Conor O’Donohoe of Wild Youth told David Hennessy about their bid to represent Ireland at this year’s Eurovision and why he loves the whole competition so much.
Wild Youth have supported Westlife at Croke Park and toured Europe with Kodaline. They have also shared the stage with the likes of Niall Horan, Lewis Capaldi, The Script and The Coronas.
They are now bidding to represent Ireland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool in May.
They will have competition from Johnny Rotten himself as John Lydon and Public Image Limited are also in the mix.
There are four other acts in the running and the winner will be decided on the Late Late Eurosong 2023 Special on 3 February.
Wild Youth’s multi- instrumentalist and songwriter Conor O’Donohoe told us just why he loves the Eurovision so much.
He says he has always loved the freedom afforded to acts and the lack of judgement.
Conor told The Irish World: “The reaction has been amazing.
“People have been very kind and very supportive.
“We’ve done a lot of things. We’ve announced tours, and we’ve announced different things.
“But this is just something that’s kind of different.”
What would it mean to the band to represent Ireland? “Someone asked me this the other day and they were like, ‘Oh, is this just so you can get yourself on a platform in Europe?’
“And I was like, ‘No…’
“I absolutely love the Eurovision and I have for years.
“When I was a kid, the first album my granny ever bought me for Christmas was Mickey Joe Harte.
“My dad’s a big music lover and he was always playing Johnny Logan, so I always loved watching it.
“I always loved the thought of the Eurovision because it was a huge stage where anyone was free and there was no restrictions on anyone.
“They could do what they wanted, dress how they wanted and there was no judgement.
“I’ve always been a really big fan.
“Even to be in the running for it is amazing for us.”
The band will hope their number We Are One will be chosen as Ireland’s song for this year’s competition.
“You obviously try and write a song that you’re very proud of and then you try and deliver a performance on the Eurosong or if we’re lucky enough for it to be the Eurovision, but one thing we said was just to enjoy the whole thing and enjoy the whole process.
“With music nowadays, there’s so many different variables and moving parts
“It almost is quite draining releasing music.
“You’ve a Tik Tok strategy, you have a strategy for Instagram, you’ve got promo here, promo there, you have to do that show.
“You have to do this to sell your tour, you’ve to do this to try and sell your CDs.
“That can be hard because some days you might not feel like turning around and having a camera on selfie mode and doing a dance on Tik Tok, do you know what I mean?
“But it’s like you’re constantly under pressure to deliver those things.
“We just wanted to make a song that we were super proud of and we loved and it’s something new for us and we just want to have fun and we want to just try and enjoy every part of it.”
What is the song about? “It’s about a number of different things.
“As I just said to you there about the Eurovision- I love how open it is and I love how people can feel comfortable to be themselves and whatever that performance is.
“If you want to try and jump on a wire and swing across the stadium on a disco ball, you can do that if you want to.
“There’s no limit on what you can do and who you can be on that stage and that’s what I love about it.
“The title is We Are One. I think when some people heard, they were like, ‘Oh, here we go. It’s another political song about how we should all just be friends’.
“And it’s not what I’m trying to get at.
“The title of it was actually Tonight, We are One because that’s what I think the magic of the Eurovision is.
“When you’re in that room, it feels like everyone is one.
“It’s like everyone feels equal.
“It must be the only competition in the whole world where other countries cheer for the other country when they’re all in the same competition.
“It has that kind of united feeling and acceptance to everyone and that’s honestly what I love.
“I thought if only the world almost thought the way that Eurovision did, you know what I mean?
“Maybe it would just be a better place.
“That was just where it came from.
“If we all just looked at events like the Eurovision, we all kind of took that approach to life maybe we could all be a bit happier and people could be safer and more secure.”
The song follows the band’s latest single, Modern Colosseum which dwelled on modern issues like war, gun violence and the general state of the world.
Conor revealed to us that it was not as a song for the band that he was initially thinking of it.
“I’m a songwriter as well. I’m signed to Universal in the UK so I write a lot for other artists.
“I had the idea for Modern Colosseum one day.
“It was written for another artist honestly and then I sent it to our manager and he was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing. This has to be a Wild Youth song’.
“And I was like, ‘Really?’
“And he was like, ‘100%’.
“So then I had to message the artist and be like, ‘Hey, do you mind? Can I actually use this for my own band?’
“I thought maybe lyrically we’d never gone to that place so I thought it’d be quite alien for people who followed our band but people wanted to do it.
“I’ve never got political with songs.
“If I was quizzed on politics…
“I have a very overactive mind so I try and keep away from all that.
“Otherwise, I’ll get totally bogged down in it.
“I don’t really watch the news or anything. Obviously, I keep up to speed with what’s going on but it gets really on top of me.
“And I’m quite an emotional person, so it can totally take over.
“I’m very aware of what goes on in the world and I’m very aware of what I’m totally against.
“That’s where that song came from.
“It was just kind of coming from a personal place of things that I’m totally against in the world.”
Wild Youth have made no secret of their desire to take part in Eurovision so it is no whim for them.
“When I played football when I was younger the dream was to play for Ireland. I love my country so much. I love Ireland so much that to represent Ireland would be the biggest honour for me and for all the lads.
“And just to be able to go there and try and compete and try and get everyone behind it.
“Look at like when Ireland go to the Euros, the whole country gets behind it and they’re the best fans in the world.
“And they’re mannerly, they’re polite and everyone loves the Irish.
“And if we got there, I would love to create that for the Eurovision.
“I would want to get everyone behind it.
“And I’d want to create that feeling that we have that support that we have when we go to the Olympics, when we go to the euros with football, whatever it is, I would love to create that feeling behind the Eurovision.”
The band have played support to bands like Kodaline and The Script. They have played Croke Park. What stands out as a highlight? “I get asked this all the time and every time I’m like, ‘Oh, well playing Croke Park because I grew up down the road’.
“But then I’m like, ‘But also the Albert Hall and then Europe with Kodaline’, and I just start listing everything we’ve done.
“But genuinely. Not to sound cliche, but everything is kind of a highlight.
“I came up from an area called Killester in Dublin
“I always wanted to write songs and I always knew I had an ability to work every minute of the day that I could.
“But I never expected to get to some of the places that we got to, I never expected to play a song that I’d written in Croke Park, I never expected to play songs I’d written in the (Royal) Albert Hall and I never expected to write number one songs for other artists or write with The Script or go on tour around Europe with Kodaline, sell out multiple Olympias and tours around Ireland, shows in London that we sold out ourselves. I never expected.
“My mum was quite sick and I remember before she passed away she was like, ‘Keep working every day and I promise you you’ll get to the Olympia one day’.
“We sold out the Olympia three times in one year then.
“To have made her proud would have been my life goal.
“Everything on top of that is an incredible high for me and a massive highlight.”
And does their success come with its low lights? The band had a ‘be kind’ social media campaign in response to the trolls that their success awakened. Do those (troll) messages hit home? “It does.
“I think I’m a very sensitive person.
“It used to really affect me, but it’s just happening all the time, every day.
“I’ve kind of separated myself to just think that maybe people just do this because they just want to do it.
“Because I used to think if someone would say something to me, I’m like, ‘God, they really hate me. What have I done?’
“I remember someone tweeted- I won’t even repeat it- an incredibly horrible thing to me about my family.
“I tweeted back and I was like, ‘Why on earth would you say that?’
“And then they wrote back and they’re like, ‘Hey, oh my god, I can’t believe you noticed my tweet. I was only joking. I love your band’.
“I’ve kind of started to kind of just separate now and put up a kind of shield.
“I don’t let them affect me as much as it used to.
“The pandemic was definitely a low.
“Listen, there’s been so many times. I’m sure if we sat down and had a pint I could tell you 100 times where we got given nos, where we were told we weren’t good enough or you fly over to London with the only €100 you had in your bank account for someone to cancel a meeting.
“There’s countless things. It’s absolutely by no means been an easy road and it’s still not. We’re still just working every day.”
Conor and the band’s singer David Whelan went to school together. When did they know they wanted to put a band together? “It’s quite a long winded story.
“Basically I had really big surgery when I was younger.
“I couldn’t play football anymore. I was teaching myself the piano at home.
“Basically it was kind of therapy for me, we used to mess around on the piano because I couldn’t leave my house because I was very, very, very sick.
“I was very prone to infection so he used to come up.
“And then we kind of fell out of touch a tiny bit.
“One night I was in a bar in Dublin and we stumbled across each other and we ended up chatting for hours and I was like, ‘Let’s meet up tomorrow. Let’s go back to like making songs’.
“And then I wrote All or Nothing one day and I sent it to him.
“He’s like, ‘I absolutely love this’.
“And then we did a couple of gigs just me and him and then someone wanted to manage us and then it kind of just became a thing naturally.
“And then it became Wild Youth.”
Conor is based in London but travels back to Dublin all the time.
“I love London. It’s amazing. I’ve a great group of friends over here.
“Predominantly Irish, we all stick together.
“I’ve a big group of friends over here: Love it. My brother’s here. My girlfriend’s here.
“So I feel like I’ve a family here and I have a family in Ireland.
“So I’m very lucky.”
Conor used to live with Northern Irish singer- songwriter JC Stewart. Is it good to be part of a group of young Irish musicians in London? “Yeah, totally.
“Music can be the most rewarding job in the world but can also be a lonely job at times too.
“If you have a bad week writing or you just have writer’s block, or you’re just having a bad time, it can be quite hard.
“To have that kind of network of people over here who understand that where you can go for a pint of Guinness somewhere. To have those people who do the same thing that go through the same things, to be able to have those discussions and chats is a huge thing, I think.”
Conor and the rest of the band would really appreciate any votes on 3 February. They may be one of the more recognisable names bidding for the prize but they take nothing for granted.
“Someone said to me the other day, ‘You guys have a following already. If there’s a public vote, it should be fine.
“I’m like, ’Not really. I think whenever you take for granted something like that it can work the total opposite way’.
“Honestly it means the world (if people vote), it’s going to make such a difference.
“If we can build that momentum and people get behind us, it will really, really help.
“If you’ve ever heard our music or if you like us as a band or if you’ve ever met us personally or if you’ve been to a show, please, please, it will make such a difference to us as a band on the third that you can vote.”
Wild Youth represent Ireland with their song We Are One at this evening’s Eurovision semi-final.
For more information on the band, follow them on social media.