Derry native Tim Heggarty has called his new band by the name of his hometown. He explains this and more to Shelley Marsden…
TAKING a break outside the studios where he is putting the finishing touches to his band Derry’s latest album, the chatty songwriter/producer is enjoying a quick blast of sun and a cigarette in his picturesque adopted home of Bath.
Tim who is married with three kids and happy to stay on the sidelines these days rather than perform, has been in the music business since 1982. During this time he’s been in a couple of bands, including Tie the Boy with Pete Cunnah of D: Ream (“but don’t Google them, all you’ll get is some really weird German websites”).
His father urged him to get a proper job when, despite a good amount of positive hype, the group failed to take flight – and he became an estate agent in London for ten years, at which point he launches into a colorful story about the ‘Maida Vale property mafia’ (Tim, it becomes clear, is a very animated kind of guy, no matter what he’s talking about).
“These gangsters tried to get me involved in mortgage fraud”, he says with his soft Derry brogue, “at which point I said, take a hike! They sent the heavies round to my flat and beat me up – I was advised by the police to move away from the area…”
But eventually the tug of making music was too strong, and Tim moved down to Bath, with what he describes as three or four albums’ worth of songs, and started to gather together the group of five young musicians that are Derry.
“So we’re here now at The Session Rooms, and I’m working with a great producer called Alex Pilkington, whose been helping me putting this all together for the last two years. It’s starting to kick off now – we’ve got interest from a few big record companies. I could be an overnight success – after three decades!”
Tim, in his early forties, is quick to point out that he is bringing his experience and contacts to the band, but that he’s “an old git now, and the guys onstage are all young handsome fellahs. I’d love to be in a band, but I think that ship has sailed.”
The name’s a bit of a loaded one given his city’s past, is it not? “The word ‘Londonderry’ was too big to fit on a CD cover”, he says simply. “There’s nothing else to it. I’m a person of the world. We’ve got people in the band from Sardinia (drummer, Mattia) and Belgium (Jeremy, keyboards). I think there are bigger things going on in the world to worry about than the name of a city.
“I think the people of Derry don’t really care any more, that issue’s dead and gone. The reason I called the band Derry is a bit of a nod towards America, and the Irish Diaspora there which could bring a lot of potential support, who knows, and also I’ve always liked the name – without any political connotations whatsoever. Britain is for credibility, and America is the market to crack, no two ways about it.”
Commercially-speaking, Derry’s core sound, a mix of pop, rock and retro grooves with big riffs and even bigger choruses, covers all the bases– mixing the modern vocals of lead singer Loui Andrew George (“like some kid you’d hear on The Voice”) with Tim’s kind of music – Americana, Eagles-style old school classics with an element of country thrown in.
There are Irishmen, Englishmen, Belgians and Italians in this group, but for Tim there were no problems connecting to any cultural differences – they bonded over the love of music and talent for their instruments early on.
“There are acts out there that have the perfect image, but just do not work hard enough on the music”, he says. “I’m from that school of thought where, when you go onstage you have to perform – that’s why someone like Mick Jagger’s still on top – he’s a performer. It’s not rocket science, you want to blow the audience away, not stand there gazing at your shoes.
“We like to think we put on a great show, and we gel together because the musicianship is complex, that’s what brought us together. It sounds cheesy to say it aloud, but music really is international. Mattia’s English can be pretty dodgy now, but we normally work through that!”
The first single from the forthcoming album, Couldn’t I Be The One, written by Tim and Martin Sutton (LeAnn Rimes / Backstreet Boys) and mixed by Ali Staton (Madonna / Simply Red), is accompanied by an animated Lego video, something Tim wasn’t sold on initially but has come to see as a master stroke.
“Lego is the one toy everybody across the world played with as a kid, and in a funny way it adds to our sort of 70s, retro feel. Lego the company actually loved the video, so we’re talking about doing something else with them now.”
It’s early days for his protégés, but Tim’s big hope for the next year is that the boys land a major record deal, simply because without it, he explains, they like every other good band, don’t have the marketing budget or the distribution to get their name out there.
He says: “I think there’s something like 7,000 songs uploaded to Spotify each week – there are so many brilliant acts out there, but it comes down to getting heard. You need that push, so hopefully we get it. We think we’re good enough to warrant it. This time next year… it’s fame or death. Whichever comes first!”
For more see www.derrytheband.com.