STALWART Limerick rocker Mark O’Connor launches his much anticipated third studio album with a gig in Dolan’s this Sunday.
The popular local musician releases ‘Espero’ - the follow up to well received 2007 offering ‘Robin’s Egg Blues’ - this May, and is calling it his “break-up album” - albeit one that features none other than Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis and Limerick’s own Rubberbandits on guest star duties.
The album, two years in the making, is a truly trans-Atlantic affair, given that it was recorded in Kerry and Vermont, USA, in Verdant Studios.
“That is nature of the album - it is a break-up album, so the first thing I did after we broke up was, what do I do, I need to rock!” explains Mark. “So I we headed to Kerry and had been gigging a bit anyway and had some songs that we tracked and then recorded some new raw songs. That was the first session, and the other session was over in America in July, which was awesome, the home of rock and roll.”
“If you write songs, you write about what you are going through, but as break-up albums go, this has the raw and the cooked if you like, it has the immediate aftermath and the one year after time had healed, so I think it has something to offer if you are going through that. Break-up albums are great, they understand you, but this is light at the end of the tunnel as well with J Masics rocking out at the end of it.”
While recording in Verdant, a mutual friend introduced O’Connor to J Mascis, frontman with Dinosaur Jr and rock-god.
“We went to his house and went up to his attic and hung out,” he explains. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen because his son had just gone to sleep and I thought there is no way a big guitar solo was going to happen, but he turned the amp to 1 and the pedal to 11.
“I gave him a sheet of chords and he said, I’m not really a chords guy, he listened to the song and got the hang of it and then hit it, and it was amazing.”
The result is ‘Roll Back The Years’, but another track stands out on the fine album - ‘The Ballad of Diarmuid and Grainne’, featuring Mr Chrome and Blind Boy Boat Club, Limerick’s own Rubberbandits.
“I asked them to be on the album before they were cool,” laughs Mark. “It was just an idea for a call and answer which they do in one of their songs, and they agreed to do it. Also at the end of the song you can hear ‘Dat’s Limerick City’, which is a sample from a live recording I did in the Warehouse when they played at Christmas. I feel like it is a unique Limerick moment - the ‘Bandits are rewriting the rule-book and I have great respect for them.”
Now, with the album ready to go and several gigs coming up, including one this Saturday at the HMV Limerick Live event in Arthurs Quay and the Dolan’s gig, Mark is looking forward to getting some feedback on ‘Espero’.
“I am happy with it. It was a great studio, great musicians, great songs - tricky subject matter, but that is what rock and roll is there for I suppose,” he laughs.
Mark O’Connor plays Upstairs in Dolan’s this Sunday. ‘Espero’ is out on May 3.