David Hennessy and Georgie Durcan spoke to Galway singer- songwriter Oisin Mod about his debut album, working with Bill Ryder Jones and being compared to Elliott Smith.
Galway singer- songwriter Oisin Mod releases his debut album Honeycomb this week.
Produced by former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder Jones, Oisin is already being compared to acts like Elliott Smith, Mazzy Star and even John Lennon.
Following the release, he will make his London gig debut at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney on 14 September.
Having played in various bands for years, it was when his last one fizzled out that Oisin found himself as a songwriter with a more pared-back style.
There’s often a coincidental story or some kind of connection for how certain people end up working together but Oisin collaborating with Bill Ryder Jones was more simple: He asked him.
Without being arrogant about it, he was confident that Wirral singer- songwriter would want to be involved. And he was right.
Oisin told The Irish World: “I’m just a massive fan of his records, so I was aware that his sensibilities would lend themselves to my songs, you know?”
When Oisin had amassed a collection of songs that would go on to make up Honeycomb, his instinct told him that they needed something else, another layer of stardust sprinkled on them.
Oisin sent the demos to Bill to see if the former Coral guitarist would be up for producing an album.
And he was glad he did as it was clear from their earliest conversations that the two of them were on the same page about how these songs could shine and truly soar, so they booked ten days in the studio together to realise Oisin’s vision.
What was it like when Ryder- Jones said he would work on the album with Oisin?
Well, Oisin was pretty confident he would know where he was coming from.
“Maybe it’s hard to say it and not sound somewhat arrogant, but I was pretty sure he’d want to be involved in it.
“I sent a couple of tunes.
“I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to make an album or not, but I said I would go over and do a couple of songs and see how that went.
“And then things kept getting pushed back last year so then there was a good gap and I’d written a lot more songs.
“So it was, ‘I have the body of work here, let’s do it in one go, rather than going over and back’.
“It just made more sense, you know?”
What was it like to work with Bill? “It was a lovely, he was so encouraging and was happy to voice what he thought and where he thought things should go.
“There was a lot of pre-production done on the record so I had a pretty concrete idea as to the bones of the arrangement.
“He added some brilliant parts and the way he would speak to me in terms of like just getting to the core of what it was we were trying to make.
“He’d listened to the demos a few times and we’d had a few calls over zoom and we were just chatting about it, and just kind of chatting to one another so there would be some type of rapport that wasn’t just work related going in beforehand, which was lovely.
“It doesn’t feel like work often, you know?”
The album was recorded in ten days which Oisin thinks may have been to its benefit rather than its disadvantage.
“I do have a habit of overthinking things, but as we only had ten days you don’t have time to do that.
“I always think about people like Neil Young, they weren’t overthinking stuff, they had a few days in between tours and they went in and said, ‘OK this is how it’s going to be…’ and just captured that moment.
“I think we finished two songs on the first day so that kind of gave us room to be able to try some things later on over the course of the sessions.
“I was confident enough in the songs and confident enough in working with Bill that I was happy to just let it become whatever it was gonna become.
“And I was confident that I’d be happy with the end product.
“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself going in recording the thing, because it was gonna get recorded.
“I thought that it would have been a healthier option to fully buy into the process rather than waste energy worrying about it.”
Have they stayed in touch? Would Oisin work with Bill on the next album? “Yeah, we keep in touch. We send each other texts every now and again.
“Would I go over and do another one with him? I’m not sure. It would depend on what the next round of songs is like really to be honest with you.
“But I’d love for him to be involved in the next one in some capacity.
“Whether I would go over and do it in the studio in West Kirby with him, I don’t know.
“It’s maybe too early in the process of the next one to know that, to say yeah to that or to say no really.”
Oisin makes his London debut next month in a part of London where he has some family.
“I have a sister in Hackney and we’re playing in Hackney as well.
“I wanted to play Paper Dress Vintage but I didn’t actually- Because she was living in Bethnal Green and I thought she was still living there but she’d since moved to Hackney.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to play a show in Hackney’. She was like, ‘I live there’.
“I’ll get to see her, she’ll come down.
“I am looking forward to going over and playing because I don’t really have any other plans to play this record live that much with the five piece band.
“At least not this year.
“We started rehearsing, and it’s interesting to kind of come back to the songs and sing them again.
“It’ll be interesting for me to see in the context of my relationship with the songs how I feel on the evening of the show and after it, you know?”
The album tells tales of melancholy, heartbreak and reflection in a way that feel very personal.
“A lot of it is (personal).
“A lot of it is and I suppose in that regard, a lot of it was written not really with other people hearing it in my mind.
“I know I’m speaking about very specific things in it a lot of the time, but objectively, maybe that isn’t too obvious.
“But a lot of it would be personal lyrically, I suppose.”
Is Honeycomb, the title track, a love song? “Yeah, it is. Maybe it’s trying a little bit not to be, but it probably is.
“It’s probably more so about the bad things about being in a loving relationship that people maybe sometimes find themselves falling into.
“Or unhealthy more so than bad is probably a more apt word.”
Is there catharsis in writing about these things? Would he say songwriting is like therapy? “I wouldn’t. I don’t think I would because the idea of it being therapeutic kind of infers that there’s an end result and you’re figuring something out whereas that’s not really it for me.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh my god, I wrote this song. I feel great now’.
“It’s just wanting to work on songs for me primarily.
“Of course, other things are going to feed into it, but I wouldn’t compare it totally with therapy.
“Of course, there’s parallels there in the way it’s a mode of expression and maybe realizing some things, but more often than not, in my case, it doesn’t provide a solution for whatever it is you’re talking about.
“So I wouldn’t fully consider it totally therapeutic or cathartic or anything like that, to be honest.”
From when he was young, music was a constant in Oisin’s life.
He has played guitar and violin since he was eight.
As previously mentioned, it was when his last group fizzled out that he truly found his own voice as a songwriter.
“I don’t think that’s uncommon for people, there’s things you kind of just grow out of, maybe they’re kind of akin to teenage crushes or teenage loves or whatever.
“But more often than not, they kind of don’t kind of continue to operate as they once did when people start to grow a little bit, I suppose.
“I’d been playing in a band for years and I just kind of felt I’d grown out of it. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I started writing songs for myself and it felt natural and right. It was more how I would speak and think. The songs were just for me.”
Is it easier to work through emotions writing solo? “I would say yes in the sense that there’s less apprehension about having to bring the work to other people you’re very, very close to when you’re not even fully sure what it is yet.
“So that can be maybe a little bit tiresome at times, it can take a lot of energy worrying about those things.
“That’s not to say that that’s the case for everybody by any means.
“But doing things on your own, I found that that kind of apprehension isn’t present anymore.”
Is it always easy to write songs? “I think it’s beneficial to try and do something every day.
“Saying every day is easier than actually doing it every day.
“But more often than not, you don’t control the timetable. It kind of arrives when it arrives.
“But that being said, being in the habit of being ready for them to arrive helps.
“I find anyways, there could be a lot of nothing going on,” he laughs.
Hot Press have described Oisin’s music as having ‘shades of Elliott Smith, solo Lennon and Mazzy Star in its warm textures’.
What does he think of these comparisons? “They’re fine. I don’t really put too much stock in it, to be honest with it.
“He (Smith) writes great songs, so it’s maybe easier for one’s psyche to presume people are coming from a positive angle with these things.
“I try not to really think about to be honest with you.”
Who are his influences? “There’s a few Irish songwriters who are kind of just doing their own thing and are in their own lane and not necessarily a part of any scene as such that are making work that I think is absolutely fantastic.
“Recognizing attitudes in other songwriters who have been putting out records in the last four or five years was inspiring for me to be able to recognize myself, it’s okay, I don’t really need to be looking side to side at what other people are doing to make this, to be happy with it.”
Oisin comes from Moycullen, just like Galway football captain Seán Kelly.
Has he played some GAA himself? “I played underage but everybody plays underage.
“Once you get to under 12s, that’s when I stopped playing.
“I know a few boys who still play junior for the craic really.
“You just kind of give it a go.
“It’s more about community at that age, and those age groups rather than the sport so much, you know?”
Of Galway’s success in reaching the final this year he says: “The fact that Galway aren’t often in such a position, it was a lovely thing to see really: Everyone kind of coming together.”
Oisin Mod’s debut album Honeycomb is out now.
He plays Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney on 14 September.
For more information, click here.