Mike O'Donovan

Limerick-born guitarist who has just released his debut album 'No Time Like The Present'

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

Mike O'Donovan

Mike O'Donovan who has just released his debut album

Born and raised in Limerick, I have lived here for most of my life, apart from a period in the early 1970s, when along with some friends, I moved to London.

At that time it seemed like everyone spent some time abroad. For Primary School I enrolled at the Presentation Sexton St, which wasn’t very far away from where I lived, in Edward Street, (as did both my sisters, Betty and Marian). I then moved across the road to the Christian Brothers (CBS), which, at that time, was a curious and sometimes dangerous learning experience. Instead of going to CBS Secondary I went on to the Municipal Technical Institute on O’Connell St., now affectionately, (or otherwise), known as the ‘Red Tech’. Unfortunately, my father passed away early in the year when I was meant to do the, then, equivalent of the ‘Junior Cert’. I, therefore, left school and went to work. It was not the wisest move, but necessity dictated the greater wisdom of the day. However, since then, I have completed an Honours Degree and an MA.

My father, Tommy, was a musician, as was his father before him, and both men were involved in St John’s Brass and Reed Band.

My Mother, Nelly, played the concertina, but came from a very different musical background, namely ‘Traditional’, with my father loving Jazz. There was a definite musical diversity at home, which in its own way, was reflective of the changes taking place globally on a musical level. Maybe more so than today, Brass and Reed bands, played a significant role in the local community. In Limerick, there was a great tradition of marching bands. In fact, when my parents moved house to Edward St, Dad even joined the Boherbuoy Band. I suppose my parents, and the love they had of music, was a major influence on me wanting to play, as well as John, Paul, George and Ringo, and a little bit of Elvis, thrown in for good measure.

Definitely influenced by the guitar bands of the 1950s and 1960s, (Beatles, Kinks, and Rolling Stones), I always wanted to play guitar.

In those days, distractions were much less than the ones of today, for example, mobile phones and computer games, so many people were moving towards music or art. I can always remember wanting to sing, play or to be involved in music in some shape or form. Even today, I like most types of music. Indeed, I find it hard to categorise the songs that I write or sing. Count Basie said that there were only two types of music, namely Good or Bad. So, I dearly hope that mine is on the good side. If you have a desire to get involved with music, I would encourage you to get it out of your system. It can be rewarding to write about something that is close to you, but it can also be difficult, in that you may feel emotionally exposed to criticism. So, you need a thick skin.

Having just released my debut album, I am now much more aware of the difficulties involved.

The inspiration for many of my songs is rooted in life experiences and observations that I have made along the way. Overall, I was very lucky to have worked with many fine musicians, some of whom I have been friendly with for a very long time. Selecting what songs to record, and what to add to the song, is probably the most difficult decision to make, but in this, I had an excellent producer in the form of, Dave Keary. Dave isn’t just a great guitarist, he is also sympathetic to the needs of the ‘song’, which is helpful when you are trying to select the album’s running order.

Currently, I don’t have a band, although sometime soon I will probably play some music with other musicians. It is great to play with other people as a learning and socialising experience. The different ideas that emerge out of that situation can be both interesting and challenging. One of the differences between being in a band and being solo is the support that you get from other players. This can be stimulating but there is a tendency to blame others if things go wrong.

The process of writing music has changed a lot over the years.

Popular writing now centres on the instrument that one is playing. I find it very easy at times to write lyrics and to get melodies, however, at other times there is nothing there at all. So, I am continuously trying to become more disciplined in how I go about it, choosing my times and learning from experience. I like both electric and acoustic guitar playing, but again it depends on the situation and the volumes that you are up against. The new age is getting older all the time. As an art form, and as a way of expression, music is possibly one of the more accessible outlets to connect with. Without music, musicians and other art forms, the world would be a duller place. Indeed, it was the Greek philosopher, Plato, who once wrote that: ‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything’. Unfortunately, as a result of increasingly cheap downloading and pirating of music, it has become more difficult for many of our young, and not so young, to become musicians, and to make a living out of it. We live in an era of rapid change, so one would need to see the funny side of things, in a serious kind of a way!

For more information about Mike O'Donovan please see: Facebook Page, Mike O’Donovan.