TO spend an hour in the company of Don Mescall is to be regaled with stories of songwriters, heavyweight producers, high profile musicians, tales of studios from those in Nashville to Abbey Road.
You can see why this man is a successful performer as he is an effortless and highly engaging story teller, the key string to any good songwriter’s bow.
The tales trip off his tongue without a hint of self-aggrandisement, rather these are stories from his life and are treated as matter of fact. And what a songwriter the Lisnagry man is. Hits in the past for Ronan Keating, Boyzone, Backstreet Boys - songs in the offing now for Charlotte Church, Sharon Corr, Tim McGraw, Celine Dion and, most recently, Phantom of the Opera star Ramin Karimloo - the list is endless.
The latter saw the Limerick man invited to the almost mystical Abbey Road recently to supervise strings being put on the songs he wrote with multi-million selling producer Tom Nichols - who has worked with All Saints, Celine Dion, Sugababes and Kylie Minogue. Mescall was invited to write songs for the Karimloo’s upcoming album project and as such was present in Studio 2 in Abbey Road when they were recorded.
“I was late,” he laughs as he recalls arriving at the London studio made famous by the Beatles.
“I had passed gates of that studio so often - I lived in London for sixteen years and passed it so many times and walked over the pedestrian crossing, and I used to think, some day.. And then to go in there, it was just a very humbling experience. The studio is above the room, the orchestra are below you and at one stage Tom asked if I wanted to sit down with the orchestra, and I did. I waited until they were finished a take and I went down and sat on the steps and listened. I would imagine that where I sat on the steps, I was thinking, what kind of people have sat here doing this,” he laughs.
He “clicked” with Nichols and has been invited back to record with a new up and coming solo female star in the coming months, but he took a chance in pitching for the Abbey Road project in the first place.
“Literally I pitched one song for that record initially,” he explains. “I was copied in on an email for that and I did something that shouldn’t be done. I contacted them directly and said you don’t know me, but I said I have a song that would be right up your street because your artist can sing - I wrote it with Mike Reid who wrote I Can’t Make You Love Me for Bonnie Raitt - and here it is.
“I got a phone call to say they still loved the song and would I be interested in coming and writing with the producer and the artist, so I flew to London and wrote in the studio. That was funny, because they had a title and a melody, but they didn’t have top end melody. Tom said, ‘I love what you do, here is the melody, I’ll be back in an hour’. And I wrote the song. That went so well I came back and ended up getting four on the record.”
That is how it works in the songwriting game, likewise he has recently been working with Charlotte Church - “when she opened her mouth to start singing, I realised what all the fuss was about” - Sharon Corr - “her sense of melody and direction is great and I am excited about that project” - and a band in Canada who have had some top ten chart hits in their own territory.
But Mescall is also a performer in his own right and has recently released a new single, Long Way Down, to follow his Eurovision offering Talking to Jennifer, which made it into the final five for selection earlier this year. He will play in his home town this Friday night and is gearing up to release an album soon, but in the meantime he has taken the decision to do something he rarely does.
“I am doing this tour and for the first time in a long time, and I was encouraged to do this, I am actually going to play the songs that I wrote for other people,” he explains.
“I don’t normally do it, because I always felt that once they were out with people, they were someone else’s songs. And then I thought, why not, people will be interested in my versions of them, which are completely different,” he adds.
He was encouraged to do so by his old pal and songwriting partner Shay Healy, who will accompany him on the tour and open for him in Dolan’s this Friday.
“Shay encouraged me to play the versions and I said I would if he would be my special guest, so he is opening for me on all the gigs,” he says. “We have been friends for a long time - he really is amazing, the stories are great after the gigs.”
Make that two great storytellers, two great performers - one great gig.
Don Mescall and Shay Healy perform Upstairs in Dolan’s this Friday night, November 11.