Oh What A World

Oh What a world

This record is another change in direction for me. Of the eleven songs, all but two are collaborations written in lots of different locations in the period between 1996 and 1999. Musically speaking, they all come from very different places. Each one inhabits a world of its own.

During this three year period I wrote around fifty songs with many different writers. The ones I’ve chosen to put on this record are the ones I put most of myself into, lyrically and musically. In co-writing sometimes you’re hot and it comes in a rush and there’s a lot of you in the song. Other times, the writer you’re working with is on a roll and you stand back and watch it happen, nudging it here and there like a midwife, bringing someone else’s baby home. Sometimes it’s even-stephen. Any way is fine with me as far as writing goes. It’s another thing, singing, however. For me to want to sing a song I really need to have a strong emotional connection with it, to feel I am the person in the song or perhaps the person it’s been sung to, even if it’s just in my imagination. These songs have that for me.

I started working in my studio at home in Dublin… on my own in late ’97. At that time I wasn’t ‘making an album’. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to make an album. The couple of years having fun co-writing all around the world was fresh in my memory. Even so, I realised that to make any kind of reasonable progress in studio I needed to get serious and have some help. Richard Rainey was first in to engineer and together we started to put a shape on ‘Sea Of Love’, ‘I Believe In Magic’, ‘The Law Of Love’ and ‘Minutes Away, Miles Apart’. Things progressed at a leisurely pace through the winter of ’97 and when Richard took up an offer of another long project in ’98 I was sorry to see him go but not entirely unhappy. After all I wasn’t making an album, was I? I took another few months off from recording, wrote some more including ‘The Long Goodbye’ with Ronan Keating, went to the States and wrote a bit more, including ‘Believe In Me’ with Carole King and ‘Good Love’ with Bob Theile. Took a holiday. Then back home in October ’98 a new sense of urgency appeared. Whatever had changed, I now seemed to be thinking about making an album.

Alastair McMillan came in to engineer. We worked through October ’98 and apart from a couple of weeks in November when Philip Begley was at the controls, Alastair stayed with me till we finished the record in late ’99, in time assuming the co-producer’s role as it became apparent how much of himself he was bringing to the record and how indispensable his input was. In February ’99 longtime friends and fellow travellers Ian Maidman on bass and Liam Genockey on drums and percussion came in from London to put their touch on things. Around that time I also started feeling that string arrangements would work well.

I called Fiachra Trench whose work I had admired for years and asked him would he get involved. That was one of the most enjoyable periods of the record while Fiachra and I threw the music around the place and talked about what suit of clothes we’d put on which song and stuff like that. The majac he eventually came up with greatly expanded the emotional impact of the songs and made me look at them in a new way. As the album progressed, Greg Wells, Anto Drennan, Percy Robinson, Rod McVeigh and Lynley Hamilton came into the mixture. Alastair and I went to London in June ’99 to record a session with Lascelles Haughton who brought together singers from the London Tabernacle Choir to sing on six songs. Angelo Palladino sang and Mick Taylor played slide guitar on ‘Travellin’ Light’. Ren Swan came in from London to mix in my studio in July and by Christmas ’99 we were done.

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