spent a lot of time in the UK and traveling backwards and forwards.
“But there’s good inspiration for songs there, and City Stars would be another one.
“There’s a lot of songs about that journey.
“I find it very hard…
“I couldn’t sing a song I didn’t connect with.
“So I have to connect and then I can deliver it.
“And I think what people are seeing is the story being told rather than the melody or anything like that, you know?”
John’s EP 1922 deals with current and historical issues affecting Ireland.
“The way it is at the moment, you can’t buy a house, you can’t even rent a house.
“It’s ridiculous the cost of living as it is everywhere in Europe and the UK.
“But for some reason it’s prohibitive now in Ireland to even rise to the cost of living.
“Two people could be working fantastic jobs and yet they’re paying maybe €3,500 per month just for rent and that’s in jeopardy any minute from a landlord.
“So the theme 1922 comes from the formation of the Irish Republic in 1922.
“It starts off back in 1922 when we had thought about this utopian society.
“It’s turned bad now, guys.
“100 years later, here’s the state of it.
“So I address that in a song called 1922 but there’s another song in there called Dark Horse on the Wind.
“It comes from a song from a man called Liam Weldon.
“Liam Weldon would be a lesser known traditional Irish singer.
“He was born in the 30s, died in the 90s and he wrote this song in 1966, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, but it’s an anti- Rising song.
“So in other words, anybody who participated in that they thought they were fighting for something- You just created another society for politicians to play the same auld games and for economics to play their part, the usual story that’s always being told.
“That was always done as a traditional song but I made a new arrangement and put some instrumentation on it.
“That’s probably gonna be the next one to come out, I’d say.”
John combines folk elements with a contemporary twist to make modern folk songs.
“I grew up with that whole genre of music.
“And growing up in an Irish family, you had to have a little party piece.
“So everybody sang and did a song, you know?
“And then when I started to write my own music, it came out in that genre, and I couldn’t help but write about modern themes in that folk genre.
“And to be honest, it’s the truest form of expression to me.”
John recently played The Cobblestone pub in Dublin. Revered for being a home to authentic Irish music in Dublin, it has long been under threat.
“They’re living on borrowed time there.
“The Planning Commission has just re-applied.
“And if anybody’s familiar with the Cobblestone, that’s where you go to learn your trade as an Irish musician.
“It would have been where the real folks would have went.
“I say that now politely.
“You go down to Temple Bar in Dublin and you’re going to get a version of Irish music.
“But if you go into the Cobblestone, you’re getting the authentic Irish music.
“The authenticity has remained untouched since they opened it.
“It’s the way pubs were years ago, very friendly atmosphere.
“And you can walk in there and learn how to play an instrument and participate.
“It’s a continuation of the culture really.
“Especially in the last decade, Ireland has kind of harmonised into a European culture which is kind of sad.
“We’re losing that bit that we would have had that made us unique and it’s definitely a harmonised culture now with Europe.
“It’s almost invisible in Ireland, Irish culture. Apart from the tourist part of it, the real Irish culture I’m talking about.
“So that’s why the Cobblestone is very precious to me.
“And, you know, they’ll tell you if you’re crap.
“So you have got to be good there.
“If you can survive that place, you’re good.”
John has shared stages with people like Christy Moore and Mary Coughlan to name just two.
Are they treasured memories? “Absolutely, the way that worked was there was a series of gigs put on as venues were coming out of COVID-19.
“I mean you had Christy Moore one night, you had Mary Coughlan the next night, and then there was me, little old me on the same bill as these people.
“I was delighted with that.
“And, of course, I played with KILA.
“KILA are a fantastic band, one of my favourite bands, and a lot of the guys played on my first album.
“So I’ve got very friendly with those guys. Excellent musicians.
“It has been a bit of a whirlwind because as we entered COVID, I decided, ‘I’m gonna go full-time with the music’ which was counterintuitive but it actually worked.
“Because if you think about it, every artist was back at the starting line because there was no venues open.
“Everybody had to navigate their way through new digital media, new methods of exploring how you publish and how you record so it was a good leveller in that respect.
“So although I spent years as an amateur musician, certainly the last four years I have gone at it hard and as we exited COVID, I came out the same as everybody else then.”
John says he has missed London and enjoyed the UK for folk music.
Are there any plans to return? “There is actually.
“Last year we went from Burnham-on- Sea down to Cornwall.
“We did two or three places down there and then of course a little network emerged.
“So we’re going back over again this year.
“I’ve no exact dates but I’d love to go over there again.”
The single Guardians is out now.
The EP 1922 is out in June.
For more information, click here.